The route to the lakes is short but quite steep. You begin the ascent amidst lush underbrush and below tall firs, and in .2 mile you reach a small basin with a steep rock headwall that rises straight up from the basin floor. A single campsite is at the near edge of this basin, quite suitable for those not interested in continuing the arduous ascent up to the lakes. For those who do go on, the trail proceeds through some tall grass, winds along the stream and quickly crosses over it. The route bends sharply uphill and then abruptly traverses to the right (northwest) through tall, dense vegetation past many seeps and creeklets flowing down from the springs above. A series of switchbacks face you now, and a last long switchback deposits you at the top of a rise where the trail mercifully levels out. From this point it is just a short distance to lower South Fork Lake.
Lower South Fork Lake is a pleasant but uninspiring little lake. Plenty of the necessities for camping exist here in abundance, but the extra effort required to reach the upper lake is well worth it. To reach the upper lake, travel around the lower lake to the inlet stream. Follow the trail along the right (west) side of the inlet stream a mile to the north shore of the upper lake.
Upper South Fork Lake is more picturesque than its lower neighbor with a steep slope that rises up out of the opposite shore leading to rock cliffs above. The abundant vegetation along the shoreline may slightly hinder your ability to enjoy the views or to fish the waters, but it is certainly possible to do both of those with a little effort. Rainbows up to 15 inches and smaller eastern brook trout test your skills. Camping is limited to the excellent sites along the northeast shore near the outlet. The fir-and-hemlock forest surrounding the lake provide adequate firewood.
From the trail junction to South Fork Lakes your descent on the PCT continues west until you cross the west branch of the South Fork of the Scott River. As the trail climbs away from the creek, you cross another smaller stream with wildflowers lining its banks, and the last long ascent continues to the trailhead. The PCT climbs almost a mile northwest from the west branch of the South Fork to a junction with the trail to Hidden Lake right below the Carter Meadows Summit parking area.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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