Terrace, Shadow, and Cliff Lakes

Three exquisite alpine lakes, linked by a path through sunny and colorful woodland.

Hiking Moderate

Distance
5.5 km
Ascent
229 m
Descent
229 m
Duration
1-2 hrs
Low Point
2.2 km
High Point
2.5 km
Gradient
VIEW ON MAP
Terrace, Shadow, and Cliff Lakes Map

Description

These lakes are three cerulean gems in the mountainous heart of the national park. Some say they are the most scenic alpine lakes in Lassen. You can see the first two in a very short hike, and go a bit farther to see the third and prettiest of them all.

The trail begins from a roadside pullout on the Lassen Peak Highway, and immediately descends through open woodland. On this north-facing slope, you may walk through patches of snow in early summer, or quite a bit of snow in the spring.

First comes Terrace Lake, which is neatly cradled between rocky hillsides and has one grassy clearing beside it. From there, the trail meanders over a low rise and leads down to Shadow Lake. This one is larger, with a pebbly beach and shallow gradient that's good for wading if the sun is warm.

Continuing on, the trail trends farther downhill and passes through larger meadows, colored with flowers in early summer. At cliff lake, you'll find sparkling water with a tree island in the middle, against a backdrop of green and gray on the flank of Reading Peak. This is a coveted spot for photographers, and is also a great place for a picnic or to watch for wildlife. When you are ready, turn around and retrace the path, which is almost all uphill back to the road.

Sources: https://www.nps.gov/lavo/planyourvisit/hikingterraceshadowclifflakes.htm https://www.americansouthwest.net/california/lassenvolcanic/cliff-lake-trail.html

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

May, June, July, August, September, October

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area