You can easily drive to Lake Earl’s east side, but to wring a decent hike out of Del Norte County’s biggest lake, approach from the southwest on trails detailed in the Tolowa Coast map and guide (tolowacoasttrails.org).
Set out from a parking lot next to an information center, past an opening in a fence and onto an obvious trail. There is no trailhead sign, only a notice about dog restrictions and bald eagle trivia. Take a sandy path northward for five minutes and turn right on a two-track superhighway of a path. No sign, but this is Cadra Point Loop Road.
A series of side trails to the right lead to the salty marsh at the lake’s south end. Try them if you have the time, but eventually double-back to Cadra Point Loop Road and continue to a surprising glut of signage. A right turn here leads to nearby Cadra Point, still marshy but now the view is panoramic.