Hiram Peak and Highland Lakes

Hiram Peak and Highland Lakes

Located just south of Ebbetts Pass on the northern border of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness is Hiram Peak and Highland Lakes. The summit of Hiram Peak lies only a about one mile away and a thousand feet above Highland Lakes. Although only 9,795 ft tall, the mountain has spectacular views of the surrounding area. On September 15th, my son and I set out for a camping trip to explore the area and give climbing Hiram Peak a shot.

Hiram Peak and Highland Lakes
Camp at Upper Highland Lake with a view of Hiram Peak

Getting to Highland Lakes is fairly easy. From the Nevada side, take State Route 4 out of Markleeville towards Ebbetts Pass. This road becomes one lane near the top, so be cautious. It feels like you’re driving on a bike path at times. There isn’t much traffic, but it is a popular road for cyclists and motorcycles. Hopefully you won’t meet any RVs along the way. On the west side of the Ebbetts Pass Summit is Highland Lakes Road. A little ways off SR 4, the pavement ends. Follow this well graded dirt road (fine for passenger cars) about five miles to Highland Lakes. Along the way you’ll pass another Forest Service campground that might have spots available should the Highland Lakes campground be full.

Hiram Peak and Highland Lakes
Highland Lakes Trailhead

When my son and I pulled into the campground, it was fuller than I had expected. There were a lot of guys in camo, and I started to see antlers poking out of the back of trucks. When I finally saw a downed deer in someone’s camp I realized it was deer season, and this was apparently a popular location to hunt. We were fresh out of blaze orange clothes, so we’d make sure to stick to the peak trail and not wander around the woods!

Hiram Peak and Highland Lakes
Trail climbs to ridge on north side of Hiram Peak

The Highland Lakes campground is divided into two sections, a lower, more open section on the north side of the upper lake, and a more secluded section up in the trees to the northeast of the upper lake. We picked a spot in the lower section next to the road with great views of Hiram Peak.

Hiram Peak and Highland Lakes
Hiking to the ridge

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Climbing Mount Emma

Climbing Mount Emma

We’ve had the mountain climbing bug lately, and so another day hike was planned for last weekend. On September 9th, we headed for Mount Emma on the northeast corner of the Hoover Wilderness. We got a horribly late start that Sunday, not leaving the house until noon, and not reaching the the trailhead until 2pm. Normally, eating lunch on the peak is a good idea, so you don’t get in trouble with afternoon thundershowers and wind. The late start set the tone for a nervous hike, but also lowered the expectations if we didn’t make the summit.

Mount Emma
Getting Started

Just south of the turnoff to Sonora Pass (State Route 108), and just as Highway 395 bends to the east to head to Bridgeport, Little Walker road leaves the pavement and heads south up into the mountains. Just stay on the same road all the way, crossing the bridge, and avoiding the left turn to the Obsidian Campground. You pass a Burt Canyon Trailhead pullout, and continue to wind up the mountain to Stockade Flat. The road gets rocky at times, but is probably passable in a passenger car if you’re careful. 6.7 miles from the pavement, you’ll reach the trailhead at a Hoover Wilderness sign.

Mount Emma
Almost to the meadow

Over the course of a mile, the trail climbs from the trailhead through trees, meadows, and barren rock before reaching Emma Lake. Emma Lake is a small greenish lake below the summit of Mount Emma. The outlet creek was still flowing, so it must be being fed by springs. We saw a couple anglers on the upwind side of the lake, and we found a decent camping spot on the northwest side of the lake in the trees.

Mount Emma
Across the meadow

The wind was blowing pretty hard at Emma Lake, so we didn’t rest too long. It was getting late, but we decided to go for the peak anyway. The trail ends at the lake, so the rest of the way to the peak would be off-trail. We needed to get to the saddle to the southwest of Mount Emma, and by looking at the canyon above the lake, it was easy to pick out the best route.

Mount Emma
Starting to get rocky below Mount Emma

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Climbing Sonora Peak

Climbing Sonora Peak

Finding solitude on a weekend like Labor Day can be a challenge. Forget trying to find a site at a campground, or even a parking space at a popular backpacking trailhead.  We had pretty good luck in the Sonora Pass area last year though, so I began my research with a couple of my favorite tools, Goolge Earth and Summit Post.  Find something interesting to climb on the map, and then read about how to get there.  Sonora Peak looked like the perfect destination for a day’s outing without big crowds.

Sonora Peak
Getting started

On the morning of September 2nd, we left Carson City at 8:30am, arriving at the St. Mary’s Pass trailhead about 10:30 am. We passed the Leavitt Meadows trailhead on the way up Sonora Pass, and the backpacker’s parking lot was packed. Although we had backpacked at Leavitt Meadows last Labor Day, I was glad we decided not to try it again this year after seeing the crowd

Sonora Peak
Sonora Peak above us

Just about a quarter mile to the east of the Pacific Crest Trail at the top of Sonora Pass is the St. Mary’s Pass trailhead. There is plenty of room for parking near the trail kiosk on the north side of the road, but if you have a low clearance vehicle, you may want to park in the pullout on the south side of the road instead.

Sonora Peak
Just a trickle of a creek

The Saint Mary’s Pass trail leads you north beneath Sonora Peak on the west, and provides the easiest access to the peak. From the top of the pass, there is a lesser traveled trail to the top of the mountain. While the distance to the top is 2.5 – 3 miles, the trail climbs steadily from the trailhead, with only a bit of relief at the plateau before the final ascent.

Sonora Peak
Almost to the top of St. Mary’s Pass

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Kodachrome Basin State Park

Kodachrome Basin State Park

After visiting Bryce Canyon last April, it was our intention to visit the Willis Slot Canyon in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument area; however, the safety guidelines say to stay out of the slot canyons when rain is threatening. Water levels in the narrow slot canyons can rise rapidly even from rain far away, leaving you with no way to escape the deep water and debris. Additionally, many of the dirt roads that go out to the remote areas are made of clay, and become impassable even with a 4-wheel drive in wet weather. With the morning skies darkening, we followed our instincts to make other plans, even in the face of disappointment.

Kodachrome State Park
Kodachrome Basin State Park

Just down the road from Cannonville, UT is Kodachrome Basin State Park. It wasn’t on our vacation agenda, and I had only skimmed the park’s details when researching our vacation. It certainly doesn’t get the attention that all the National Parks get. It was near where we had been planning to go, and the road out to the park was paved. We decided to go check it out.

Kodachrome State Park
Along The Grand Parade Trail

There is a BLM operated visitor center in Cannonville, and it’s advertised as being open 7 days a week during the Spring and Summer months. We stopped to check it out, but the parking lot was empty, and everything was closed. In fact, the overgrown landscaping made it look like it hadn’t been open in a while. Many of the towns we passed through had this look. So if you’re counting on purchasing maps, guide books, or other supplies at specific places, you may be out of luck. It’s best to get stuff when you see it available.

Kodachrome State Park
Threatening storm clouds

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