CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Stoney Ridge Trailhead . . . Late Spring Jaunting

This is possibly my favorite area in the Trinity Alps for WOW per mile geology. It’s where the red meets gray. It’s the story of “mixed up geology” as one author wrote. According to another source, it’s a combination of red serpentine and peridotite rock plus significant intrusions of other kinds of rock. Add to that granite and glacial activity and you’ve got incredible eye candy. It’s well beyond my knowledge base so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

My goal this trip was to see more areas via high points. I had a loose itinerary, as is my typical modus operandi, limited only by the 6 days of food I was carrying. But first I have to share a couple of new-to-me orchids that I was so excited to spy along the trail.

Spotted Coralroot Orchid

Phantom Orchid

Since I’ve previously written about Stoney Ridge Trail, Siligo Peak and Four Lakes Loop (link), I’m going to focus on views from the passes.

Stonewall Pass

From Granite Peak, this is the view looking down at colorful Stonewall Pass flanked by the gray granite peaks separating Stuart Fork and Canyon Creek.

It’s a long steady climb up to Stonewall Pass. According to my Gaia tracker 4.8 miles from the trailhead with 2,650′ of ascent.

From the pass you get views in the distance of Mount Hilton at 8838 feet, Sawtooth Mountain at 8733 feet (not to be confused with Sawtooth Ridge), and Caesar Peak at 8,904 feet. Below is Van Matre Meadows and to the right is Siligo Peak at 7,926 feet.

This north facing slope is a good place to judge conditions for further up the trail, and why early spring travel is not advisable.

This is a view of the pass from further north on my return to the trailhead.

Van Matre Meadows makes a good overnight spot for those who prefer shorter miles or get a late start and want to avoid of crowds at nearby Echo Lake.

To the left is the glacial bowl holding Echo Lake. This little pond offers nice reflection in the early season when there is plentiful water.

Little Stonewall Pass

From the trailhead it’s about 6.5 miles and 3,175′ up mixed with 500′ down to this pass. The views aren’t nearly as impressive although it provides a view down toward Siligo Meadows and Deer Creek Pass. Summit Lake is hidden behind the peak on the left. Long Canyon comes up the drainage to the right.

Even though it was mid June, it was 33F degrees at my camp overnight and much cooler the next morning as I gained elevation.

This is a view of the pass from further north on my return to the trailhead.

Deer Creek Pass

It’s hard not to squeal with delight when you feast your eyes upon this view, even after seeing it multiple times. Deer Lake takes center stage. To the left is Siligo Peak a perfect example of red meeting gray. The geology of this area is so interesting. The trail to Summit Lake includes a traverse along the left slope. This north facing slope is a real deterrent in early season, with potential serious consequences. It’s 8.25 miles and 3,750′ gain with 900′ loss to reach this pass. In the far distance is Caribou Mountain at 8,339′. The nearer ridge to the right includes Packers Peak, Black Mountain, Russian Peak and Red Rock Mountain.

Looking back toward Deer Creek Ridge and I believe Middle Peak in the distance. This view shows the traversing trail with potential steep snow fields; looks can be deceiving.

I discourage snow hiking novices from attempting this when snow is present as the conditions were varied and following old steps weren’t always best practices due to heat/melt/freeze cycles. There were several places with rotten or hollow snow. Early morning it was still quite solid and icy. Afternoon was soft and more forgiving.

Summit Lake / Siligo Peak Pass

It’s a little over 9 miles to this junction, with 4,000′ of elevation gain and 1,000′ of loss. You can see the switchbacks going up. Once again this is a place where experience matters.

While beautiful, Summit Lake is usually quite busy. Your only drinking water source is the lake which is also used for swimming and bathing. Furthermore there is limited nearby areas for taking care of personal business so I expect more ends up in the lake than you’d want to know.

Diamond Lake with views including Sawtooth Mountain and Little Granite Peak.

Smith and Morris Lakes are hidden up on Sawtooth Mountain on one of those shelves. They are still on my must visit list. I came close once but ran out of time (link).

Looking back at the ridge where there was a tricky descent to avoid the broken snow cornice.

