Who: Just me!
Where: Trinity Alps Wilderness
Mileage: 18 miles
Elevation gain/loss: +6000ft/-6000ft
More photos: here
My second solo trip ever! After last weekend’s mellow backcountry excursion, I was hankering for a beating to help me get in shape for the High Sierra Trail in August. I headed up to the Trinity Alps Wilderness with plans to hike up Long Canyon and do the Four Lakes Loop (again), camping at Summit Lake before looping around past Diamond, Luella, and Deer Lakes and then returning back via Long Canyon. I’ve hiked the Four Lakes Loop via Stoney Ridge before and I set out thinking that this would be simply a training trip, but I was pleasantly surprised to find peace, relaxation, and solitude as I hiked this rugged landscape. The mid-week post-Memorial Day start offered me plenty of alone time. At the trailhead, I met couple who were planning on doing the same loop over three instead of two days, and on my way up Long Canyon I encountered four people (two solo hikers and one couple) who were headed out. After I hiked over Bee Tree Gap, I didn’t see a soul until my car rejoined Highway 3 the next evening.
Long Canyon Trailhead to Summit Lake
8 miles, +4200ft/-300ft
After sleeping the night before at the Motel 6 in Redding (and finding a cockroach and a bottle of ranch dressing in my room to boot), I headed out to the Trinity Alps not too long after sunrise. After picking up my permit at the Weaverville Ranger Station, and carb loading at the Garden Cafe, I drove up to the Long Canyon Trailhead off Highway 3. After hiking in about a mile, I reached the wilderness boundary.
The next few miles of the trail are heavily forested and gain elevation relatively quickly. The views aren’t great, but at least the forest provides some cover from the sun.
About four miles in, the forest began to give way to meadows and exposed rock. For these first few miles, the Long Canyon Trail had headed due west, hugging the northern side of the canyon. As it gained elevation, the intimidating slopes of Granite Peak started come into view.
Just after crossing the main creek through Long Canyon, I took a little break in the shadow of Granite Peak.
After the creek crossing, the trail climbs the southern slope of Long Canyon to a hanging meadow with wonderful views across the canyon towards Granite Peak. The wildflowers were already beginning to show themselves even though it was quite early in the season. I’ve heard that the midsummer wildflower show in Long Canyon is spectacular and this early evidence seemed to support those claims.
Climbing higher to Bee Tree Gap, the trail provides great views down the sculpted valley of Long Canyon and off to Mount Shasta in the distance (barely visible on the horizon in this photo).
After climbing 3,900 feet from the Long Canyon Trailhead, I finally arrived at Deer Creek Pass, which provided a familiar but yet still beautiful down to Deer Lake, framed by Siligo Peak on the left and supported by the Grey Trinities in the back.
I hiked down towards Deer Lake until I reached the trail junction that would lead me to Summit Lake. Heading back up across the north slope of the unnamed peak to the west of Deer Creek Pass, I made my way across talus and terribly soft snowfields on my way to Summit Lake. I spent quite a bit of time using my trekking pole to bust out fragile snow bridges above ankle-breaking talus in hopes of finding secure footing below. I didn’t want to break (or even twist) my ankle since I was all alone on this trip.
I had a final look back at the Deer Lake basin before dropping over the saddle towards Summit Lake.
Over the saddle, I immediately had a nice view of Summit Lake, where I planned to spend the night.
After a quick descent into the basin, I arrived at Summit Lake. I began to feel a little strange because the last time I was here I was with my now ex-husband and my dog had a bit of a scary meltdown. This, combined with some surprisingly arresting feelings of solitude gripped me for a bit before I decided to busy myself with setting up camp and making silly videos. I chose my favorite out of three clearly established campsites and pitched my tent.
Still full of nervous energy, I wandered about the lake basin, gathering water and checking out the views.
Running out of things to do, I finally crawled inside the tent and began reading the book about the Trinity Alps that I’d schlepped all the way up here.
The reading and the cocoon-like nature of the tent and sleeping bag finally restored me to my normal state and I slept peacefully through the quite cold night.
Summit Lake to Diamond,
10 miles, +1800ft/-5700ft
I was quite cold and tired in the morning, so I elected to sleep in. I had thought about perhaps summiting Siligo Peak for sunrise, but with the whipping wind and the biting cold (a low in the upper twenties), I couldn’t be roused from my sleeping bag before the sun warmed my tent. I’d seen the view from Siligo at sunrise before, so I summoned those memories as I lay in the warmth of my little cocoon.
Finally, around 8am, beams of sun reached my tent and warmed it enough for me to feel like getting up. I made a ridiculous breakfast of Easy Mac with a side of Reese’s Pieces and broke camp. I headed out along the Four Lakes Loop towards Diamond Lake. Soon I was well above Summit Lake and looking back down to where I’d spent the night before.
Upon rounding the bend towards Diamond Lake and the pass above it, I was greeted with a cold, biting wind and the most magnificent view I’d seen yet—the granite slabs of the Grey Trinities rising above the chasm of the Stuart Fork well below Diamond Lake. The switchbacking trail down to the lake was laid before me and I made my way down at a reasonable pace, stopping to admire the view along the way.
After losing the trail in a meadow below Diamond Lake, I found it soon enough as it gained altitude to a small pass on the way to Luella Lake. The whole ascent has amazing views of the Grey Trinities. I couldn’t help but stop and set up a timer selfie.
The views of the Grey Trinities disappear as the trail climbs over a saddle north of Siligo Peak and descends down to aquamarine Luella Lake.
From there it was down down down some seemingly endless and unnecessarily flat switchbacks to the valley below Deer Lake. A nice clear stream (coming from invisible-from-here Round Lake) provided a good place for a break with a view of what lay ahead on my way back up to Deer Creek Pass.
The ascent out of the valley was fairly steep, climbing about a thousand feet in a mile. The views back down Deer Creek were lovely, with Seven Up Peak on the right.
Soon I’d reached Deer Lake and I had a view of the snowfields and talus I’d crossed the afternoon before.
Of course I couldn’t resist a short rest at Deer Pass before saying goodbye to this view.
The weather was much nicer in Upper Siligo Meadows on this day, so I stopped to have lunch. The clouds were ever shifting, highlighting or shading various peaks and ridges, making for a dynamic view.
I heard a few little chirp-whistles and noticed that a friend had decided to join me for lunch.
Heading out, the gray wall of Granite Peak stood strong and imposing above Bee Tree Gap.
After the short traverse to Bee Tree Gap, it would be all downhill from here, with views of Shasta off in the distance.
Down, down, down. A lot of this. A total knee-buster. I was really glad I had a trekking pole.
The views of Shasta gave way to forest, but at least there was some beautiful yellow lupine in bloom.
And huge cones from what was I think some type of cedar.
The trees in the forest had their springtime manicure going strong.
Around 4pm I arrived back at the trailhead to find only my car and the car of the couple who was still up enjoying the loop.
Want to do this trip yourself? Check out the Trinity Alps Trail Condition Report and download the Siligo Peak USGS quad. Pick up your permit at the Weaverville Ranger Station (self-registration after hours is ok) and head to the Long Canyon Trailhead.