Ward Creek Blvd to Twin Peaks – Tahoe Rim Trail

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This hike was, except for a short section on a use trail, along the Tahoe Rim Trail segment between Tahoe City and Barker Pass.  It was an out-and-back day hike, 12.4 miles total, starting from a trailhead on Ward Creek Blvd and heading generally east and then south to Twin Peaks, which is about ½ mile from the Pacific Crest Trail and the eastern boundary of the Granite Chief Wilderness.  The route was within the Tahoe National Forest.  I hoped to be able to summit the East peak of Twin Peaks, but I ended up stopping about 50 vertical feet short of the summit.

GPS track

GPS track

The first two miles are along a fire road with a gentle climb.  Much of the trail passes through pretty forest, and higher up in Ward Canyon the trail becomes single-track.

photo of trail passing through forest of pine, fir, and aspen

Trail passing through forest of pine, fir, and aspen

In the spring, the area along Ward Creek has a profusion of wildflowers.  Later in the summer there are fewer wildflowers, but I particularly noticed a lot of glaucous checkermallows.

image of glaucous checkermallow next to the trail

Glaucous checkermallow next to the trail

After two miles the trail crosses a bridge over the creek and climbs somewhat more steeply.  After a third mile there is a 30-foot waterfall.  On a previous hike on this section of trail I encountered someone who had specifically hiked up to the waterfall to enjoy an afternoon of reading.

picture of waterfall

Waterfall

After passing the waterfall the trail gets steeper, gaining 1500 feet in less than 3 miles.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

Starting about 3.8 miles from the trailhead the trail passes through several areas of open meadow, which would be filled with mule ear in the spring.  From these open areas there are great views of Twin Peaks.  This one is from about 7400 feet elevation, nearly 1500 feet lower than the peak.  The East peak, the one I was hoping to summit, is on the left in the picture, and I couldn’t help hoping the trail wouldn’t be as steep as it looked from that lower vantage point!  This (Sierra) Twin Peaks is a lot more challenging than the famous Twin Peaks in San Francisco.

photo of Twin Peaks: 1500 vertical feet to go

Twin Peaks: 1500 vertical feet to go

There is a well-marked junction 5.1 miles from the trailhead, which I think of as the Stanford Rock junction, though the summit of Stanford Rock is at least a mile away.  If you follow the trail to Stanford Rock, the hike can be a loop back to Ward Creek Blvd.  This time I went straight, toward Twin Peaks.  About 0.9 mile past this junction is an unsigned junction with a use trail up to Twin Peaks.  After the unsigned junction the trail descends slightly for about 0.5 mile to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail.  When I first arrived at the unsigned junction I noticed the use trail but decided to go a little farther, to make sure it was the right one.  When I realized that the trail would probably be downhill the rest of the way to the PCT I decided to turn around and check out the use trail.  When I got back I looked more carefully and noticed that the use trail was actually marked with three cairns.  As soon as I noticed the cairns I knew I was in the right place.

image of three cairns marking the use trail to Twin Peaks

Three cairns marking the use trail to Twin Peaks

The use trail junction is just below 8500 feet elevation.  The first part of the trail climbs through mule ear and manzanita, but then gets progressively steeper.  At 8700 feet I was amused to notice a sign on the last decent-size tree, as the path transitioned to a rock scramble.  The sign was about 15 feet above the ground and advised that the area was closed to motor vehicles and motorized equipment.  I have no idea how anything motorized would get up there in the first place.  (The Tahoe Rim Trail is closed to motorized vehicles, and it’s not suitable for them in any case.)

picture of sign advising the area is closed to motor vehicles and motorized equipment

Sign advising the area is closed to motor vehicles and motorized equipment

The very top of the peak was even steeper and I decided it wasn’t wise to try to continue alone, even though I believe I was only about 50 vertical feet from the summit.  I happened to find a very nice rock that served as a comfortable place to sit down and take a break to enjoy the views.

photo of comfortable rock seat for a break near the summit of Twin Peaks

Comfortable rock seat for a break near the summit of Twin Peaks

This view looks toward Ward Canyon, the way I’d hiked up.

image of Ward Canyon from Twin Peaks

Ward Canyon from Twin Peaks

This is the view toward Donner Summit, including (I believe) Castle Peak, Anderson Peak, Tinker Knob, and Granite Chief marking the route of the Pacific Crest Trail.

picture of view toward Donner Summit along the route of the Pacific Crest Trail

View toward Donner Summit along the route of the Pacific Crest Trail

This view is generally south, toward the Desolation Wilderness.  Note the interesting rock formation in the foreground.

photo of view to the south from Twin Peaks

View to the south from Twin Peaks

And there was a fine panoramic view of Lake Tahoe.  Since I did this hike during the Rim Fire, I felt very lucky to have a relatively clear day for the hike.

image of Lake Tahoe panorama from Twin Peaks

Lake Tahoe panorama from Twin Peaks

When I’m hiking to a peak I typically try to summit, for the best views, often 360-degree panoramas.  In this case I wasn’t able to summit, but the views were spectacular nonetheless.  After a nice break I returned to the trailhead.

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One Response to Ward Creek Blvd to Twin Peaks – Tahoe Rim Trail

  1. Pingback: Ellis Peak and Ellis Lake | trailhiker

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