Totally Worth It!
That's how we summed our trip to Deer Lake, and other parts of the Four Lakes loop, in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. As you'll notice in the map below, the hike in is not to be taken lightly. Gaining nearly 4,000 feet, and providing no shade for significant portions of the hike, it really makes you earn the the gorgeous views.
After taking 3 north from Weaverville and driving past Trinity Lake you'll eventually come to Long Canyon road. Just after the road turns to gravel you'll see the trailhead. The hike up to Bee Tree Gap begins in a fairly mellow fashion but within 3 miles begins to deliver great views up and down Long Canyon and of the surrounding ridges. It also keeps your heart rate up with consistent elevation gain. As for water, even during this dry year, we were near water for most of the hike.
Once gaining Bee Tree Gap you're just a short distance from Deer Creek Pass. At Deer Creek Pass you'll get your first view of Deer Lake (below), the first of the four lakes.
Deer Lake is where we camped and is the most popular spot to camp on the Four Lakes Loop since it's the first lake you come to. Before heading out the following day, we made a quick side hike to Summit Lake. There are numerous ways to extend this trip, including spending another day and visiting all 3 other lakes or by connecting to one the numerous other trails in the area to expand the loop.
Location: Trinity Alps Wilderness near Trinity Center, CA
Duration: 2+ days
Distance: 260 miles round trip (driving), 12+ miles hiking
Drive time from campus: 3 hours
Approx cost: $50 in gas money + groceries and gear rental
What you need: Car and backpacking equipment
Experience level: Experienced
Level of difficulty: Medium