Paradise Lake lies beneath Kings Castle along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in Northern California’s Marble Mountain Wilderness. The lake can be reached from the west by hiking north or south along the PCT or from the Paradise or Lovers Camp Trailheads or from the Box Camp Trailhead. The Box Camp seemed less well known than the other two trailheads (Lovers Camp can get extremely busy) and the Box Camp Trail itself has been described as recently reinvigorated, so it seemed like an interesting way for a first visit to Paradise (Lake). The onset of cool Fall weather and the recent lifting of this area’s closure due to the Salmon-August Complex Fire where all that were needed to get me headed south to the Marbles.
The usual access to this trailhead is via the single-lane paved road (Forest Road (FR) 44N45) toward Lovers Camp, with a turn-off on to gravel FR 44N45 to a five-way junction next to a large corral, then a turn left (south) here on to FR 44N59Y for the short, but steep and narrow, drive to the Box Camp Trailhead. FR 44N45 is, however, temporarily closed for repairs, so it was necessary to take gravel FR 44N41 (which starts as Canyon Creek Road) to get around the closure. Lots of gravel driving ensued. The hiker trailhead is at the first big wide spot on FR 44N59Y, with parking for several cars and identified with a signboard (it’s not at the corral at the five-way junction as the Forest Service website indicates).
The trail itself – which was in great shape all the way to its junction with the PCT – starts out through a forest,
soon crosses an old road (FR 43N20Y – these and other old roads only show on the latest (2016) Forest Service map for this area), passes the end of another old road (FR 44N59YA), and then climbs steadily up into meadows overlooking Canyon Creek (part of the Klamath River watershed).
Higher up, the trail passes above “Death Valley” (headwaters of Death Valley Creek) with a view south to the Sky High Lakes area.
Still further up, the meadows give way to stubby manzanita and rock outcroppings,
and the trail then passes through a band of the white marble rock which gives this wilderness area its name.
The last stretch of trail before its junction with the PCT is largely treeless,
allowing for views of Black Marble Mountain (7,442 feet) and Kings Castle (7,405 feet).
I could see smoke still rising from the Salmon-August Complex Fire to the south and from the Miller Complex Fire to the north – this year’s fire season just isn’t going to end until we have some seriously wet/snowy weather.
The PCT is essentially level from its junction with the Box Camp Trail to Paradise Lake and the 2.5 miles from the junction to the lake went quickly. The weather was clear and crisp all day – it was only along the PCT that I encountered noticable (and cold) wind.
From the PCT, I could look back (southeast) toward the long ridge that is Box Camp Mountain (it’s highest point is not specifically named). The Box Camp Trail climbs along the other side of this ridge.
Paradise Lake gets disparaged by some as shallow and muddy but I found it to be very pretty, surrounded as it was by muted Fall colors.
From the lake it’s a short cross-country hike up to the summit of Kings Castle, but I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for doing this. There’s a nice large campsite on the east shore of the lake, so I stopped there for a snack (and also to pick-up trash left by recent campers). After that, it was back the way I’d come to the trailhead. A moderate (11.7 mile roundtrip; 2,200 feet of elevation gain) hike to a nice little lake, along trails in great condition, with big views along the way. If you can muster the enthusiasm, both Black Marble Mountain and Kings Castle are available as straighforward climbs up from the PCT.