Dinkey Lakes Wilderness Day Hike in July

As a semi last minute trip, I decided to head out to Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. This year I was going to take Jaden. He did so well back at Lassen Volcanic National Park I thought he could handle the hike to at least one lake, if not more. Friday night I prepared our backpacks and set up Jaden’s new one. We just bought him the CamelBak Scout on STP. Saturday would be the test to see if he liked it.


Saturday morning came and we were both up at our usual time. Breakfast was soon done and it was time to load up in the truck. The drive was going to be a longer one, but worth it. We were delayed a couple times because of toy trailers or RVs. We ended up at the Dinkey Lakes TH around 930 AM that morning.

I made some final adjustment to our gear once we arrived. I passed over a snack to Jaden, which he didn’t mind at all. He really enjoys Clif Bars so he was more than happy to eat one now. I secured a few things in the truck and emptied out my pockets of things I would not need. Once that was all done, Jaden had eaten his bar, and it was time to start hiking!


Jaden really enjoys checking out signs when he can. We stopped at everyone of them, included the first one to show us where to go. The trail starts in a specially designated Geological Area on the National Forest. It was cool to see the roof pendant of a pluton along the way.

It was not long and our first creek crossing was underway. As we approached, the wild onions were in bloom so I had Jaden use his sense of smell. There were wildflowers too like leopard lilies, columbines, asters, and more as we stepped from rock to rock across Dinkey Creek. Then we proceeded onward to our second crossing. Jaden was enjoying the walk and getting water out of his camelbak.

The second crossing of Dinkey Creek is where we met our first set of hikers. A father and son were coming out from backpacking. We shared info and stories really quick before going our separate ways. I knew once we crossed the creek Jaden would enjoy seeing the wilderness signs. I was right.


The third crossing of Dinkey Creek was a was up now. Our first destination was Mystery Lake, which is approximately 1.5 miles of hiking. The terrain changes a few times, which provides a variety of things to see along the way. Jaden continued to trek along with energy and excitement. I informed him at trail junctions there are usually signs showing you which way to go. I believe this spurred him onward as he wanted to see what the next sign said.

After a small break we soon arrived at the trail junction. Here Jaden once again read the sign and saw we needed to make a right to get to Mystery Lake. He was excited and proceed along the trail. In about 100 yards we were at our third crossing of Dinkey Creek. I had informed him we crossed three times, climbed uphill for a few minutes, and then the lake was there waiting for us. The third crossing was done, so uphill we went.


The hike up was slow and steady. We took a couple breaks along the way. It was still cool out, so that was nice. Eventually the trail was becoming less steep and Jaden hurried on to see what Mystery Lake looked like. As we approached we could see it through the trees. We had arrived at Mystery Lake.


Mystery Lake is rather spread out and weaving across the landscape. Jaden and I would go around parts of the lake with him asking, “what lake is this one daddy?” I then informed him it is all the same lake, but the water is just moving in and around parts of the Forest. We then found a spot to rest and enjoy the views.

Our spot to enjoy the scenery was by a previously used fire pit. The users, who left that morning, did not put there fire out correctly. In fact a part of it was escaping the fire ring and smoldering out. Using a stainless steel bowl left behind I went to the lake and doused the escaped fire. About 5 bowls of cold lake water make sure it was out. We planned to come back later and make sure it was “cold and out” as the fire permits say they should be. Burying your fire under dirt only smolders the fire for it to surface another day. In this case, in a matter of hours.


Snack was consumed and feeling great, we started the path towards Suede Lake. It was only 0.5 miles away, but it would be the hardest hike of the day. The uphill climb is not long, but very steep. The first part, however, was walking in and out of meadows.

The trail eventually took us to the part I knew would take awhile. We were now going to ascend up into Suede Lake. We stopped several times, which was okay. It was important for Jaden to continue to enjoy this experience and not do a crazy march where he would hate the whole thing. It probably took about 15 to 20 minutes and the hike was over. Jaden was excited to see the next lake.


Suede Lake was now in view. The slight downhill descent took us to where River and I were last year on our day hike into the wilderness. Now Jaden had made it and he was happy to be there. Clouds were getting bigger and darker nearby at this time. I was contemplating quite a bit of things for the next few moments. Should we go further? Can Jaden handle it? Would we end up in a thunderstorm? Informing Jaden we had to go after this was a big let down for him. He asked if we could make it to one more lake. I told him we could, but that we would need to leave shortly after arriving in case of the thunderheads developing above. He agreed and happily made his way up the trail. We had another 0.5 miles of hiking to do.

We crossed the outlet of Suede Lake and proceeded further east towards South Lake. The hike is not hard to do at all. It starts with a short uphill hike and then the rest is flat to downhill. Jaden moved right along only stopping a couple times. We soon found ourselves at South Lake.


South Lake is the largest of the three lakes we visited. The storm was brewing to the north which appeared over 1st Dinkey Lake. Jaden really wanted to go there, but that would make for an 8 mile day. I knew he wasn’t there yet, but his energy and enthusiasm was encouraging. My boy wants to explore and be outside. Got to love that!

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Heading back we moved rather quickly. The downhill descent from Suede to Mystery was slow going. I admit my feet were quite warm and soon, once on the flat stretches to Mystery Lake, Jaden was complaining about his feet hurting. The first thing that came to mind were blisters. I told him to hang in there a few more minutes as we were about 5 minutes out from Mystery. He hung in there and soon I was able to exam his feet.


We returned to Mystery Lake and stopped at the spot we visited earlier that day. I took off his shoes and did not find any blisters. That was great news. His feet were just sore from walking and probably hot like mine. I told him to sit in the shade and on a cool rock. He relaxed and after a bit he said they felt way better. The fire pit was still cold and out, so with that checked and time going by, I helped put on his shoes. It was now time to hike another 1.5 miles to the vehicle and head home.

The hike back was slower as his energy levels were going down. We ate food and drank water, but he was legitimately done. I think if we had an hour to rest and play out there he would have rebounded just fine. Being that it was a day hike, we did not have that luxury. It was getting close to mid-afternoon and I knew Diana would be getting worried.

The hike back was peaceful and warm. The shade was welcomed along the way. We ended up playing a game on the rocky portions of the hike back to distract Jaden. It was the “wobble cobbles” and how we had to be careful not fall off. The winds were “pushing” us and we bravely fought back. This made him smile and he played right along. We started to move faster and soon forgot about the sore feet.

Once at the bottom of the rocky portion, the trail soon met up with the trail signs. That was the next thing to distract him again. Then the second crossing of Dinkey Creek was there. We made our way across and now it was a 15 minute hike to the vehicle. This time we kept track of how many colors of wildflowers we say. By the time we arrived at our first (final going out) crossing, we had seen 7 colors.

It was nice to be back at the vehicle. It was a rather long hike out and Jaden made it. I opened the door and he started to get in right away. I had to hold him off to make sure he took off his backpack and hat. Once off he quickly hoped in to take off his shoes. He was ready to sit for awhile and relax in his seat. As we made our way back he was chatting up a storm. In 20 minutes his energy was restored. A good note for next time haha. I ended up finding a cell signal at Foster’s Ridge to tell Diana everything was fine and we were driving back. All in all, a great day out with Jaden in the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness.