What a great hike! Elephants Back is an exceptionally fun hike with great views of the Carson Pass area including Blue Lakes, Round Top Peak and Caples Lake. Elephants Back is a huge pile of volcanic rock in the Mokelumne Wilderness off of Carson Pass. It potentially can be a pretty strenuous hike up the rock depending on which way you decide to make the ascent. Out and back to Elephants Back is about five miles with an elevation gain of around 1,000 feet.
We didn’t meet up until about 9am on Sunday morning for the hike. It was pretty chilly and the wind was blowing as a storm was planned to roll in that night. When we got to the trailhead at Carson Pass next to the Ranger Station, the parking lot was pretty empty. We laced up our boots, Jeremy with his new Granite Rocx pack and myself with mine headed out onto the trail. Emily was with us as well. The trail starts pretty flat and gradually starts a steady climb through pines and firs on a rocky surface. The first lake you’ll come to is Frog Lake about one mile in on the left. It’s pretty low right now. You’ll continue on the trail as it continues consistently up until you reach a post where you can go left on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) or continue straight towards Lake Winnemucca and Round Top. You actually can go either way towards Elephants Back. We went left. Below are some pictures.
After making the left turn, the trail continues with beautiful views back towards Blue Lakes. As you continue, you’ll see massive Elephants Back on your right. This is where we decided to make a right turn up and up towards the mountain. We continued to the base, where we veered slightly right to come around the backside and started the climb on the left most side. If you don’t make a left at the post you can follow the trail to a point just prior to Lake Winnemucca and go left towards Elephants Back which is a bit easier. It was pretty strenuous up the sandy rock to the top. Once at the top the views really are spectacular. Make a 360 degree turn and you can see Blue Lakes, Round Top Peak, Lake Winnemucca, Woods Lake, Caples Lake and even more. Once we reached the top the wind was absolutely howling and took my blue Hang Loose hat, RIP… If you follow any of my posts you have seen me wear it and it was one of my favorites! Enjoy more pictures below!
Getting to the Carson Pass Ranger Station is pretty simple. Follow Highway 50 in Nevada or South Lake towards the “Y”. Go left towards Meyers and make a left on Highway 89. At the “T”, make a right towards Kirkwood. Follow the road past Red Lake and Blue Lakes until you reach the Ranger Station on the left. Unfortunately, you’ll need to pay $5 to park. However, I believe after November 1st it’s free to park!
This is actually quite a popular hike in the Winter and I totally understand why. It’s a pretty simple hike out with what looks like some great backcountry riding. I think you’ll need a permit to park however and hike out. Either way with the recent snow I still think there’s time to reach the top of Elephants Back this Fall in your hiking boots. Have you hiked into the Mokelumne Wilderness near Kirkwood? If so, make a comment below! Also follow me on twitter @sberei!