This was a loop hike from Ward Creek Blvd, which takes off from CA-89 a few miles south of Tahoe City, past Stanford Rock and back to the road a short distance uphill from the start point. For orientation, the GPS track shows an overview of the loop.
There are a number of on-line write-ups of the loop as a mountain bike ride – here is one – but I have not found a write-up of the loop as a hike. I have previously hiked about half of the loop as an out-and-back hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail. This time I decided to make it a little different by doing the loop, even though that meant walking along Ward Creek Blvd between the two trailheads. The day of the hike was a cool, crisp Fall day, perfect for a hike in the Tahoe National Forest.
The lower trailhead is about 1.5 miles from CA-89. A brief write-up on a Lake Tahoe Trail Map indicates that “the trail starts immediately with a wet crossing of Ward Creek”. I had decided to start here, figuring that if I couldn’t successfully cross the creek I would continue up Ward Creek Blvd and hike the Tahoe Rim Trail segment again as an out-and-back hike. This is what the crossing looked like (after I got across without actually getting wet, thanks to hiking-pole-enhanced balance!). I’m glad the water wasn’t much deeper.
After my previous day’s hike around a long loop to Marlette Lake I was still on the lookout for colorful trees. This section of trail is dominated by evergreen trees, however, and I don’t think any other trail in the North Lake Tahoe area can compare to the North Canyon Trail for colorful aspens in the Fall. This trail climbs pretty steadily through the forest for about 1800 feet of elevation gain, with several glimpses of Lake Tahoe.
Each time I go on a hike I seem to find something to be of particular interest. This time it was the sky. It was a beautiful clear day, with scattered small clouds and apparently very little turbulence at the elevations where commercial aircraft fly. Tic-tac-toe, anyone?
Stanford Rock, namesake of the trail, was actually a little difficult to find and identify, as it was a short distance off-trail. In fact I’m not sure whether this interesting formation is, indeed, Stanford Rock.
Near the highest point of the loop there was a nice view of Twin Peaks, perhaps 1.5 miles away to the southwest.
After cresting the ridge the trail begins a steady descent. About a half mile after the crest is the junction with the Tahoe Rim Trail. The southern section of the Tahoe Rim Trail passes Twin Peaks prior to intersecting the Pacific Crest Trail. For today’s loop I headed north on the Tahoe Rim Trail, continuing the descent toward Ward Creek Blvd. After passing a small but pretty waterfall the descent becomes gentler. About 0.7 mile before reaching Ward Creek Blvd I was startled to find a ski-sled next to the trail.
It is interesting to speculate about how this might have been used, and by whom. After reaching the road it was about 0.7 mile back to the lower trailhead and my car. This turned out to be my last hike of the Fall season, though I did not realize at the time that my hiking life was about to change dramatically, if temporarily.