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Shadow Lake

Lassen Volcanic National Park

July 29th, 2007

1.6 miles
570 vertical feet
Total Time: 1:08

Rating: 8/10

Directions: From Manzanita Lake campground in Lassen Volcanic National Park, follow the park road past the Devastated Area, Summit Lake, and Kings Creek. You'll see a sign on the left saying "Terrace Lake" with an arrow pointing right. Park on the right here.   View Driving Map


There were only a couple other cars at the trailhead as we prepared for the hike just before noon. Lassen Peak is visible to the left from the parking area. The trail starts at 8000 feet elevation and immediately starts descending. The trail is in generally good condition, with a few portions over granite rocks. The trail descends uneventfully through a typical Sierra forest.

Lassen Peak

After a short descent, you'll reach a trail intersection. To the left is a trail to Paradise Meadow and Hat Lake beyond it. To the right is Terrace Lake (0.3 miles from the sign) and Shadow Lake (0.5 miles from the sign). We took the right fork, which continues to descend. Soon we caught our first glimpse of Terrace Lake to the left, through the trees. Here, the trail starts to descend steeply until it reaches a flat section at the bottom. The trail passes grasses and flowers as it heads toward the lake.

Descending down to Terrace Lake

Trail around Terrace Lake

Shortly, we were there, at Terrace Lake. It's a small but pretty lake. There isn't much in the way of flat shoreline where you could stop and have lunch. However, we found a nice spot later on. We followed the trail as it passes the lake, then followed it up slightly to a ridge above the lake. I took a few steps to the left and looked down to the lake and was struck by the beautiful blue/green color of the lake. If you come here, be sure to look at the lake from this vantage point, as it really is a beautiful sight.

Terrace Lake

Terrace Lake from the ridge

Terrace Lake from the ridge

From the trail on this ridge, you also get your first glimpse of Shadow Lake to the right. It's about 320 feet of descending from the trailhead to reach Terrace Lake. From the ridge, it's another 120 feet of descending to reach Shadow Lake. The trail immediately descends the ridge, switch-backing down the hill. Along the way you'll have to watch your step because you'll be distracted by the beauty of Shadow Lake. It's much larger than Terrace Lake. The blue and green colors of the lake are amazing. The shores are steep on most sides. There aren't any nice flat beach sections. However, we spied a nice shaded spot on the other side of the lake.

First glimpse of Shadow Lake from the ridge

Shadow Lake

We continued along the trail as it hugs the right shoreline of the lake. The trail continues straight toward Cliff Lake, but we turned left on a use trail to the shady spot on the shore of Shadow Lake. This was a great spot with ample shade, only 20 feet down a short hill from the water's edge. We settled down for a nice relaxed lunch. As we sat here, for some reason I wondered how many people in the world never get to experience a beautiful lake like this. It's a shame if they don't.

Shadow Lake

Shadow Lake

Shadow Lake

There was a nice cool breeze across the lake on this warm day. After lunch Nathan and I walked into the water. Unlike Bathtub Lakes, the shore here is not muddy. There is some sand, but the ground is firm underneath the water, and there are rocks and even a log which provides a nice place to sit with your feet in the water. I've never swum outside of a swimming pool before, but I felt like jumping in and swimming in Shadow Lake. The water was cold at first, but you get used to it. I spent much time walking around knee-deep in the water, taking pictures from a different vantage point than usual.

Reading Peak above Shadow Lake

Log in Shadow Lake

The amazing thing was that we mostly had the entire lake to ourselves. We did see other people on the trail, both to and from the lakes. But once we sat down, we didn't see anyone else nearby. One group of several hikers reached the opposite shore, but stayed on the other side admiring the lake before they headed back up the trail. I would have to rate Shadow Lake as one of the nicest lakes I've ever hiked to. I'm not sure if I could come up with anything better.

Shadow Lake

After a long break, we reluctantly packed up and headed back up the trail the way we came. In case you're wondering about the discrepancy in vertical feet, I think over 100 feet of climbing comes from me walking up and down the hill between the water and our tarp during our lunch break. In any case, we headed back up the trail, returning to the trailhead in short order.

Heading back along the trail next to Shadow Lake

One other thing I should mention is that instead of an out-and-back, you could try to do this as a one-way shuttle hike. Once the trail passes Shadow Lake and Cliff Lake, it continues on to the park road at Summit Lake. If you can arrange for someone to drop you off at the Terrace Lake trailhead and pick you up at Summit Lake (or if you're camping there), then you can avoid the uphill climb back to the Terrace Lake trailhead. The distance from the trailhead to Summit Lake is about 3.7 miles, most all of it downhill.


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