Caples Lake to Emigrant Lake
One of my goals this year has been to make an effort to go on adventures and spend more time outside. In the past, I never really took advantage of the incredible destinations that are only a short car drive away. With record breaking heat in the forecast, I knew a trip to the mountains would be the perfect getaway. I did some research and asked around to figure out where to go. I finally decided on Caples Lake near Kirkwood, as it’d be far less busy than most areas around South Lake Tahoe.
The alarm rang bright and early and the aroma of coffee began to fill the kitchen. I loaded up my bag with my camera, lenses, and snacks (because what’s a good adventure without snacks?) The plan was to be on the road before sunrise and catch it somewhere up the hill. As it began to rise, the smoke filled skies from numerous wildfires across the state glowed orange. I made a quick stop in Sly Park, another place I’ll be visiting in the future, to snap a few photos of the rising sun peeping through the trees over Jenkinson Lake.
When I arrived at Caples Lake, I was welcomed by some refreshing, crisp temperatures; something I haven’t gotten much of this summer. I gathered what I needed and hit the trails. The first couple of miles follow the shore of the lake. As the trail meanders away from lake, the terrain gets much more undulating with some rocky areas and creek beds to cross before climbing up the rest of the way to Emigrant Lake. Along the way, you’ll be sure to find many colorful wildflowers and mushrooms, as well as beautiful, flowing streams (one of them you’ll have to do a bit of rock hopping to reach the other side to continue up the trail!). As the gradient begins to level out, you’ll be greeted by an open meadow and treated to some nice views of the jagged mountains surrounding you. No more than a half mile later, the glistening ripples of Emigrant Lake will be in sight.
The water in the alpine lake is incredibly clear. Even in late August, there was still snow surrounding the shores on the southern end of the lake. Right here is the perfect spot to pull out those snacks I mentioned earlier and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the Mokelumne Wilderness! When you are feeling ready to head back, you just follow the same route all the way back. Round trip ends up being 8-10 miles depending on how far you venture around Emigrant Lake. It’s an ideal trek for a day trip and permits are available for camping, as long as your campsite is at least 300 feet from the lake.