Emerald and Sapphire Lakes, Trinity Alps, Aug 2012
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.