Getting down to Luella Lake required more snow navigation. From this ridge you can see the west facing side of Seven Up Peak which looks completely different than the gray granite eastern side. The trail to Granite Lake starts at the dip where red meets gray.

Looking back up toward Deer Creek Pass and Siligo Peak, which is well worth a side trip (link).

Morning light.

Tri-Forest Divide

The view from Black(s) Basin to the high point above Tri-Forest Divide. It’s the green peak in front of Sawtooth Ridge.

The view from the Seven Up traverse trail.

Continuing down the Deer Creek Trail leads to a junction with Stuart Fork Trail as well as to seldom used Tri-Forest Trail (aka Willow Creek Trail), the passage to Big Flat Trailhead.

You won’t find a sign until you start up the trail but the junction has been marked by rock cairns.

Despite the fact this trail gets little use and is rarely if ever maintained it was fairly easy to follow with well placed cairns. It was devoid of major obstacles or bushwhacking, although it could use some raking as there was a lot of tree litter covering the tread. It is well above average grade however making it steeper than I like. According to my tracker it’s 2.5 miles from the trail junction to the high point with 2,200′ in elevation gain.

I’d say it gets more 4-legged visitors than 2-legged humans.

I found proof that occasionally others found this a worthy side trip. How do you lose a lens? Later I found a pair of glasses (on a different trail).

When you reach the divide, you say YES to more climbing. YES YES YES! When I was introduced to this viewpoint I was told it was called Horse Heaven. I’m guessing it had to do with all the green that kept the horses happy while the humans went sightseeing.

Soon you’ll see the Sawtooth Ridge.

Looking down at Stuart Fork including Morris Meadow and Emerald Lake.

To the upper left is Deer Creek Pass; to the right is Stuart Fork.

The meadow high up on the left is Black Basin. Deer Creek Pass is in top middle.

Although I really wanted to camp at Black Basin, I’d zapped all my climbing energy. There are several nice campsites near the Deer Creek/Black Basin Trail junction.

It was great to get cleaned up and take care of laundry. Having a little shade was nice as well . . . although I was still wishing for views.

There’s a large group campsite near this view.

Black(s) Basin / Bear Creek Pass

As viewed from the high point above Tri-Forest Divide, the meadow in the center is Black or Blacks Basin. To the right is Seven Up Peak. The trail drops off to Bear Creek and Bear Basin in the distance. It’s about 3 miles and 1,700′ from the Deer Creek Trail junction up to and around Black Basin to Seven-Up Pass.

This photo shows Deer Creek drainage running down the middle with Black Basin in the upper left, and Deer Creek Pass in the upper middle. You can reach this area from several connecting trails including Swift Creek, Long Canyon, Stoney Ridge, Stuart Fork and Big Flat.

From Blacks Basin you get views back toward Tri-Forest Divide and the Sawtooth Ridge, as well as the mountains dividing Stuart Fork and Canyon Creek.

This is the north/northeast side of Seven Up Peak.

Seven Up Pass

This view from above Luella Lake shows the west side of Seven Up Mountain with Seven Up/Black Basin/Bear Creek Pass on the left and Swift Creek/Deer Creek Pass on the right where the red and gray meet.

From the pass you have a view of Mt Shasta as well as the descent into Bear Basin.

The pass provides easy access to summit Seven Up Peak. On this day I opted not to summit given the snow status.

The trail traverses along the east side providing awesome views of Luella Lake and Siligo Peak.

Switchbacked trail runs down the red side toward the lake. The trail to Luella is a bit tippy and eroded in places; probably not the best place for those nervous about exposure. I met a family who said the same about the trail traversing Seven Up Mountain.

This was the worst part of the Seven Up traverse trail, at least in my opinion.

You get excellent views of Sawtooth Ridge and the high point above Tri-Forest Divide.

As well as the mountains flanking the Stuart Fork drainage.

The view toward the Swift Creek/Deer Creek Pass as you continue along the traverse.

Swift Creek/Deer Creek Pass

This view from above Luella Lake shows the west side of Seven Up Mountain with Seven Up/Black Basin/Bear Creek Pass on the left and Swift Creek/Deer Creek Pass on the right where the red and gray meet.

