The Cluster Lakes Loop Trail passes over a dozen alpine lakes in the unique high country of Lassen Volcanic National Park located in the Northern Sierra Cascade. The loop may be hiked in either direction, and short but rewarding day hikes are available to hikers that turn around at one of the first lakes encountered.
The hike starts at the Summit Lake North Campground. The trail climbs slowly to the east through a fir forest to an open area that offers good views of Lassen Peak. The trail then climbs to a ridge and a well-marked intersection that is the beginning and end of the Cluster Lakes Loop. Heading north leads you to Bear Lakes (Little & Big), while continuing east will lead you to the picturesque Echo Lake and further on to the Twin Lakes.
The Summit Lakes Loop Trail offers a unique opportunity for generally flat hiking within the high elevations of Lassen National Park. The alpine forests on the hike are generally dense and closed in on the trail. Wildlife is abundant in the backcountry of Lassen and the high elevation wildflower display can be impressive.
The many lakes encountered on the loop trail are each unique and yet similar, and will hold the hiker's interest from one to the next. Long views are not common on this hike, but the frequent lake shores provide open vistas. The trail also follows the Pacific Crest Trail for a short span around the Twin Lakes.
The entire ten miles or so of the loop trail is not terribly strenuous and is very doable in a day, but start early and bring along inclement weather gear. Clouds can roll in without warning in the high country of Lassen National Park, so a jacket is always recommended. Day hikes are also rewarding and offer a respite from more crowded hikes in other areas of the Park.
The trail is accessed from the Summit Lake North Day Use Area, which is on the main park road (Highway 89). Take Highway 44 East from Redding for about 40 miles and turn south on Highway 89, which will immediately enter Lassen Volcanic National Park.