Trip Reports

Barrett Lake Jeep Trail

Rhino Run on the Barrett Lake Jeep TrailJuly 2007

Yamaha Rhinos on the Barrett Lake Jeep Trail
Rhinos at Barrett Lake – End of the Barrett Lake Jeep Trail

Barrett Lake Jeep Trail lies in the Sierra Nevada near the famous Rubicon Trail. The Barrett Lake Trailhead is located at Dark Lake just North of Wrights Lake and 8 miles north of Highway 50. The Barrett Lake Jeep Trail is rated by some to be tougher than the Rubicon because there are no bypasses or alternate routes around tougher sections of trail. The trail is a dead-end, so you leave the way you came in and it is about 6 miles long.

At the end of the trail, Barrett Lake lies at over 7500 feet in elevation. Although camping is allowed, we just stopped for lunch and headed back out.

If you are afraid of a few scratches on your rig or the loud thump that rocks make on your skid plates when your front tires fall off a rock, this type of trail is not for you. Expect to have at least one tire in the air on many occasions.


    Yamaha Rhino on the Barrett Lake Jeep Trail  Yamaha Rhino on the Barrett Lake Jeep Trail
We had four Rhinos and one KTM motorcycle in our group for this trip. Although three out of four Rhinos were equipped with +6″ long travel suspension, the stock suspension Rhino was just as capable. But the ride in a long travel with nice shocks sure makes the trail a bit more comfortable.





Darrin piloting my Rhino up an obstacle near Barrett Lake

Barrett Lake at the end of the Barrett Lake Jeep Trail  Barrett Lake at the end of the Barrett Lake Jeep Trail
Barrett Lake is a beautiful site at the end of the trail

Barrett Lake Jeep Trail - Rock Garden  Barrett Lake Jeep Trail - Stuck in the Rock Garden  Barrett Lake Jeep Trail - Stuck in the Rock Garden
Stuck in the Rock Garden on the way out. How in the world did I manage to get this stuck? The good news with a Rhino is even in this bad of a spot, you and three friends can pick up the front end and slide it over a rock.

OMF Beadlocks with 26" Bighorns
Tires and wheels make a big difference when you are doing this sort of rock crawling. Ground clearance is key and a larger diameter tire is a big help.  The other key is low air pressure. Tires grip the rocks much better with less air in them.  Beadlock wheels help to keep the tire’s bead on the wheel when you are running down around 5 psi. I have 26″ Maxxis Bighorns and OMF beadlock wheels and have been very happy with this combination for the rocks.

Charlie with his KTM on the Barrett Lake Jeep Trail
Charlie made the trip look easy on his 450 KTM.

Rhino run on the Barrett Lake Jeep Trail
Like the Rubicon, expect the trail to be very dusty. If you have an exhaust tip that points down, it will kick up even more. I would recommend a tip (spark arrestor required) that points straight out the back.

I cut about one-half of the 90 degree elbow off of my stock Rhino exhaust tip before the trip.  It helped quite a bit, but a straight tip is much better.

Rhino Run on the Barrett Lake Jeep Trail
The product of the day was the bucket of WYPALL waterless wipes – The trail was VERY dusty and I think we almost used the whole bucket between the eight of us.


GPS Coordinates:

  • Barrett Lake Jeep Trail Trailhead – N 38 51.144, W 120 14.449

  • Barrett Lake – N 38 54.302, W 120 13.887, Elevation 7668 ft.

Barrett Lake Jeep Trail  Information:

The Barrett Lake Jeep Trail (12N77) is only open for a few months during the late summer and in extremely wet years will not open at all.  Call (530) 647-5415 – US Forest Service, Eldorado National Forest for trail status (or check online atEldorado Forest OHV Trail Status). The phone number on the sign at the trailhead is wrong. 530 is the area code.

Spark arrestors and valid registration are required on all vehicles. I would also recommend putting your quiet cores in.

Camping is allowed at Barrett Lake. Please pack it in and pack it out.

The trail lies in an environmentally sensitive area on the border ofDesolation Wilderness. Deviating from the established trail, driving onto Desolation Wilderness land or walking onto Desolation Wilderness without a permit has and will result in forest service fines.  Please Tread Lightly so the trail will remain open for future generations.

Vehicles must be narrow enough to pass through this gate at the start of the trail (about 80″ between posts).  Rhino’s have no problem.

There is very limited space for parking at the trailhead where there is just a small loop. I would recommend a small trailer or in the back of a truck if you can do it.  You can drop your UTV off at the trailhead and park the trailer over near Wrights Lake. It can be a bit of a hassle, but the trail is worth it.


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