Hiking Tahoe South – Elephants Back
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 met up around 9am one Sunday morning in late October for the hike. It was pretty chilly and the wind was blowing as a storm was forecasted to roll in that night. Once we arrived at the trailhead on Carson Pass next to the Ranger Station, we laced up our boots, buckled our new Granite Rocx packs, and Jeremy, Emily and I were off!
The trail starts pretty flat and then steadily up through pines and firs on a rocky surface. The first lake you’ll reach is Frog Lake about one mile in on the left. The trail continues consistently up until you reach a post where you can go left on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) or straight towards Lake Winnemucca and Round Top. You actually can go either way towards Elephants Back, but we went left.
After making the left turn, the trail continues towards Blue Lakes. Massive Elephants Back will come into view on your right. We decided to make a right turn up towards the mountain until we reached the base. We veered right to come around the backside and started the climb up 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. The hike up was pretty strenuous on 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 to my favorite hat…
Getting to the Carson Pass Ranger Station is pretty simple. Follow Highway 50 in Nevada or South Lake Tahoe 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. Summer day use parking passes are only $5; Winter months you’ll need a Sno-Park Pass (which is a great investment on its own - you can buy a pass for the season and use it at any Sno-Park).
This hike is actually quite popular in the Winter and I totally understand why. It’s a pretty simple hike out to with what looks like some great backcountry riding. Even 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!