High Sierra Day Hiking
Friday, June 07, 2013
High Sierra Day Hiking
These High Country Trailheads are around a 1 hour drive east from Eden Vale Inn, Placerville, CA. Elevation ranges are between about 5,000 feet and 9,000 feet.
These day hikes are a great way to escape the summer heat due to their elevation. These routes are chosen for the ease of access and scenery. You should not go unprepared. At a minimum have a good sun hat, sun block, sunglasses (it’s bright in the thin air) and carry water. A day pack with extra clothing, mosquito repellent, flashlight, matches, and some food is a good idea. There are several USFS ranger stations along the way where we recommend that you pick-up a map. Some of these hikes enter Wilderness Areas and day hikers can self register at the trailheads.
Near Echo Summit (Hwy 50):
Echo Lakes to Lake Aloha: A wonderful, and relatively easy, day hike entirely in the high country. The hike to Lake Aloha is made shorter by a boat ride shuttle across the lake. To get to Echo Lake, turn on to Johnson Pass Road exactly one mile before Echo Summit. Follow the road about a mile to the parking lot at Echo Lake. In the summer the shuttle leaves about every thirty minutes. Round trip walking distance to Lake Aloha is about six miles if you take the shuttle. Add six more miles if you want to walk around Echo Lake. There is a drop phone at the far end of the lake to call for a pickup. Taxi runs daily 8 AM to 6:30 PM from Memorial Day through Labor Day. You start right off in the High Sierra at Echo Lake’s 7,400 foot elevation. Assuming you take the boat taxi, when arriving at the far end go uphill past the pay phone and join the combined PCT/TRT (Pacific Crest and Tahoe Rim) trail. Make a left toward Tamarack Lake and Lake Aloha. You can always shorten the trip by reversing the route wherever you like. Lake Aloha is a very large lake and you make want to take a swim.
This is a serious day hike for those in shape. The reward is the summit view towards Lake Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness as well as a good cardio workout. The overall rise is about 2,700 feet rising to the Ralston Peak at 9,235 feet. You cannot see the summit from the Hightway 50. Take Hwy 50 east toward Echo Summit. Go past Kyburz and Strawberry. The trailhead parking is located across from Camp Sacramento on the north side of Highway 50. Look for the signs for the Ralston Peak Trail. Follow the road at the east end of the parking area to the trailhead 200 yards distant. After the first mile the trail steepens. The trail is a very direct ascent up a ridge toward the summit. During the summer months bring along ample drinking water, at least two quarts. There is no water along the trail.
Wrights Lake Trailhead:
Wrights Lake is a very pretty lake surrounded by forest and summer cabins. It’s also a good trailhead that gets you quickly into the High Sierra. Take Hwy 50 east towards Echo Summit. Go past Kyburz 4 miles and turn left on the Wrights Lake Road. Follow the steep Wrights Lake Rd. north for 8 miles to the Wrights Lake Campground.
This hike takes you up to Twin Lakes 3.2 miles from the day hiker trailhead at Wrights Lake. Scenery is the best in the Wright’s lake area. The terrain is moderate rising 1200 feet from the trailhead. Allow two hours each way. To reach the trailhead, from the campground take the right fork to the Twin Lakes Parking area. Obtain a day use permit at the trail sign if hiking into Desolation Wilderness. From the parking area go through the gate and turn right on to the trail before the Chappell Crossing Bridge. Follow signs around south east side of the Wrights meadow area. This is an easy section of the trail. Wildflower blooms are beautiful in the early summer. Turn right (east) at the junction of the Wrights Lake Loop Trail (16E17) and continue east. Beyond Twin Lakes are nearby Boomerang and Island lakes attained by a trail on the north side of Twin Lakes. Return to Wrights Lake by reversing the route.
This is an easy hike that starts across from the wilderness trailhead overflow parking area near the entrance to Wrights Lake. Follow the trail, in fair condition, in a westerly direction along the top of a ridge. The trail has several scenic views of the Jones Creek drainage and the Crystal Range to the east. After the first t 1.3 miles of the trail has an average grade of about
5% and is easy to follow. You may want to turn around or you can continue as the trail descends more steeply into the Jones Fork drainage for approximately 1.3 miles to a dirt road. Follow this road for approximately 0.3 miles to the Ice House/Wrights Lake road. Reverse the route to return to the trailhead.