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Trinity Alps Long Canyon to Emerald Lake Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Looking down Long Canyon. (Jerry Adams)
Looking up Deer Creek from Deer Camp, Deer Creek Pass in the distance. (Jerry Adams)
Emerald Lake looking upwards (Jerry Adams)
Many tame deer (Jerry Adams)
Rattlesnake was sunning itself on trail, slithered into grass, shook it's rattle at me. Red circles around body and rattle. (Jerry Adams)

Contents

Hike Description

The Trinity Alps is one of the priemier hiking areas in the galaxy. Not as famous as the Sierras, but everyone should do a hike in this area at least once.

There are large areas of alpine granite. The trails here are a little more rugged than typical Columbia Gorge or Cascades trails. There are many spectacular peaks and ridges and little alpine lakes. It is a long drive from Portland though, but at least it's not as far away as the Sierras. The Trinities have a fairly narrow spine of alpine granite compared to the Sierras, which are really uncomparable. The Trinites are somewhat similar to the Wallowas.

This is quite a bit South of Portland so somewhat warmer. Sometimes, the weather systems firehose is pointed at Portland and Northern California has nice weather, but sometimes it's vice versa, and sometimes it's nice or bad both places simultaneously, so you just have to check the weather report. This is a nice area to have in your repertoire

I wouldn't so much recommend this hike, as there are some pieces here that could be combined with the Trinity Alps Granite Lake Horseshoe Lake Hike. But, this is what I did so that's what I've put here - would make a nice trip.

For example, go up Long Canyon, do the Four Lakes Loop or go South to Siligo Meadows and Echo Lake, and then go over to Black Meadow/Mumsford Meadow/Granite Pass.

The Long Canyon Trailhead is a little easier to drive to than the Swift Creek Trailhead and it's the easiest way to get to the Four Lakes Loop. The Swift Creek trailhead allows better loop hikes.

Going from either Swift Creek or Long Canyon, down Deer Creek to Stuart Fork/Morris Meadows/Emerald Lake has one problem - you're closer to the Stuart Fork Trailhead so there are way more people. The Deer Creek junction is about 7 miles and 1400 feet elevation gain from the Stuart Fork Trailhead. It's 12 miles, 3700 feet elevation gain, and 3100 feet elevation loss from Long Canyon Trailhead.

This trail is always near drinking water. The only exception is the mile between Deer Lake and a bit into the Long Canyon.

Detailed Description

Start at the Long Canyon Trailhead at 3800 feet elevation.

The first 4 miles is along the Long Canyon stream, generally in the forest. Sometimes the trail is right next to the stream and sometimes a ways away. The trail goes pretty steadily uphill all the way up the canyon.

At 1.7 miles and 4800 feet elevation is the junction with the trail that goes up to Bowerman Meadows. There's a campsite here. The Bowerman Meadows trail goes up a nice meadow a few miles and dead-ends.

At 3.5 miles and 6200 feet elevation the trail leaves the forest and you get nice views the rest of the way up Long Canyon. There's a nice campsite here, next to the stream. There are still trees here for a fire - above is too alpine in my opinion.

The trail above here has a lot of granite "steps". Irregular spacing. Some of them have a drop of more than a foot. Some people might find this difficult. Trekking poles might help.

At 4.3 miles and 7000 feet is a nice alpine site to camp. There's this shaded chute that's the last place to melt off and steep - could be difficult if icy.

Then the trail goes up a short captured valley to the end of Long Canyon at Bee Tree Gap - 5 miles from trailhead and 7500 feet elevation. Nice views from here, obviously. There are rough trails going up from here in both directions - I don't know how far you could easily go.

From Bee Tree Gap, there are two trails. One goes down to Siligo Meadows. I didn't go there but looks very scenic. You drop about 500 feet, then the trail goes up about 400 feet to Little Stonewall Pass and a short distance to Echo Lake - nice spot to camp, about 1.5 miles from Bee Tree Gap. Or keep going a few miles to Stonewall Pass and Granite Peak.

I took the trail over to Deer Creek Pass - fairly level - 0.5 mile from Bee Tree Gap. There's another trail that goes down to Siligo Meadows if you're coming from Deer Creek.

From here, there are nice views down Deer Creek with Deer Lake in the foreground. The trail goes down to Deer Lake but there's a junction in a short distance. You can keep going or turn left on the Four Lakes Loop.

When I was there, I skipped the loop because there were steep snow slopes. This is a North facing slope and the last to melt out. It's a steep slope which makes it difficult if there's icy snow. But the difficult part is right in front of you - if you can get by it, the rest of the loop is easier because it's South facing. It's about 0.5 miles to Summit Lake, 1 mile to Diamond Lake, 2.5 miles to Luella Lake, and 3.5 miles back to the Deer Creek Trail down below. This is an excellent goal. I think Summit Lake or Diamond Lake would be good places to camp, but very exposed if the weather is bad. I walked up to Luella Lake and it didn't seem so good for camping.

I kept going down to Deer Lake. There's a nice camp spot Northeast of the lake, up a bit, but very exposed if the weather's bad. 6 miles from Long Canyon Trailhead, 7100 feet elevation.

It's a bit difficult finding where the trail leaves Deer Lake. It's just on the other side (West) of the outlet stream. The trail is pretty steep and rough at places.

There's a nice area to camp around Round Lake - 7 miles from trailhead and 6400 feet elevation. A short distance further is the return trail from the Four Lakes Loop. A little further is the junction with the trail up to Granite Pass Trinity Alps Granite Lake Horseshoe Lake Hike.

From here, the trail goes along Deer Creek for 0.7 miles to Deer Camp at 5900 feet elevation. There is a junction with the trail up to Black Basin Trinity Alps Granite Lake Horseshoe Lake Hike. There are a number of places to camp. It's somewhat protected in the trees. There's plenty of firewood for a fire.

From here, the trail stays in mostly forested area down Deer Creek. It gains about 150 feet to Bear Gap, then down to it's end at the Stuart Fork, 12 miles from the Long Canyon Trailhead, 4400 feet elevation.

If you go left, down the Stuart Fork, it's about 7 miles to the Stuart Fork trailhead. There are a number of other side trails. We want to go right, up the Stuart Fork.

The trail up the Stuart Fork stays along the creek, mostly through forest, with occasional grassy meadows, like Morris Meadow. There are a number of campsites as you go along.

3.5 miles up the Stuart Fork is the junction with the trail going up to Caribou Lake. That trail looks to go straight up the ridge. From 5000 to 7500 feet elevation - 2500 feet elevation gain. 0.8 miles "as the crow flies". Hard to tell what the distance would be with switchbacks. That has to be the steepest trail I have ever seen.

Nice campsite 0.5 miles further.

Emerald Lake is 17 miles from Long Canyon Trailhead, at 5500 feet. When I got up there, on Memorial Day weekend, there were a bunch of people and it didn't look like good campsites nearby, so I turned around and found a campsite a ways back down. The trail continues around Emerald Lake, to Saphire Lake, and beyond. Looks like some pretty nice alpine area to explore. Mirror Lake beyond that. Maybe about 2 miles from the Emerald Lake outlet before you run into cliffs that would be difficult to go up.

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Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

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