Trail Review: Gold Lake 4×4 [California]

On our way to the Rubicon trail this past August, I was looking for a camping spot where we could break up the drive a bit, and also enjoy some camping.

After a bit of Googling, I found out about the Gold Lake OHV trail in Plumas National Forest, in California.  I plotted the coordinates into my GPS, and our small group of rag tag Jeepers soon departed from Oregon.

The trail is well signed.

The trail was easy to find, after a long climb into the mountains.  After following the signs, we met the trail head.  We all decided to air down (even though it is a short trail) however the number of people that were passing us combined with the fact the campground can fill up quickly led us to abandon the air down and get to the campground.

Some parts of the trail are really easy, almost paved.

The trail is mild compared to areas like the Rubicon, but you will need some good ground clearance and the ability to choose careful lines if you are running more of an SUV.  A Ford Escape snuck in before us, and was quickly hung up and ended up turning around.

The relatively short 1.5 mile long trail feels longer, due to the slow speed we had to go to keep the bumpiness manageable (since we couldn’t air down).

Other spots have taller boulders and require additional clearance.

The trail ends at the official ORV campground.  All the spots along the water were taken, but I was surprised with the number of available campsites (we arrived around 7:00PM on a Saturday). After a bit of scouting, a camper (with Jeeps) suggested we take the 1/4 mile trail up to Little Gold Lake where there is a huge spot on the water that would accommodate our group.  We crossed our fingers and headed up the trail.

Arriving at the campground.

 And man am I glad we did.

The trail wound around a beautiful campsite (complete with picnic table) on the shores of a small lake nestled in the basin of a huge granite bowl. It was a fantastic location and no one else was even close to us.

A panorama of Little Gold Lake. Click to see full size.

The site itself was set among mature pines and very little scrub brush.  The trail wound around behind us, we didn’t really explore much.

We soon set up camp, cooked dinner, and cracked open a couple of cold, Oregon, hoppy beers.  We did not have a campfire due to regulations, but someone thankfully tossed an LED light into the fire ring.

The ORV trailer setup at Little Gold Lake. Photo (c) Jason Martin

The sunset was amazing.  The stars were even better.

Sunset among the pines.

All night, the silence was deafening which I always appreciate when camping.  It was a fantastic spot and I hope to return again.

In the morning, we broke camp and headed toward the Rubicon trail.

Featured image courtesy Jason Martin.

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