“Trail that visits many gem-like lakes, that are unfortunately in a recovering (as of 2018) burn area from a 2012 fire.
— Joan Pendleton
Lake · Views · Wildflowers
Bear Lakes Trail starts from Echo Lake/Twin Lakes Trail
about 1.3 miles from the Summit Lake Trailhead parking area. This trail junction is well marked.
Leaving Echo Lake/Twin Lakes Trail
behind, Bear Lakes Trail heads off through stands of firs on the green low growing manzanita ground cover. Relatively flat at first, the trail passes a small unnamed jewel-like lake set in a rocky bowl among the firs, at about the 1.1 mile mark.
Bear Lakes Trail then descends, as it enters a burn zone. In 2012, the Reading Wildfire swept through here from the north. As of 2018, the forest has not yet recovered from this fire, although it is trying to. Green grasses and other low vegetation have made a come back in many places. However, the firs are only starting to make a comeback, very small still, a few feet high, where they can be found, along with a few mature firs that somehow escaped the flames. On the positive side of this, without trees to block views, snowy Mt. Shasta can be seen far in the distance to the northwest. And there are many lakes along this trail to enhance the beauty.
Little Bear Lake is passed at the 2.3 mile mark. Continuing to descend through the burn area, at the 2.6 mile mark Big Bear Lake is reached. After Big Bear Lake, the trail levels off for the rest of its way. At the 3.3 mile mark is a trail junction with Cluster Lakes Trail
to the left (north). Shortly after this trail junction, continuing through the burn area, is Silver Lake at the 3.5 mile mark. From here, the trail follows the Silver Lake shoreline for 0.3 miles before moving on to Feather Lake at the 4.1 mile mark and following its shoreline for 0.2 miles. Almost immediately after leaving Feather Lake is another unnamed small lake, and then another.
Bear Lakes Trail ends after 5.4 miles, at the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Just before reaching the PCT, Bear Lakes Trail leaves the burn zone and is once again in healthy, vibrant green fir forest.
Flora & Fauna
Burnt trees for much of the trail in an area recovering from a 2012 fire, although the ground cover is somewhat recovered. At the beginning of the trail is healthy manzanita ground cover and firs. The fir forest at the trail end is also healthy. Wildflowers (June) around the last mile or so.