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Stories from the valley

Lake Audrain – A Quick Winter Hike

Contributed by Carl Gwyn

One of my goals this winter is to head to new places. I’ve heard of Lake Audrain—the headwater of the South Fork of the American River—and wanted to check it out. I did and was pleasantly surprised by this beautiful little lake that makes a great beginning trip or a scenic destination when time is short.

Lake Audrain is located on the south side of Highway 50, close to Echo Summit. The trailhead is easy to find, opposite and slightly east of the old Little Norway Resort. Although there is a turnout that will hold several cars, plan to arrive early because the spots are quickly filled by visitors looking for snow play at the side of the road. 

The easiest way to locate the trail is to look for the sign that says “Scout Peak” on a tree that’s about 50 feet from the highway. You will then see the snow-covered road that leads to the lake. 

The trail has markers that are easy to find once you get started. It proceeds gently downhill amongst boulders and through forest. After you go about half a mile, look to your left to spot Lake Audrain through the trees. If you go far enough that the marked trail starts to ascend, you’ve gone a bit too far. By slipping through the trees, you’ll arrive at a little lake that’s nestled in a small bowl.

For a shorter trek back, you can go over the ridge to the north of the lake and quickly arrive back at the highway. For those with more time, you can explore the area by going further along the marked trail (the Pony Express Trail) or climbing up the slope east of the lake. 

Even though the area next to the highway was packed with snow players when we returned, my friend and I didn’t encounter anyone on the trail or at the lake, making for a peaceful trip.  I hope you get an opportunity to take in this special spot.