You can find the Heart Lake Trail at the point where Digger Creek crosses Mineral Road (Forest Road 17) in the Lassen National Forest. There's a small parking area right off the road that leads to a marked trailhead. Unlike in the nearby national park, leashed dogs are welcome on the trails in Lassen National Forest where this trail is located, making it a great option for canine-human hiking teams looking for similar scenery as that of Lassen Volcanic National Park. This lightly used trail also offers solitude. There are no amenities at or immediately near the trailhead, so make sure you bring plenty of water and everything else you need with you.
The air is filled with the aromas of tobacco brush, incense cedar, white fir, and Jeffrey pine on the trail to Heart Lake, which also crosses several streams and meadows. Lush grasses soften the creek banks. In open fields, drier golden grasses sway stiffly in the wind. Wildflowers are abundant in the spring and summer, with different species enjoying full sun or shade. Many species of wildlife live in the area, but will likely stay hidden in the forest shadows. This is a pleasant hike that is mostly uphill but with a climb that's slow and steady.
The price of the solitude and beauty you'll find here is a trail that is only lightly maintained. The Heart Lake Trail sometimes grows faint and you'll likely have to scramble over or around downed trees. The upside is that the smooth logs provide excellent places to rest and give your dog some pets. The lake at the trail's end is a scenic spot for a picnic. Though mostly shallow and murky, Heart Lake is deeper in the middle and is stocked with trout. One of the mountains you'll see reflected in the lake is the sharply named Brokeoff Peak.
Don't forget to bring your camera along with you here. You'll take home dozens of pictures of the beautiful scenery and of your dog's happy smile.
Water-loving pups will likely want to splash in the creeks and lake, but beware of the risk if they do—leeches have sometimes been found in this area. While cause for caution, this isn't a cause for alarm. Leeches don't transmit disease like ticks do and are easy to remove.