Last weekend I had a chance to really hike the back country of Lamoille Canyon. I really enjoy this canyon and ANY opportunity I get to explore it, I'll take it.
Lamoille Canyon is a hidden gem about 25 minutes south of Elko, NV in a little village called Spring Creek / Lamoille. There is a paved road that winds its way up about 12 miles from the start (at an elevation of just over 5000) to the top at an elevation of nearly 9000 feet.
There are a few trails along the way but the best ones are at the top. There is ample parking here and it has been the home of many of my favorite hikes and races (including the Lamoille Canyon Half Marathon). Faithful readers may also recall that I ran the Ruby Mountain Relay Race here a few weeks ago as well.
After running the race I made it a personal goal of mine to crest the Liberty Pass trail and proceed to at least Favre Lake. There has been countless times where I have studied Google Maps and plotted out exactly what was out there.
First off the hike to Favre Lake is pretty well defined. There is a trail at south end of the road that takes you to Liberty Pass. From there take the Ruby Crest Trail and look for signs to Favre Lake. Incidentally, Favre Lake is NOT named after the football player, but apparently a forestry service guy who did work in the area.
I started off just after 10 AM and the weather was cool. There were some angry clouds in the sky but there weren't any predictions of rain at all. In fact, this summer has been very dry.
I had just run the first half of my route 3 weeks ago, so it was fresh in my mind. (You can follow along with my Garmin Route here). As I huffed and puffed my up I kept asking myself how the heck did I run up this thing?
The first stop along the way was Dollar Lake(s) and Lamoille Lake. I've seen these lakes a few times but they were super pretty with the mid-September changing of colors.
I was making good progress at about 22-ish minutes per mile. The wind really picked up as I made my ascent up Liberty Pass. I was lugging a ton of water as well, which I didn't need. The forestry department was also working on the trails so I had some company out there, but definitely not as many as you might guess.
It gets a lot rockier. As you can see it was starting to get a little windy and foggy up there with a passing rain cloud (it didn't rain much).
Once you make it to the top you are greeted by Liberty Lake. About 90% of the hikers hit this lake and return. At this point you've gone close to 3.5 miles and are at an elevation of 10,750 or so.
You can see Wines Peek in the distance as well as Castle and Favre Lake if you look close enough at my photos.
I wound up taking a trail that was probably the most direct way to Favre Lake. However, it sort of petered out and I really couldn't make out where it went. Luckily the brush was low and I could march down the side of the hill. I still didn't feel very comfortable doing what I was doing though. I prefer to stay on the trail on all times -- that way if I split my head open someone will find me.
Also at this point, everyone disappeared. I saw some people camping / fishing at Liberty and an elderly couple making their way up, but for the next hour I didn't see another soul.
Eventually I did come across a trail that took me to the shoreline of Favre Lake. I can't say how awesome it was to reach its waters. I have been studying and looking at it for ages and I was finally here:
I was pretty close to Castle Lake but I was already in with my allotted time and there is absolutely no cell reception out there. I was also pretty gassed. I had 5 miles in (at least) and I had at least another 5 to go to get back to my car.
I decided to poke around the valley and grab some more pictures of the area. The Ruby Crest Trail goes for another 10 - 20 miles I think so there are endless adventures to have.
After poking around for a bit I decided to head back. The wind was roaring through the canyon. It even blew my sunglasses off my head and I didn't realize it (good-bye $100 pair of sunglasses).
Once I got back up to Liberty Pass it started to rain a little. With the storm cloud coming in I was really worried about getting hammered by the weather. I had a light jacket in my backpack and while many other folks were bundled up, I was dressed like I was running on a 90 degree day.
I wound up dumping some water to lighten my back and started to jog down the Stockman Trail, which is about half a mile shorter to the road's end. I had just run that stretch at the relay and it is far less steep but less scenic than the way I had come up.
All told, it took me about 4 hours to do the hike. I spent some time by the shore of Favre Lake, but for the most part I was moving almost all the time.
I definitely want to visit Castle Lake in the future, but I'd like to do it with someone or make sure people know I am going to be gone for a bit.
I love this canyon and look forward to hiking it again.
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