Stuart Fork Trailhead to Morris Meadows and Emerald/Sapphire Lakes

May 25, 2018 · Trinity

Moderate hike through a forest along a stream. Pitch camp in a gorgeous meadow, and then do a day hike to some beautiful remote lakes. You can make this trip shorter if you want.


25 mi

Elevation gain

4,450 ft


4 days



The trail

Check out the route in detail on AllTrails.

Fri May


Camp at Bridge Camp Campground

Nothing exciting on this day. Mostly driving up from San Francisco. Lots of Memorial Day traffic. Lots of people camping at the trailhead, but not everyone will be doing the hike. We actually chose this hike because

Campground has basic bathrooms (toilets) and drinking water available. We stopped at the Weaverville Ranger Station to pick up our free backpacking permit and campfire permit. There is a self-service kiosk in front of the station. You just need to fill out some information. Bring a pen. There is no limit of permits allowed in the Trinity Alps. It rained the previous day, so the campground was pretty muddy, but still doable.

Sat May


Hike to Morris Meadows

This was 9 miles, easy hike. A little long, but very gradual slope. You hike along a creek for a lot of the way, so you have pretty easy access to water. We took a Steri Pen, but it broke, so we were super thankful for bringing iodine tablets as a backup. Water was pretty clear so we didn't even really need a pre-filter, but used one anyway in case there was any large debris. When you first get to the start of the meadow, there will be a small clearing but keep going. See attached photo of the meadow.

The trail has an easy to miss fork when you first get to the large expanse of the meadow. You do not want to pitch camp to the right among the tree line because it's far from the water source. The Ranger told us not not pitch our tent in the meadow grass. It ruins the grass and can take a long time to recover. Only pitch camp in a pre-established campsite. Take the fork to the left of the meadow, and you'll find the creek which is the main water source. Find a good campsite and pitch camp. Per instruction of the Ranger: Please don't tear branches off of trees for firewood. Only use pre-fallen debris. They apparently have problems with people doing this and it damages the environment for future hikers. There were some mosquitoes, but we were fine when we started our campfire.

If you cannot find a good campsite in the meadow on the left, then you should continue another 3 miles to Portuguese Camp (12 miles from the trailhead) if you have time and energy, rather than camp to the right of the meadow. This is the last good spot to make camp before the lakes. It is near a river for your water source.

Sun May


Day Hike to Emerald Lake and Sapphire Lake

We got a late start, but it ended up being ok. We had a *very* leisurely breakfast. We started our day hike at 11am. Most everyone else at the campground left before us. There is some online debate on how long this hike is. We didn't use an app to track it. I've decided to estimate that it is ~14 miles roundtrip if you go all the way to Sapphire Lake.

The hike after Morris Meadows was great. Some overgrowth, but I wore lightweight hiking pants to protect my legs from getting scratched on any branches. I also recommend a hat because there is a section where you get a lot of sunlight. There is some abandoned mining equipment near the lakes. I cannot imagine getting all that up there on the trail we came in on!

The hike is around 4-5miles to Emerald Lake from Morris Meadows. Sapphire Lake is about another mile after Emerald Lake. The incline is pretty steep. We did not see much wildlife other than a snake, lizard, and a couple squirrels. I think this is because it was Memorial Day weekend and there were more people than normal. I estimate there were ~50 people camping that weekend (not bad compared to a lot of other campsites that weekend!). A friend did this same hike the previous week though, and he got to see a bear. Jealous!

We didn't spend any time at Emerald Lake, we just kept going to Sapphire Lake. It is kind of hard to find the trail to Sapphire Lake, but it is to the right of Emerald Lake. Go to the RIGHT of the lake! Not the left. There is a very narrow trail. This is where I was really grateful for wearing pants. It was so overgrown with rough plants.

Fun Fact 1: Sapphire Lake is the deepest lake in the Trinities at 200 ft.

Fun Fact 2: I was fishing for 2 hours and caught nothing. womp womp

Mon May


Return home

We packed up camp early to hike the 9 miles back to the parking lot and drive home. Recommended stop for food on the way back: Granzella's Restaurant, which is ~3hours from Whiskeytown.

Preparing for this trip

Here is some information that comes in handy when preparing for this trip like this.

Trip posted by D