The Hiker Mama

Pyramid Lake

Distance: 4.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1500 feet

Season: Late Spring through late Fall

Highest Elevation: 2600 feet

Maps: Green Trails Diablo, No. 48

Description: This hike did not make it into Joan Burton’s Best Hikes for Kids book, and for good reason. But strong hikers may find enough to lure their kids up this trail. The reward: rare carnivorous plants floating on logs in the lake, and possibilities of seeing newts and dragonflies. The cost: a thigh-burning, lung-busting, rooted, rocky path to a tiny lake in a viewless cirque. The trail starts right on the shoulder of Highway 20 next to Pyramid Creek, and climbs steeply up a rocky spine. Salal grows over the path, brushing hikers’ legs. Scrubby pines cling to the rocks. After a little more than a mile, you’ll come to a beautiful section of mature cedars and hemlocks, and Pyramid Creek flowing gently over moss-covered boulders. This makes a good spot to stop and catch your breath and have a snack. The hike is easier now as the trail meanders over the creek and further up the valley. But don’t fret, you’ll soon be climbing again in the last mile to reach the lake. If you’re there in the right season, you’ll be able to snack on blueberries as you hike. The lake itself feels more like a pond, and there aren’t many flat spots for sitting (it would be tough to find a spot to pitch a tent.) The rock cliffs tower over the shore. If you take some time and look closer, out on the logs in the middle of the lake, there are carnivorous sundew plants. Newts float in the water; you’ll need to be stealthy and still to see them among the submerged rocks. When we were there, we witnessed dragonfly nymphs emerging onto vegetation and metamorphosing into their adult forms. From the eastern edge of the lake, look off to the southwest and catch a glimpse of Pyramid Peak in the distance.

Directions: Take Highway 20 east from I-5 in Burlington. Drive through Concrete and Newhalem. Just past the road to Diablo, about 3/4 mile, look for the sign for the trailhead on the right. There is a parking area on the left, with room for several cars. No trail passes are needed. There are no restrooms or other facilities at the trailhead; I recommend using them in Newhalem or at the Gorge Overlook parking area.