Thousand Lakes Wilderness

Located within the Lassen National Forest, Thousand Lakes Wilderness encompasses over 16,000 acres and numerous pristine alpine lakes.  Though the total number of lakes fall well short of its name, the Thousand Lakes Wilderness features great fishing and hiking in the high elevations of Shasta County.  

The landscape in this area of Lassen National Forest is dominated by volcanic activity, some of it relatively recent.  A cinder cone in Thousand Lakes, Hall Butte, is thought to have erupted less than a thousand years ago. The highest point in the Wilderness Area is Crater Peak, at 8,677 feet, and the lowest point is just below 6,000 feet. 

There are seven major lakes in the Wilderness Area, with Lake Eiler being the largest, with myriad small ponds scattered throughout. The larger bodies of water all contain trout, and other wildlife in the area include black bear, black tailed deer, pine marten, pika, and occasionally elk. 

Four trailheads service the Wilderness Area and offer access to about 21 miles of maintained trails.  Be prepared for downed trees and limbs in the backcountry, particularly early in the season.  Weekends and holidays are the busiest times, but solitude is easy to come by otherwise.

The large number of water bodies also give rise to the menace of Thousand Lakes: the mosquito.  Be prepared with sleeves and spray, and take it into account if you plan to be out around sunset or shortly after.  The annoying insect can come in hoards, particularly early in the season, but the phenomenal views and pristine lakes of Thousand Lakes make it all worthwhile.

Access to Thousand Lakes is from Highway 89 in Shasta County, between Highway 299 to the north and Highway 44 to the south.  The Wilderness Area is west of 89, and trailheads are found by followed marked Forest Service Roads.

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Latitude: 40.7159075 Longitude: -121.5791702 Elevation: 6567 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Ben Miles

Recreational Opportunities

The hiking at Thousand Lakes is great, with terrific day hikes to some of the alpine lakes and expansive views along the way. Camping and backpacking are also popular, and Lake Eiler is a beloved choice for beginning backpacking trips. 

Fishing can be rewarding for the experienced angler.  All local and state fishing regulations apply when casting into the lakes of the Wilderness Area. Please check the trailhead kiosk for updated notices.

Seasons Accessible

Late May through November, though the trails may remain impassable into the summer in a heavy snow year.



ADA Accessibility Notes

The Wilderness Area is primitive and not ADA accessible.

Pet Friendly Notes

Pets are permitted.


Visited there Aug. 16-18th. I packed in a float tube, fins, etc. so I could really fish Lake Eiler. The other lakes are worth hiking to, but not to fish. They were too low. As it was, Lake Eiler had a land bridge separating the lake into 3 distinct pods. Taking the Tamarack Trail, camp on the first campsite you see on your left as you reach the lake. That cove in front of the campsite is the deepest and best place to fish. There are numerous 8-10 inch RB trout that readily take an assortment of flies. Stomachs of the trout we ate contained numerous yellow jackets, dragonfly nymphs, Callibaetis adults and immatures and midges. Midges dominate and they are always active, blowing across the lake like aerial plankton. I had a floating line, an intermediate sinking line and a full sink (heavy line) -- so I could cover all the bases. I probably caught 20 trout in the 2 days I was there. Most on red midge patterns (with a little sparkle, size 18 on an intermediate sinking line slowing trolled along the drop off or cast into shore and slowly retrieved. The deepest part of the lake is right in front of the campsite -- going to the rocky shore on the opposite side looks promising, but it was not that productive. The fish are all struggling to get enough food -- many had huge heads but very small and thin bodies. They would often come right up to my float tube and investigate -- the water is gin clear. The largest trout I took was about 14 inches -- taken on a Jay Fair wiggle nymphs trolled along the bottom with my heavier line. All the trout fight very hard, -- the large one hit like a freight train. If you to not want to struggle with packing a float tube, you can take the fish by casting from shore. Just make sure your roll casts are good. Small midge and mayfly imitations will take them. They can be finicky -- one morning I could not get any takes, even though they were rising all around me. That’s fishing.

Michael Parrella, 8/19/2013

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