Looking at the switchbacks from the pass down to Deer Creek. You can see Round Lake and if you look closely Luella Lake as well.

From the pass looking down toward Granite Lake, Trinity Lake and the Swift Creek drainage.

A closer look at Granite Lake and Gibson Peak. I should have scrambled around a bit more for a better perspective.

Reconnecting to Deer Creek Trail with a long ascent to return to Deer Creek Pass. According to my tracker 1,110′ and 1.65 miles.

There was still snow on the trail returning to the Deer Creek Divide.

Back at Deer Lake and the great bug hatch.

And finally back at Deer Creek Pass.

Granite Peak

Stonewall Pass is around the corner and up toward the left. It appears you could access Granite Peak near the pass or at least Red Mountain Meadow and although tempting to retain currently elevation gains, I’ve learned about those long short cuts. The trail actually starts much lower and stays more to the right side of the mountain. According to my tracker it’s about 1.5 miles with 1,200 feet in elevation gain from the trail junction to the lookout site.

I camped in Red Mountain Meadow so I could get an early start on my summit attempt.

I was on the trail by 7am. I was looking forward to my post-hike dip in Trinity Lake.

The trail junction sign is high on a tree and not obvious. The trail itself is fairly obvious but I’d recommend watching your GPS map.

The trail was in pretty good shape until I got to a few stream crossings. I found myself off track in a messy forest before stumbling upon these items from probably a hunter’s camp. I added my findings to my cache to retrieve upon my descent and add to my LNT credits.

Also found my friend yogi again, well at least his scat.

Granite Peak can be accessed via a dedicated trail off of Highway 3 or this one from Stoney Ridge. This is the junction where the two are joined.

First signs of the old lookout.

It appears the lookout was constructed in 1941. I looked online for a photo but was unsuccessful. The best source I’ve found for lookout history is at californialookouts.weebly.com, and this is what it had to say (link). It too was missing a photo. “DESCRIBED BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1954 (LSB) THE STATION IS THE APEX OF THE GRANITE PEAK LOOKOUT HOUSE WHICH IS A WHITE FRAME STRUCTURE ABOUT 20 FEET SQUARE AT THE BASE AND APPROXIMATELY 16 FEET IN HEIGHT. THE BUILDING IS SURROUNDED BY A 3-FOOT CAT WALK AND ENCLOSED WITH WINDOWS. IT IS THE PROPERTY OF THE U.S. FOREST SERVICE.”

The actual peak is at the top of the rock pile. On solo adventures I generally avoid scrambling so no true summit on this day.

The peak register was located in the foundation of the old lookout, so I could say I was there regardless.

The 360 views were pretty great although air quality wasn’t the best on this date. Mt Shasta took center stage, while Granite Peak hung out to the left and Trinity Lake invited a swim.

This is the view back to Stonewall Pass.

Granite Peak doesn’t look very exciting from the trailhead.

Flora

Do you know about galls? According to Morton Arboretum, “Galls are abnormal growths that occur on leaves, twigs, roots, or flowers of many plants. Most galls are caused by irritation and/or stimulation of plant cells due to feeding or egg-laying by insects such as aphids, midges, wasps, or mites. Some galls are the result of infections by bacteria, fungi, or nematodes and are difficult to tell apart from insect-caused galls. Seeing the insect or its eggs may help you tell an insect gall from a gall caused by other organisms. In general, galls provide a home for the insect, where it can feed, lay eggs, and develop. Each type of gall-producer is specific to a particular kind of plant.” My friend Joan helped helped produce a video for Arches National Park about these cool anomalies (link).

I loved how this phlox found a way to take root on this rock.

The Dr. Seuss flowers were nearly ready to pop.

What would a spring trip be without blooms?

Adventure Dates:

  • June 16-20, 2020

Hike Details:

Tips:

Signage in the Trinity Alps can be confusing. This was the first time I’d heard of Willow Creek and had to research to find out it was the Tri-Forest Trail that connects to Big Flat. You need a map to know alternate trail names. If you are going by signs it’d be easy to take the wrong option. For example the Long Canyon option also returns you to Stoney Ridge.

Resources:

Links:

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Broken Links? I'd love to hear from you!

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