Back to index Frog Lake & Red Lake Loop

Trip Date:  06/12/2020

: 6.5 Miles

Vertical Gain: 1200'

Group Size: 3

Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard    Strenuous
Frog Lake Red Lake Loop Route
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Frog Lake Red Lake Loop Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 41.697  W 119 59.363     End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates  
Car Shuttle Req'd:   No
Parking Directions:   Take Highway 88 to the parking area at the Carson Pass ranger station on the west side of the road.  Pay the day use fee (summer only) and find the trailhead just to the right side (north) of the ranger station itself. 
Hazards of Note:   This hike is rated as Hard due to the amount of cross country travel, route finding required and the significant and steady elevation at the end.
Crowd Factor:   Moderate to Minimal. Once you leave the trail to head around behind Frog Lake you will run into few people, then back on the PCT until Elephant's Back there will be some but then off-trail you will not see anyone until you reach Red Lake.
From the parking area on the road,  head past the Carson Pass information station building and along the along the Pacific Crest Trail for about a half mile.  As you near Frog Lake leave the trail heading to the east, and head up the rocky ridgeline until you spot Frog Lake to the south.  Head clockwise around the lake to the east, and then walk along a use trail on the south shore until you once again pick up the PCT at a signed junction.  Head along the PCT for the next mile, making sure to tun left at the junction of the PCT continuation and the trail that continues on toward Lake Winnemucca.  Once you reach the base of the imposing Elephant's Back mountain you will leave the trail.  From this point you will need to find a way down into the meadow area to the south-south-east from this spot, and you will need to choose your way carefully.  Once you reach the pleasant meadow with at least one unnamed lake in it, you will head to the east and then up to a rise to look for an old road that heads from Red Lake all the way to the top of this prominent point.  The trail is pretty straightforward, although it is obvious that it has not been used by vehicle traffic for many years.  The trail will head north for a bit, then turn to the east and drop down a significant amount of elevation until you reach the low point in elevation for the day at Red Lake.  Take a moment to enjoy the view from here as you now have almost 900 feet to gain back up the old Highway 88 route on the south side of Red Lake.  There are a number of springs that send water across the trail, but a few of them have old culverts from back when this was the road up to Carson Pass.  You will finish by walking through the overflow parking area for Carson Pass back to the start.

Early on this trek from Carson Pass we spotted a young dogwood tree just off the trail.

Our first stop was on the north shore of Frog Lake, which we circled around clockwise to the east and enjoyed a fine display of wildflowers in the area.
Steve and dogs 

Lots of great views awaited us on this trip, including this one toward Hope Valley and Freel Peak from the eastern edge of Frog Lake.
Behind Frog 

Just a little beyond this point we took advantage of a nice view down toward Red Lake, which was blue on this day but often green with a form of toxic algae.  We will be down there heading back up at the end of the day.
Red Lake 

From the southern shore of Red Lake there is a nice view across the lake toward similarly named Red Lake Peak, a 10K foot peak nearby.
Red Lake Peak 

Just before reaching the base of Elephant's Back cut down off the PCT and down into a meadow below.
Below Elephants Back

The meadow was an unexpected nice find, and there were even a couple of lakes to the southwest that were worthy of exploring.
Exploring the meadow 

Steve checking out some of the amazing southern views into the Mokelumne wilderness toward Raymond Peak and Ebbetts Pass beyond.
Views east 

One of the tired hikers taking a nice break at lunch.
 Tired hiker

An information plaque down at Red Lake that gave some interesting information on the lake.
Info Sign

Heading up the steady grade of the old Highway 88 on the south side of Red Lake opens up some nice views toward Carson Pass and the new Highway 88.
Red Lake

It's a bit of a trudge up the road but the views are pretty great when to turn and look back at where we came from.
Gaining altitude

One of the small waterfalls we passed along the road on our way back up to the top of Carson Pass.
One more information plaque at the overflow parking area gave some interesting numbers of settlers who came out during the gold rush along this specific route.
More info

Our track of the hike, starting in the lower right and circling around counter clockwise. GPS Track of Hike