Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
3,050.00 ft (929.64 m)
Trail type
19.60 mi (31.54 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Swift Creek Trail is one of the more heavily used trails in the Trinity Alps for its beauty and several unique destinations. The first couple of miles of the trail follows along the pristine Swift Creek as it cascades through a steep canyon full of boulders. At higher elevations Swift Creek meanders through large luscious meadows, the largest of which is Mumford Meadow. Just past the phenomenal Mumford Meadow are two quaint lakes, Horseshoe and Ward Lakes.

Horseshoe Lake is, not surprisingly, shaped like a horseshoe. Because of its unique shape a small peninsula juts into the lake. One or two awesome tent spots can be found on this outcropping where you are surrounded by water on nearly every side. Most of the bank here is granite and offers perfect places for diving and swimming without getting covered in silt. The north shore is home to an abundance of wildflowers in the summer.

Ward Lake mostly has a silt covered bottom, making it less than ideal for a dip, though the water is crystal clear and refreshing. Many campsites are dotted around Ward Lake with incredible views of the lake, and some even have panoramic views of the Swift Creek watershed. 

The Trinity Alps Wilderness is a bastion of many wildlife species, and the Swift Creek watershed is a prime example of this. Frequently black tailed deer graze undisturbed in the meadows here. At night many visitors can hear and see deer walk into their camp searching for any source of salt they can find. These deer are known for licking and tearing clothes that have been exposed to sweat. Other large mammals in the area are black bear and mountain lions. Osprey are also frequently observed at lakes in the Swift Creek watershed and throughout the rest of the Trinity Alps. Nearly every night at dusk, when conditions are clear, an osprey can be seen and heard fishing at the lakes. If you spend a night or two at Ward or Horseshoe Lakes, make sure to pack a pair of binoculars to safely and respectfully observe the wild creatures of Swift Creek.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required


Large meadows. Great views.



Trailhead Elevation

4,063.00 ft (1,238.40 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Suitable for




Took 4 humans and a dog up to Horseshoe lake this weekend and had a great time. The trail crosses several streams along the way so the pup has plenty of cooling off/drinking opportunities and we were able to purify water along the way. Trail is also shaded for long portions so even in the hottest part of the day the heat wasn't too oppressive.

A few things that are helpful to know: no water at the trailhead (no big deal, plenty of water on trail if you can purify), foster cabin is about 5 miles in (nice and shady for a half way break) and there are several campsites at the meadows about 7 miles in. Definitely check this trail out if you get a chance, really nice hike and the lakes at the end are worth the effort!
Recently I backpacked up swift creek trail head guiding a group from Acsend Wilderness Experience. The first two nights were wonderful down in Mumford meadows but the weather changed without any notice. In the morning it was a beautiful sunny day but in the afternoon the sky quickly turned stormy. On the third day we traveled about three miles further to Horseshoe lake which was a scenic and fun hike but once again with no notice the sky became stormy and starled hailing a foot of golf ball sized hail which ripped through our backpack covers and got everything soaking wet, forcing my group to make the long hike out. Be wary of the weather, but it was a amazing and gorgeous hike overall.
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