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Heart Lake National Recreation Trail

The Heart Lake Proposed Wilderness is part of the Lassen National Forest in Lassen and Tehama counties. The 12,000-acre proposed wilderness is on the western boundary of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

This volcano and glacier-carved wild land is covered with impressive old-growth forests of pine and fir, as well as meadows, aspen groves, lakes and ponds. Brokeoff Peak in the adjacent Lassen high country towers over the area. Scientists consider some of the region’s meadows as models by which we can judge the condition of other meadows in the Cascades. Recognizing the region’s ecological values, the University of California recommended that the area be managed as an ancient forest reserve, and declared Heart Lake itself an “ecologically sensitive natural area.” The proposed wilderness serves as an important migration corridor for deer moving in and out of the Lassen high country as the seasons change. Rare or sensitive species known to live in the area include pika, fisher, snowshoe hare, mountain beaver and great gray owl. The Sierra Nevada red fox, a very rare species, is known to live in the proposed wilderness and adjacent Lassen Volcanic National Park. The gray wolf has recently reestablished a population in the region as well.

The Forest Service has recommended to Congress that most of the Heart Lake area be protected as wilderness. CalWild’s goal is to get Congress to act on this recommendation. In the meantime, Heart Lake is being managed essentially as wilderness by the Forest Service.

Features: The Heart Lake National Recreation Trail bisects the proposed wilderness area and offers easy access to deep-blue Heart Lake. The Heart Lake Trail climbs from Road 17 east towards Lassen Volcanic National Park through channels left by ancient glaciers. The trail climbs gently for 2.4 miles to Heart Lake, a blue, glacier-carved jewel. There are several great campsites in the area, but please do not camp within 200 feet of water or in a meadow. For other suggestions regarding low-impact enjoyment of our public lands, visit

The Heart Lake Trail connects to the Twin Meadows Trail that explores another 7 miles of the proposed Heart Lake Wilderness. One can enjoy a fantastic loop through the core of the proposed wilderness by combining the Heart Lake Trail (2.4 miles), Twin Meadows Trail (7 miles), Road 30N16 (4.6 miles) and Road 17 (3.2 miles).

Directions to the trailhead: From the intersection of Highways 99 and 36 in Red Bluff, take Highway 36 east for 37 miles to Forest Road 31N45/County Road 17 on your left just after the bridge over Battle Creek. Turn left (north) and drive 9.8 miles to the trailhead just after the bridge over South Fork Digger Creek.

For more information on the Heart Lake National Recreation Trail: Contact the Lassen National Forest at (530) 258-2141 or at



Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.