Late spring weather tends to be variable in the Lake Tahoe area. For some reason this seems more apparent around Memorial Day, perhaps because of the tradition for barbeques and picnics for the holiday. A couple of years ago I finished a Memorial Day weekend hike in light snow and found my neighbor’s spring flowers bowed under the fresh snowfall. This year has been a very light snow year, and some early-season warm weather has melted most of the Sierra snowpack. A hiking group I belong to went on an early Memorial Day Weekend hike in the eastern Sierras outside Reno. The day was cool but very comfortable for a hike with ~2400 feet of elevation gain and loss. We hiked the Jones Whites Creek Loop trail, which has trailheads in Galena Creek Regional Park with the actual loop located in Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest and Mt Rose Wilderness. I had “discovered” this very nice loop last Fall after hiking a nearby trail, the Lower Whites Creek Trail.
The trail was well-signed, though we took a short detour negotiating the connector trails to begin the loop (because we did not follow the directions on the signage, due to an incorrect identification of a junction).
We decided to go clockwise around the loop, making a conscious decision to have a steeper climb than descent. Indeed, the climb to the highest point was about 1800 feet in about 2.5 miles, for an average grade of nearly 13.5%.
The day was cool and mostly sunny – nearly perfect weather for the relatively steep climb. The trail mainly goes through open forest, with partial shade and very few exposed sunny areas.
Just a few tenths of a mile after we turned left to begin hiking the loop proper, we entered the Mt Rose Wilderness, which does not require permits but does not permit mountain bikes. We saw several different types of wildflowers throughout the hike. Here is a cluster of lupines next to the trail.
We passed a grove of aspens near the 7000 foot elevation. They were quite pretty with their new spring green leaves, and I expect would be spectacular when changing colors in the Fall.
Although I have a tendency to kind of lower my gaze and focus on putting one foot in front of the other on steep climbs, it was good to look up and out frequently enough to see the beautiful views, such as this one to the East across the Washoe Valley to the Virginia Range, with Washoe Lake on the valley floor.
At the highest elevation of the loop there is a side trail that goes to Church’s Pond. The main loop trail goes over a saddle and then descends with a more moderate slope. About 1 mile later is the first of 3 crossings of Whites Creek. To the north is a distinctive peak, which I believe is Alpine Walk Peak.
As we continued hiking, suddenly I noticed a brilliant red snowplant, a distinctive early spring flower, just emerging from the ground.
After a second creek crossing, the trail follows Whites Creek as it tumbles down the hillside. At times the creek is much lower than the trail, but later on the trail is literally creekside.
Some of the pine (or fir) trees in this area are quite tall and beautiful.
After the trail drops just below 6500 feet elevation, the loop diverges from Whites Creek and climbs up and over a couple of small rises to cross from the Whites Creek watershed to the Jones Creek watershed. This area was a bit more open than the rest of the loop, and there were mule ears in full bloom.
Shortly after we came around the sharp curve at the eastern edge of the GPS track, there was a very nice view of Slide Mountain and Mount Rose.
We continued to the junction where we had started the loop and then returned to our cars.
There are several trailheads in or near the Galena Creek Regional Park. The trail system explores Galena, Jones, Whites, and Thomas Creeks, with numerous alternatives for different length hikes. I’ll look forward to a return visit to this beautiful hiking area.