|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Start at Big Flat TH, cross the south fork Salmon river and take the new trail up a series of 9 short switchbacks and 3 long switchbacks, 4 miles on good tread through mixed conifer forest to Caribou Meadow. The trail crosses the Old Trail and continues across a large granite outcrop, through a 2 mile section of decimated forest ( the result of the June 21st '08 lightening storm that swept through the area.) to Browns Meadow and the first source of reliable water 1 mile of gradual ascent brings you to the north side of Caribou canyon and the 2000 ft drop to the creek below. Thompson Peak towers above the south side of the canyon with it's slowly receding glacier above massive granite slabs that make up the upper north slopes of the highest peak in the wilderness. Looking to the east, you get your first view of Caribou Lakes Basin with lower Caribou Lake and Caribou Lake' and eventually Snowslide Lake as well. 2 more miles of gradual ascent brings you to the Old Trail junction. The trail then descends down a series of 5 switchbacks, crossing a small but steady spring along the way, to Snowslide Lake. Here is the perfect place for a well earned dip and lunch before stairstepping up the granite steps the final 1/2 mile into Caribou Lake's large granite bowl rimmed by the Sawtooth Ridge to the south. The next day we dayhike to the top of Sawtooth Pass for views across the Stuart Fork canyon of the southern Alps. The trail continues down 2000 ft in 1 mile, but our hike takes us on a cross country scramble west up the ridge to a 7000 ft un-named peak above Caribou Lake. Look west to see Mirror, Saphire and Emerald Lakes, the three lakes that step down the east flank of Thompson Peak and are the headwaters of the Stuart Fork of the Trinity River. Return to Caribou Lake back along the ridge or scramble down the scree and practice some bouldering as you wind down the granite slabs and high meadows to the lake below. Another day brings another dayhike, this time down to Lower Caribou Lake. You can take the well marked trail or elect to work your way down across the granite slabs that drop you into Middle Caribou Lake which is more pond than lake, but it recieves water from both Snowslide and Caribou lakes before it cascades down to Lower Caribou Lake. Leave the basin back past Snowslide and up to the Old Trail junction. The Old Trail is a steep switchbacking trail that is no longer maintained but will take you up to 8118 ft Caribou Pass and down to Caribou Meadow. The pass is a great place to stop and cook breakfast and offers views north to the Scott Mtn Divide and east to the western profile of Mt Shasta. Southeast in the distance, Lassen Peak, which last erupted in 1914 and belched smoke and ash until 1917, can be seen. Descend 1000 ft on more switchbacks and look for the cairn that marks the x-country route to Little Caribou Lake. At 7165 ft, the lake sits in a small bowl amid granite slabs and large talus and difficult access almost insures seclusion. A x-country route down the outlet cascade across more granite brings you back to the main trail between Browns Meadow and Caribou Meadow, about 4 1/2 miles above the trailhead. At Caribou Meadow you can choose to go back via the Old Trail, a steeper, more exposed route with stretches of shale, or return on the better tread down the switchbacks and through the forest. A final dip in the south fork Salmon River is a fitting way to cap off the trip.