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Trinity Alps Granite Lake Horseshoe Lake Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The pass above Granite Creek. (Jerry Adams)
Looking up towards Deer Lake. (Jerry Adams)
The pass above Mumsford Basin. (Jerry Adams)


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

This Granite Lake Horseshoe Lake loop is nice, but I don't know that this is the best of the Trinities. I don't have a lot of experience there. This definitely offered some very nice scenery and there are a couple of extensions you could do if this

Maybe combine some of this hike with Trinity Alps Long Canyon to Emerald Lake. Like, when you go up to Granite Pass and then down to Deer Creek, do the Four Lakes Loop and go over to Siligo Meadows, Echo Lake, and beyond.

The hike up to Granite Lake is through trees. Above there you get into alpine granite - up a ridge, down into Deer Creek Valley, and up to Deer Lake. You could go further. I went back down a ways to camp in a more sheltered location, then back up through the alpine Black Basin and Mumsford Basin on a not maintained trail and back down to Swift Creek to camp at a more sheltered location. Then I went up to Horseshoe Lake - more alpine granite before returning down Swift Creek to the trailhead.

I think that horses go all over through here, at least I saw plenty of manure. I think in the summer it's fairly crowded, but in mid October there were few other people but the weather was still pretty good.

There is ample drinking water everywhere you go. Exception would be at the passes between river valleys, like between Granite Lake and Deer Creek, or Black Basin/Mumsford Basin

Detailed Description

Start at the Swift Creek trailhead at 4000 feet elevation.

After about 0.1 mile, the trail merges with a trail from the alternate trailhead - remember this on your way back, or you'll walk an extra 0.1 mile to get back to your car, plus it's very confusing.

In 0.4 mile there's a nice campsite near the river in case you get a late start and want to camp right away.

In 1.1 mile from the trailhead is the junction for the trail up to Granite Lake. There's a substantial bridge across Swift Creek.

It's another 4.1 miles up the Granite Creek Trail to Granite Lake at 6000 feet elevation (5.2 miles from the trailhead). There are several okay campsites along the way, good drinking water from Granite Creek. All the way is through forest.

Right before Granite Lake is a large camp area, to the left of the trail. Drinking water from Granite Creek. You could probably have several groups camped here, or a large group with many people.

Then, adjacent to Granite Lake is another large camp area. Drinking water from the lake. Nice views of the lake, but then it could be windy with not a lot of protection.

From here, it's all alpine granite. 1.8 miles up to Granite Creek Pass at 7500 feet elevation. Alpine meadows. Lots of granite boulders to negotiate on the trail.

From the pass, there are rough trails going right and left. If you go right (North) it goes over to Black Basin/the head of Bear Creek. This would be a shortcut that avoids going down to Deer Creek and back up. I think that's a rough, primitive trail, more like going cross country, but it's pretty obvious where to go, traverse the side of Seven Up Peak, and then down a little to the Bear Creek pass.

We want to go down the other side of Granite Pass to Deer Creek. It's 1.6 miles down to the creek at 6500 feet elevation (8.6 miles from the trailhead). This is where we connect to the Trinity Alps Long Canyon to Emerald Lake.

There's a trail going either direction, up and down Deer Creek, the Deer Creek Trail. There's also a trail going up the other side.

I went up Deer Creek 0.6 miles to Deer Lake at 7150 feet. I didn't see any good campsites here - the slopes were pretty steep. It was a pretty windy and cold October when I was here so I turned around, but it's about another 5 miles through alpine granite to Granite Peak. On the way back, circle around Summit Lake and Luella Lake and back down to Deer Creek where the Granite Creek Trail junction is.

Then I went 0.8 miles down Deer Creek to Deer Creek Camp at 5900 feet elevation, 9.4 miles from the trailhead. There are spots to camp between Deer Lake and here, but further down seemed better to be in a more protected location. Good water all the way from Deer Creek. The Trinity Alps Long Canyon to Emerald Lake continues down Deer Creek.

From here, hike up the ridge 1.9 miles to a high point at 7000 feet. There's a junction with the Bear Creek Trail that goes up a little higher and then down Bear Creek about 4 miles to Swift Creek. This would be a good alternate or add-on hike. On the map there's a "Longs Cabin" but I didn't see anything.

I went down a little from the junction through Black Basin. There's a sign saying "Black Basin", "Mumsford Basin", and "Trail not Maintained". Walking through Black Basin I noticed Pitcher Plants, how cool!

It's about 1.6 miles through Black Basin up to a ridge at 7200 feet elevation (12.9 miles from the trailhead). Occasionally the "trail" would go through a meadow area and there was no obvious trail, I just walked along in the right direction. Then, on the other side of the meadow it wasn't obvious where the trail was so I had to search around or backtrack. I probably walked an extra 0.5 miles or so.

From the ridge, the trail was more obvious although there were still a few places where I had to search around a little. This is Mumsford Basin. There's an obvious stream and the trail goes a bit West of it. It's 1.8 miles down to Swift Creek at 5800 feet elevation (14.7 miles from the trailhead). There's a nice campsite just before Swift Creek. Good drinking water from Swift Creek.

All the way from Deer Creek Camp to here there's no drinking water, although I probably could have found some down Bear Creek a ways. This was October so earlier in the season there probably are some water sources. The whole route was alpine granite and meadows except right at the beginning and end where it was forested.

I then walked up Swift Creek to Horseshoe Lake. 1.6 miles to the lake at 6800 feet elevation. Nice places to camp there with drinking water from the lake or outlet stream. Or you could go to Ward Lake which is maybe 0.4 miles further away. I think there are campsites there too. There are places to wander off trail above both Horseshoe and Ward lakes.

I then walked down Swift Creek back to the trailhead, 9.2 miles from Horseshoe Lake. There are campsites every mile or two. Swift Creek provides good water.

The trail passes a short distance from Fosters Cabin, a somewhat delapidated open cabin with a metal roof. I suspect the roof leaks rain a little but it would provide some protection if it was raining. There's a dirt floor. There are some boards against the walls on the outside that keep it from falling over.


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