Lightweight Backpacking After 60 in the Rogue Valley

Emerald and Sapphire Lakes, Trinity Alps, Aug 2012

Emerald and Sapphire Lakes from Sawtooth Ridge

Steve W., Maria G., Denise F. and Tysen M. traveled down to the southeastern end of the Trinity Alps, about 13 miles north of Weaverville the first week in August. Our goal was to make a 4 night, 5 day backpacking trip into the Emerald-Sapphire Lakes area of the Trinity Alps.
Before the start of our backpack trip, we spent the night at the Minersville Campground on the northwest end of Trinity Lake.

The next morning, we started our backpack trip at the Stuart Fork of the Salmon River trailhead. That day, we climbed a distance of about nine miles with a net elevation gain of 1600 ft. However, with all the ups and down, it was actually an elevation gain of 2700 ft and a loss of 1100 ft, making this a moderately strenuous trek.

We found a campsite at the south end of Morris Meadow with a beautiful view north to the Sawtooth Ridge behind which hid Caribou Lake. Our campsite was also located near a delightful confluence of a meadow stream and the South Fork river.

The next day, we continued our upward ascent, reaching Emerald Lake in about 4 miles with an elevation gain of 1200 ft. Due to the high temperatures (mid-80’s), we selected a campsite at the east end, and below Emerald Lake in a stand of trees.

The next morning, we set out for a day hike to Mirror Lake. Hence, we had to hike along the northern shore of Emerald Lake and climb up to the ledge that held Sapphire Lake. From here, we had to follow a barely visible trail along the north shore of Sapphire Lake that involved a lot of rock scrambling and bush whacking.

When, we reached the west end of Sapphire Lake, Tysen decided to stay there and wait for the others to return. Steve, Maria and Denise continued, climbing up toward the ledge that contained Mirror Lake.

As the going got rougher, Denise decided to stop at a waterfall and let Steve and Maria continue on. Finally, Steve and Maria encountered a near vertical wall that involved a 3rd-class ascent of a steep gully to reach Mirror Lake, which Maria was able to complete with Steve’s assistance.

They were rewarded with a great view of beautiful Mirror Lake as well as a vista of Sapphire Lake below. Finally, 3.5 hours later, everybody reconnected again at the west end of Sapphire Lake and continued on down to our Emerald Lake Campsite, very exhausted.

The next day, we headed back down the mountain. Our goal was a riverside campsite that we had seen on the way up shortly after passing a turnoff to Alpine Lake. We were able to find this site unoccupied, placing us within a three hour hike from the trailhead.

The last day, we successfully reached the trailhead and headed to Etna for a late lunch. Since the Etna Brewing Company, our favorite haunt was closed that day, we enjoyed a great lunch at the Etna Deli.

Stuart Fork Trailhead to Emerald – Sapphire Lakes Area

Tysen, Denise, Steve and Maria at Stuart Fork Trailhead

South Morris Meadow Campsite looking north to Sawtooth Ridge

Hiking north along Morris Meadow

Heading west along trail up to Emerald Lake, surrounded by flowers

East end of Emerald Lake with Dam on left

Northeast end of Emerald Lake

Outflow from Emerald Lake and great swimming hole!

Stand of trees below Emerald Lake where we camped

Emerald Lake campsite, with Maria and Steve

Morning View of Emerald Lake with Cairns

Maria taking picture of Folk Art consisting of abandoned mining equipment, below Sapphire Lake

Maria and Steve hiking past east end of Sapphire Lake

Day hike along Sapphire Lake on way to Mirror Lake

Rock scrambling and bushwhacking our way to west end of Sapphire Lake

Steve getting cooled off at water fall just below Mirror Lake

Maria, also enjoying the refreshing waterfall

Mirror Lake

Sapphire Lake seen from Mirror Lake

Returning along Sapphire Lake back to our campsite

Trinity Alps Panorama to west from Morris Meadow

Stuart Fork River campsite north of Alpine Lake turnoff

River View below campsite


5 responses

  1. Pingback: Weaverville NC |

  2. Marjorie Ratner

    I would love to go to these beautiful lakes just to enjoy the atmosphere and to get a good look at the geology! May you all travel to additional wonderful sites as well as hike there again
    Marjorie Ratner

    August 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm

  3. Pingback: Trinity Alps | Guppy Road

  4. Kip Leitner

    Nice hiking log. I hiked with my family up to Emerald when I was 9 years old. Family spent 7 days in and out. Also one day hike to top of sawtooth ridge (sore legs ! for 9 year old). Brother almost stepped on diamondback rattler. It was July and there was still deep snow on NE side of the ridge. Baking hot on the other side. Wow. As a kid, standing at the top, not something I ever forgot. It’s a huge world.

    November 16, 2015 at 8:41 pm

  5. backpackersreview

    Great post – you have a lot of super helpful information! I am just hoping to share a similar report I wrote that describes my experience hiking to Emerald and Sapphire Lakes. I included a bunch of maps, photos, and other helpful info. I was thinking some of your site readers may enjoy reading the post after finishing yours. Here it is:

    February 14, 2018 at 12:04 pm

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