We did the Strawberry Wilderness loop hike, with a side trip to the summit of Strawberry Mountain, on Friday, September 8. We had hiked to the summit of Strawberry Mountain several years ago and had been wanting to get back to explore more of the area.
FR 6001 was in decent shape for about 2.5 to 3 miles after the end of County Road 60. The last section had a few rougher spots that were very much passable but required slow travel to avoid bottoming out in a Subaru Crosstrek. There were a couple of passenger cars at the trailhead when we arrived.
We started up the Strawberry Basin Trail for a counterclockwise loop. Likely due to the late season timing, we had the view of Strawberry Lake to ourselves. This would mostly be the theme of the full hike, although we did run into a few hiking and backpacking groups later in the day. We took a side trip to Little Strawberry Lake. Our arrival there must have surprised a family of mountain goats because we saw them running along the lakeshore as we approached the lake.
Back on the Strawberry Basin trail, there were a few remaining late-season wildflowers in the meadowy sections. Shortly before reaching the junction with the Onion Creek Trail, we spotted a large elk bull across the meadow. It looked back at us for a few seconds before bounding off away from the trail.
At the junction with the Onion Creek Trail, we turned right for a side trip to the summit of Strawberry Mountain. While the elevation is a challenge, the trail is well-graded and in good shape. We enjoyed a break at the spectacular summit and then continued on, excited to check out some new-to-us territory.
The Onion Creek Trail and the two road sections that follow give a nice break from climbing. Back on single-track, we then headed down to High Lake where we passed another family of mountain goats. The Skyline Trail up to the pass is well-graded and offered great views back down to High Lake and also of Rabbit Ears and the rocky ridge tops. As noted in the field guide, the Skyline Trail is faint and takes a left at the junction with the Mud Lake Trail, so it was helpful to be on the lookout for that on the descent from the pass.
Due to washouts on the Slide Basin Trail, there are signs in many locations on the loop strongly recommending the Slide Basin Tie-In Trail, which is also the horse route. We took the tie-in trail until it reconnects with the Slide Basin Trail and then took this back to the Strawberry Basin Trail to complete the loop. Several gullies on the tie-in trail also had washouts where it had been scoured down to the underlying rock, but they were easily passable.
While very challenging, the varied nature of the trail and views made it a spectacular day.
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