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Just 2 miles from Interstate 80, wild but accessible Grouse Lakes.

Just 2 miles from Interstate 80, wild but accessible Grouse Lakes

A back-country haven studded with scoresof granite-ringed tarns, the Grouse Lakes area is only 2 miles from busy Interstate 80. Yet civilization might seem a world away as you cast for trout or cool your hike-weary feet in one of these azure jewels of Tahoe National Forest.

Grouse Lakes' glacially scoured landscapeinvites comparison with better-known Desolation Wilderness, though with 30 square miles it's less than a third as large. The Forest Service closed the area to all motor vehicles in 1972 after determining that off-road vehicles were causing extensive damage to soil, water, and wildlife.

The ORV user's loss has been the self-propelledexplorer's gain. Six trailheads allow access to the area's 125 lakes over 2 acres in size. Backpackers can stake out a lakefront lot of their own for a night, while those who prefer to travel light can use one of several nearby drive-in campgrounds as a base camp for day-hikes.

Campsites around some of the lakes canfill up quickly on weekends; Glacier and Island lakes are particularly popular. Be sure to purify drinking water taken from any of the lakes.

To find your way around, you'll need theUSGS Emigrant Gap topographic map.

A hand-drawn map showing current trailroutes is available at USFS ranger stations; if you're coming from the west, detour to the one off State Highway 49 in Nevada City; coming from the east on I-80, stop at the Truckee station. Backpack campers can also pick up a required campfire permit at either location.

Access from six boundary trailheads

A standard car should have little troublenegotiating most of the roads to the trailheads. We indicate which routes require a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

To reach any of the first four trailheadsfrom Nevada City, continue east 22 miles on State 20 to Bowman Lake Road. Or, from I-80, take the Yuba Gap exit and drive west 3 1/2 miles on State 20.

1. Grouse Ridge Lookout. Drive north 6miles on Bowman Lake Road and turn right at the sign for Grouse Ridge Road; it's another 5 miles on this dirt road to the trailhead parking lot below the retired lookout station. Nearby is a nine-site campground with piped water and toilets.

One of the advantages of this popularstaging area is a downhill approach to several lakes. Milk Lake, the nearest, is only 1/2 mile away. Five miles to the east on a trail over Sand Ridge, tiny Glacier Lake lies nestled at the foot of Black Buttes' craggy spires. For more solitude, scramble cross-country down rocky ledges to Five Lakes Basin, just north of Glacier Lake.

2. Carr Lake. Turn right on a dirt road 2.4miles past Grouse Ridge Road (8.4 miles from State 20). The road forks after 2 miles; take the right fork .7 mile to the trailhead at Carr Lake.

This is the quickest way in to Island Lake,largest natural lake in the area and one of the best for a refreshing swim.

3. Lindsey Lakes. Follow directions to CarrLake, but take the left fork, a rougher road requiring four-wheel-drive. Lower Lindsey Lake is attractive; it's a short hike to larger Culbertson, another good swimming spot.

4. Sawmill Lake. Take Bowman LakeRoad 13 miles north to Graniteville Road. Drive east 3.3 miles to Faucherie Lake Road, turn right, and continue 1.3 miles to the trailhead at the Sawmill Lake dam. A trail climbs south from the dam to secluded Rock Lake.

You reach the next trailhead from StateHighway 89, off I-80 north of Truckee

5. Meadow Lake. From Truckee, take State89 north 15 miles to Jackson Meadows Road. Turn left, drive 9.5 miles to Meadow Lake Road, and turn left again. Another 10 miles will bring you to a crossroads at the site of an 1860s mining town on the west side of Meadow Lake. The middle road will take you 1.5 miles to the boundary trailhead; you'll need four-wheel-drive.

From the trailhead, it's a short descendinghike to Baltimore Lake, where you'll find excellent fishing; you can camp near the site of an unsuccessful gold mining camp. The trail continues to the west over a ridge to Beyers Lakes, a scenic and little-used cluster of four tarns.

This last trailhead is the closest to I-80.

6. Eagle Lakes. Take the Eagle Lakes exitand drive northwest just past Indian Springs Campground, where a signed dirt road leads off to the right. Four-wheel drive is required for the remaining 3 miles to the trailhead. It offers an alternative approach to Beyers Lakes, but the hike in is strenuous, gaining 1,400 feet in 3.2 miles.

Convenient but primitive campgrounds

The Forest Service maintains severalprimitive campgrounds in the Grouse Lakes area, many of them free. You can count on finding picnic tables and toilets, but not all places have piped water. For details, write or call Nevada City Ranger District, Highway 49 and Coyote St., Nevada City 95945; (916) 265-4531.

Photo: Atop Grouse Ridge lookout tower, hikers surveythe roadless area shown on map below

Photo: Granite peak rises500 feet above Glacier Lake angler. At right, it's a tight fit for family on inflatable raft backpacked into Island Lake

Photo: Narrow peninsula makes a fine campsite onone of many unnamed lakes in area
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jul 1, 1987
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