MT. ELWELL (7,818') CLASS 1-2

Location: 12 miles NNW of Sierra City, CA

ROUTE A (dated directions)
Drive: Take Gold Lake Road to the signed, paved road "Lakes Basin Campground 1/2 Long Lake Trail 3/4." This point is 9.3 miles north from Bassetts Junction (Gold Lake Road and Highway 49), or 7.0 miles south from the junction of Gold Lake Road (signed "24") and Highway 89. In 0.1 mile, the road turns to gravel, and then, in 0.3 mile, the road takes a sharp U right to come to Lakes Basin Campground, which is 0.6 mile from Gold Lake Road. Park here near the campground board (do not park in a marked campsite without paying), or proceed further down the campground road, past a sign "No Trailer Turnaround Beyond This Point," and cross a deep ford. Park shortly to the left in a large, rocky area.
Climb: As you begin hiking from the campground entrance, the first parking, follow the main campground road and cross the creek. There is a footbridge to the left opposite unit 15. Pass the secondary parking. To the right, a sign reads, "Mt. Elwell Tr 3 1/4," among other destinations. Take this trail, which, after 0.3 mile, comes to the first of many junctions. Go left here, following the sign to "Mt. Elwell 2 3/4." In 1/4 mile, come to the second junction, and follow the sign right to "Mt. Elwell 2 1/2." After another 1/4 mile, come to signed "Silver Lake." Go right again at the junction signed "Mt. Elwell 2 1/4." After even another 1/4 mile, go right at the sign "Mt. Elwell 2." The trail left goes to the "Pacific Crest Trail 1 1/4." Climb a small hill, staying on the trail, and come to signed "Helgramite Lake Elevation 7040" on your left. Drop down a few hundred feet on the trail, and pass signed "Mud Lake Elevation 6560" on your right. The trail begins climbing again, and after about 1/2 mile more, go right at a junction signed "Pacific Crest Trail 1 1/4 Mt. Elwell 3/4." In about 20 feet more, another signed junction indicates the left turn to "Mt. Elwell 3/4." A trail comes in from the right from "Graeagle Lodge 2 1/2." Route B Alternate connects here. After climbing and hiking 0.7 mile, the trail saddle is reached. A 5 minute, 100 yard, class 2, talus use trail which dips down at first, leads left (west) to the highpoint.


Drive: Head for the paved Round Lake Trailhead, along the Gold Lakes Road, using a Maps navigator. There is a facility and signboard here. There is parking for maybe 12-15 cars.

Climb: Head along the signed trail towards Round Lake. Come shortly to a junction, with paper signs, and head right (downward) towards Bear Lakes. There will be various junctions to head past Big Bear and Little Bear Lakes. Navigate to Helgramite Lake, and follow the signs to Mt. Elwell. Pass Mudd Lake, and start the climb uphill. Come to the junction of the trail to the summit, or right to the Graeagle Lodge. Follow the trail to the trail highpoint, and locate the rocky use trail that climbs westward to the class 2 high point, maybe 100 yards distance to the top.

Drive: Take Gold Lake Road to a paved road west, which is either 11 miles north from Bassetts Junction or 5.3 miles south from the junction of Gold Lake Road and Highway 89. There's a sign facing traffic from the north for Graeagle Lodge. Another sign reads, "Graeagle Creek Trail 1/2 Smith Lake Trail 1/2." Drive on this road, which quickly turns to gravel, 0.3 mile to a turn right signed, "Smith Lake Trail." Continue a few hundred yards to pass two other trailheads, and shortly come to a dirt parking circle. Park. There is an outhouse at the other nearby trailhead.
Climb: To the left (uphill) of this parking circle is a sign "Smith Lake Trail." Take this trail which, at first, heads right (north) along the side of a manzanita covered ridge. After 0.9 mile, the trail dips, then crosses over a bridge, then in a couple hundred yards, one encounters a sign to go left, "Mt. Elwell 3 1/4." After the next 3 miles, you will pass by two tarns on the left and one on the right named "Maiden Lake." After another mile or so, on coming to the Elwell trail saddle, joining Route A, the Elwell highpoint is reached by the short, class 2, use trail rock hop to the right (west).

WINTER SKI ASCENT: The Gold Lake Road is not plowed, so one must ski from Bassetts Junction a distance of 13 miles to follow Route A, or 6 miles from Highway 89 to the north to follow Route B. This seems to require more than a day tour.

TRIP STATS: (in the process of re-measuring) Route A, 1,500 feet gain with an additional 500 feet gain on the return, 3 1/4 miles one way; Route B, 1,950 feet gain, 4.8 miles one way, with 100 feet of gain on the return.

Notes: A good shuttle trip can be done from Route A and Route B or B Alternate, given transportation is available at each trailhead. The driving distance between the two starting points is only about 2.5 miles. Route B is forested with many big fir trees, unlike Route A, which often climbs in the direct sun. An unscouted way starts at Graeagle Lodge, and this may be the shortest way to the top.