Ward Lake


18.3 miles 3200' elevation gain

best season: 

2:55 drive

dogs welcome

This hike follows Swift Creek up to its origin at Ward Lake.  The lower canyon is rugged and features a waterfall below the trail.  Higher up the canyon opens up with beautiful flowery meadows.  And at the head of the canyon it becomes more of a valley with several excellent campsites along a burbling creek (Swift Creek still) with meadow and clumps of trees.  From there it is recommended to visit the lakes as a day hike. But for those yearning to camp lakeside, Ward Lake offers excellent campsites.

Often still snow at the lakes in June, but the rest of the hike is particularly nice then. Water shoes advisable for Parker Creek ford in June.

The trail is very well built and maintained, except for the last part from Horseshoe Lake junction up to Ward Lake.

The start of the hike can be quite warm.  If weather prediction is for hot weather, it is recommended to arrive in early evening and hike in a short ways to one of the first campsites. And get an early start the next day to do the bulk of the climb in the cool of the morning.

This is a popular hiking area so avoid holiday weekends. If the parking lot is less than filled, there should be good campsites available.

Bears may be present and may like to eat your food.  May want to bring a bear-proof canister.

Wilderness Permits required, and can be picked up at self-service kiosks at Forest Service stations in Weaverville or Mule Creek Fire Station. A California Campfire Permit is required for campfires or gas stoves and can be obtained here.

This hike is in Shasta-Trinity National Forest; owned by the public, managed by Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Backpacking welcomed; campfires welcomed except during campfire restriction periods.

current weather forecast:
at trailhead
at lakes


Maps  (July 2022 edition)

Avenza version

Adobe PDF version

Gaia GPS-compatible MBtiles

KML track of hike