MT. ELWELL (7,818') CLASS 1-2
Location: 12 miles NNW of Sierra City, CA
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 "Graegle Lodge 2 1/2." Route B Alternate connects here. After climbing and hiking 0.7 mile, the trail saddle is reached. A 3 minute, 100 foot, class 2, talus hop leads cross-country left (west) to the highpoint.
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. A sign reads, "Graegle 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 1 Little Jamison Creek Trail 2 1/2 Mt Elwell 4 1/2." Continue to shortly come to a dirt parking circle. Park.
Climb: To the right of this parking circle is a sign "Mt. Elwell 4," among other places. Take this trail which, at first, heads right (north) along the side of a manzanita covered ridge. After 0.7 mile, the trail crosses over a log by a sign, "Smith Creek," then one encounters a sign facing back entitled, "Gray Eagle Lodge 1," and going left, a sign "Mt. Elwell 3 1/4." After another 1/4 mile, another junction is reached with a sign, "Mt. Elwell 3," with a right fork signed, "Smith Lake 1/4 Little Jamison Creek 1 3/4." Go left here and, in 30 feet, cross a creek over two solid logs. After the next 1.5 miles, you will pass by three tarns on the left and one on the right. After another mile or so, on approaching the Elwell trail saddle, joining Route A, a sign on a tree reads, "Mt. Elwell Elevation 7812." A very short distance further, the trail saddle is reached, and the Elwell highpoint is the short, class 2, talus hop to the right (west).
ROUTE B ALTERNATE
Drive: Same as Route B.
Climb: On the left side of the parking circle, a trail sign reads, "Long Lake 2 Lakes Basin Campground 2 1/4 Mt Elwell 4." Also, a sign reads, "Hawsley Falls 1 Fern Falls 1 1/4 not maintained." Take this trail to Mt. Elwell and intersect Route A which comes in from the far side of Long Lake. Continue on Route A to the summit.
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: Route A, 1,500 feet gain with an additional 500 feet gain on the return, 3 1/4 miles one way; Route B, 1,600 feet gain, 4 miles one way; Route B Alternate, 1,600 feet gain, 4 miles one way.
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.