5. BEST OVERNIGHT
For high rewards and low effort, head to Granite Lake, in a sheer-walled basin that delivers on the lake’s name. The 10-mile out-and-back passes a series of waterfalls, including multitiered Granite Creek Falls. And you’ll see scores of azaleas in June and July. The best part? Easy does not equal crowded.
6. BEST WEEKEND
For guaranteed solitude—even on weekends—spend the night at Horseshoe Lake, tucked in a cliff-ringed cirque at the headwaters of Swift Creek. The 16-mile round-trip climbs gradually along Swift Creek and through broad meadows, then gains nearly 900 feet in a series of exposed switchbacks in the last mile.
7. BEST WILDLIFE
Morris Meadows, along popular Stuart Fork Trail, has black bears galore, says Alpert. “But unlike the notorious camp-raiders in Yosemite, bears in Trinity don’t equate backpackers with food.” Extend your stay: Hike roughly five miles past the meadows to campsites at Emerald and Sapphire Lakes.
8. TOP FISHING
Local anglers cast the riffles of North Fork Coffee Creek, a crystal-clear stream that begins high in the 525,477-acre wilderness. For some of the area’s finest trout fishing, pack a lightweight fly rod, size 14 Royal Wulffs, Adams, and Yellow Humpies, and go late in the season. “These fish know winter is coming and they’ll gobble up any fly that’s put near them,” says Alpert.
9. MOST DIVERSE FOREST
The Big Bear Lake Trail tracks through one of the world’s most diverse temperate coniferous forests. Start at Bear Creek trailhead and head west on an eight-mile out-and-back that runs through massive and fragrant incense cedar, towering Douglas fir and ponderosa pine, as well as white fir, western white pine, and knobcone pine.