Grover Hot Springs State Park

Burnside Trail

To waterfall is 3 miles round trip; to Burnside Lake is 10 miles round trip
with 2,100-foot elevation gain

Nothing like a soothing soak in a hot spring after a long day on the trail. For the High Sierra visitor who wants to take a hike and “take the cure” in the same day, Grover Hot Springs State Park, located a bit south of Lake Tahoe, is the perfect destination.

Don’t expect a deluxe Euro-resort; Grover Hot Springs offers your basic soak, nothing more, nothing less. Bathers can sit in one hot pool (102 to 105 degrees) fed by six mineral springs, and one cool pool. The two pools and the changing rooms are the extent of the state park facilities.

No, it’s not the concrete pools, surrounded by a wooden fence (the effect is rather like a backyard swimming pool installed in the 1950s) but the setting that’s inspiring at Grover Hot Springs.

Tucked in Hot Springs Valley, surrounded on three sides by Sierra Nevada peaks, Grover Hot Springs offers a soak in a setting as soothing as its waters. The granite peaks, including 10,023-foot Hawkins Peak to the northwest and 9,419-foot Markleeville Peak to the southwest, form an inspiring backdrop to an area that’s been attracting visitors since the 1850s.

At the park, true hot springs aficionados can read up on the exact mineral content of Grover Hot Springs and find out just how many grams per gallon of magnesium carbonate and sodium sulfate the waters hold. Most bathers, even those without any interest in chemistry, will be happy to know that Grover, unlike most other hot springs, contains almost none of that nose-wrinkling sulphur.

Most visitors come to this out-of-the way park for the waters, not the walking. Too bad, because the state park and surrounding national forest boast some inspiring footpaths.

Easy family hikes include a nature trail called Transition Walk that loops around the park’s alpine meadow and a three mile round trip walk to a waterfall on Hot Springs Creek. A more ambitious jaunt is the hike to Burnside Lake located in the adjacent Toiyabe National Forest. Burnside Trail crosses the state park, then ascends through a pine forest to the alpine lake.

Directions to trailhead: From Highway 89 in Markleeville (a half-hour drive from South Lake Tahoe), turn west on Hot Springs Road and travel 3.5 miles to Grover Hot Springs State Park. You can park at the pool (then walk a footpath and the park road to the trailhead) or proceed past the park entrance station to the overflow parking area and the signed trailhead at the north end of Quaking Aspen Campground.

If you want to make the trip to Burnside Lake a one-way trip, you can drive to the lake. From the signed turnoff on Highway 88, drive 5.5 miles down bumpy, dirt Burnside Road to road’s end at the lake.

The hike: The path parallels Hot Springs Creek, a year-round watercourse that flows through the park’s large meadow. Some of the catchable trout planted in the creek are caught by campers for their suppers, though more serious anglers head for the nearby Carson River. The quaking aspen fringing the meadow are showy in autumn, when the fluttering leaves turn orange and gold.

A short mile’s walk from the trailhead brings you to a signed junction. (The trail to the waterfall branches left, leading along Hot Springs Creek. Some minor rock climbing leads to an overlook above the small, but vigorous falls.)

Burnside Trail enters the forest and ascends a mile to another junction, this one with Charity Valley Trail, which heads south along Charity Valley Creek. Soon thereafter, Burnside Trail crosses Burnside Creek and climbs northwest, switchbacking up steep Jeffrey pine- and white fir-cloaked slopes. Near the top, you’ll get a grand, over-the-shoulder view of Hot Springs Valley.

The last mile of this hike resembles the first mile—a walk through meadowland. The meadow below Burnside Lake is much wetter than the one in the state park, however, so take care to stay on the trail; you won’t get your boots so wet, and you’ll help protect the fragile meadow ecology.

Boulders perched above the lakeshore suggest fine picnic spots, and inspiring places from which to contemplate pretty Burnside Lake.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at www.thetrailmaster.com.