Carr to Downie and Sanford Lakes


Trail photos

Photo ofCarr to Downie and Sanford Lakes Photo ofCarr to Downie and Sanford Lakes Photo ofCarr to Downie and Sanford Lakes


Trail stats

9.59 mi
Elevation gain
1,841 ft
Technical difficulty
Elevation loss
1,841 ft
Max elevation
7,461 ft
Min elevation
6,574 ft
Trail type
7 hours 52 minutes
September 11, 2023
August 2023
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near Marsh Mill, California (United States)

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Trail photos

Photo ofCarr to Downie and Sanford Lakes Photo ofCarr to Downie and Sanford Lakes Photo ofCarr to Downie and Sanford Lakes

Itinerary description

I hadn’t been to Downie or Sanford lakes because they are more effort than many of the other lakes in the area. They are pretty lakes bordered by ridges and Sanford has great distance views from the east end of the lake. The side trails to the lakes are scenic in their own right. The Sanford Lake trail follows a nice creek for most of the way. Of the two Sanford impressed us more. They are worth the climbs back out to visit.

We didn’t explore Downie to see if there were trails around it, but the shore is bordered by low rocks that don’t look hard to traverse. Sanford has a nice trail around half of it but it looked like the other half would be scrambling along the shore over a jumble of fallen rocks under a steep ridge.

Downie and Sanford are big enough to swim in and have easy access along rocky shores. I saw fishing at Downie, but no catching while I was there. There are informal campsites at both lakes.

The trails to the lakes are lightly traveled single track with a mix of dirt and rock. I rate this hike as moderate technical difficulty because getting to the lakes requires a little extra attention. There are signs on Grouse Ridge trail but you need to be looking for them. At the Sanford turnoff there are extra trails, roads and parking lots that could be confusing. The trails to the lakes are rockier and rougher than Grouse Ridge trail but not difficult. The climbs were similar in steepness to between Grouse Ridge Campground and Milk Lake.

The shortest hike to get to Downie and Sanford is to take Grouse Ridge Road to the parking lot at the Sanford trailhead. But we started at Carr lake because there is opportunity to visit 8 lakes and 2 ponds on the hike and you don’t have to drive on Grouse Ridge Road. That added about 6 miles of hiking round trip which cut into exploration time.

Bowman Lake Road is paved and in good condition (this year) to the Road 17 turnoff which is clearly marked by a sign for Carr Lake. Later there is an unsigned intersection where Road 17 meets another Road 17 with one going to Carr and the other Lindsey. Road names may vary between maps. Google maps tried to send me to Carr via Bowman to Lindsey Lake Road instead of taking Bowman to Road 17. That would be longer than necessary. I found Google maps helpful but not entirely trustworthy in this area. Road 17 is a moderately rocky dirt road that is mostly safe to take at double digit speeds with street cars. You don’t need a high clearance vehicle or 4x4. By contrast, Grouse Ridge Road is much rougher and longer too. Several people we met said they were going about 5 MPH on Grouse Ridge Road.

We had to park down the road from the Carr trailhead parking because it was very popular on a warm Saturday.
There are porta and perma potties near Carr and Lindsey Lakes. No fees unless you camp at a numbered camp site


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