Horseshoe and Ward Lakes

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From Swift Creek Trailhead to Horseshoe Lake — 8.9 mi and 3593 ft elevation gain

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Elevation profile for that leg — I almost died on those stone steps at 7.70 mi

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Horseshoe Lake to Ward Lake — 1.15 mi and 1217 ft elevation gain

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The rocky journey between Horseshoe and Ward

Date: 8/4-8/6/17

Hike Difficulty: very difficult with a loaded pack — take breaks, drink water, eat a snack
Total Distance Hiked: 18.65 mi
Total Elevation Gain: 6653 ft
Total Time Hiking: 9 hrs 30 mins

I’ve been backpacking pretty much every weekend and I’ve gotten fit enough to take it, so I figured I’d throw myself a challenge this week. I love any hike in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, but I’ve been shying away from some of the super-long ones. On paper, the hike to Horseshoe Lake looked intimidating. The reality of it was that it was even harder; both sources I read from had underestimated the amount of elevation gain and I found myself climbing way more than I wanted to with a heavy pack (600 ft more!!).

Swift Creek Trailhead is a new one for me, but is incredibly popular in the area as an access point to many of the Trinity Alps trails. Usually people use this trailhead to go to Granite Lake, one that is on my list still, but I wanted to get away from people so I went the other way at the fork. The trails are pretty well-marked, so I just followed the signs for Foster Cabin (about 5 miles out), which led me to signs for Horseshoe Lake.

The trail is long and follows Swift Creek through granite canyons and open meadows spotted with boulders. There are LOTS of meadows to cross, all of which have tall plants and are pretty sopping wet so I had to boulder hop whenever I could. There was one meadow in which it was somewhat confusing which way to go because the signs had been destroyed, but luckily someone put a shard that said “oe Lake” on the right-hand trail, so I didn’t end up on the wrong trail.

As I said before, there was a lot more climb than I thought there was going to be. By the time I climbed those evil stone steps and made my way to Horseshoe Lake, I was starving and about to collapse. I stayed and recuperated for a little while. There was this really cool osprey that came in sounding like a jet plane, but then a group of about 8 teenage girls arrived and started to be incredibly loud. Instead of screaming at them about how this place isn’t their private water park, I packed up and made the transition to Ward Lake, which was a bit prettier and 100% mine for two days.

BTW, is 34 pictures too many? I don’t think so… 🙂



Swift Creek rushes below


I dunno what was here in 1968, but I don’t think it is anymore



I thought about trying to sit in this as my forest throne, but I was too weak to climb up



Foster Cabin



Evil, evil stone steps. I thought I was going to pass out.


The final stretch


The only picture I took of Horseshoe Lake before I left




Red Rock Mountain at sunset


The road less travelled


Good views from above the meadow


Ward Lake at sunset



Sunrise — it surprised me and rained soon after



Ward Lake from its fat peninsula


Looking up at Black Mountain


❤ ❤ There were two or three shady camping spots on the peninsula — for next time



Bee butt!


❤ ❤



Swift Creek running through a canyon of granite


Taking off after two nights at Ward Lake


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