Lower Verdi Peak Trail revisited

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Even before I did my first hike on the lower portion of the Verdi Peak Trail, I’ve had a certain fascination with it. The trail is primarily a mountain bike and ATV trail, rather than a hiking trail, simply because of the length (22 miles round trip) – and, to a lesser extent, the 2800-foot net elevation gain to the top. For this hike, I knew I didn’t have enough time to get all the way to the top, due to the shorter late-October days, so I decided to hike the lower trail again, plus hopefully another mile or so beyond my first turnaround point.

Access to the Verdi Peak Trail is from I-80 via the road that passes just east of Boca Reservoir. Due to the ongoing drought, the water level was especially low, leaving exposed some interesting-looking contour lines around the shore. I stopped along the way for a few pictures.

picture of Boca Reservoir shoreline, from the Boca Reservoir road

Boca Reservoir shoreline, from the Boca Reservoir road

I was also hoping to get a little better at identifying the peaks and ridges in the area by sight. Here is a panorama, again taken from the Boca Reservoir road. The ridge at the right should be Boca Ridge, with Verdi Peak the tallest peak at the left, behind something else. But if that’s Verdi Peak, I should also have seen Ladybug Peak, which is nearby to the left of Verdi Peak and should not have been eclipsed by anything else.

photo of Verdi Peak and Boca Ridge, from the Boca Reservoir road

Verdi Peak and Boca Ridge, from the Boca Reservoir road

The GPS track shows that the lower portion of the Verdi Peak Trail, which is in the Tahoe National Forest, has a relatively straight overall trajectory to the east-northeast. The cut-off blue symbol at the top of the map area denotes Verdi Peak, less than 1 mile away. Since I had hiked roughly half the trail distance to the top, this is just an indication that the upper portion of the trail goes around the local topography.

GPS track

GPS track

I had selected my target turnaround point to be just before the trail drops down a few hundred feet into a canyon in the process of negotiating the topography.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

As has been the case on my previous hikes on this trail, I did not encounter any other hikers. However, on this occasion I did encounter a few ATV’s, whose drivers and passengers seemed to be enjoying the trip up or down the road. The weather was excellent, so the views from the top were undoubtedly amazing.

image of ATV coming down Verdi Peak Trail

ATV coming down Verdi Peak Trail

There is a rather small dip just over 3 miles from the trailhead. As I came over the rise I noticed a peak straight ahead of me. Examining my location and direction of travel after the hike, on my computer, this might be Verdi Peak. It was only visible very briefly before being hidden once again behind the trees and intervening hills.

picture of Verdi Peak, maybe

Verdi Peak, maybe

As I approached my first turnaround point, about 4.5 miles from the trailhead, I remembered that I would reach the top of a slightly steeper climb, go around a curve to the right, and see a peak in clear view. An added touch was the colorful chaparral in the foreground.

photo of colorful chaparral along the Verdi Peak Trail

Colorful chaparral along the Verdi Peak Trail

About 0.1 mile past that curve there was a wonderful unobstructed view of Boca Reservoir with the Sierras behind. My elevation was about 7200 feet – climbing 1600 feet or so was certainly worth it! Again, the low water level was starkly evident.

image of Boca Reservoir from about 7200 feet elevation on the Verdi Peak Trail

Boca Reservoir from about 7200 feet elevation on the Verdi Peak Trail

Perhaps 0.4 mile later I couldn’t help noticing a virtual forest of tall flowering plants right next to the trail. It seemed that these plants must spend all spring and summer getting so tall – and they were still putting out flowers. I don’t yet have an identification, but I’ll try to update this post when I do.

picture of forest of tall flowers next to the trail

Forest of tall flowers next to the trail

Here is a close-up of the blossoms just above the leaves and at the base of the tall flowering stalk at the top of a plant.

photo of flower close-up

Flower close-up

About 5.5 miles from the trailhead was the mini-summit where I planned to turn around just before the trail drops down into Worn Mill Canyon. There was a pretty view to the northwest from here. I think the bare-looking area is Sardine Valley, with a range of hills including Sardine Peak just behind.

image of view toward Sardine Valley

View toward Sardine Valley

After enjoying the views and a lunch break, I returned to the trailhead.

This was a wonderful day for a hike, and my efforts were well-rewarded by the views from the Verdi Peak Trail. I will continue to improve my ability to identify local peaks and features. I’m also searching for a way to reach Verdi Peak via a shorter hike – stay tuned for that, once I figure it out. It would be lovely to be able to access the fantastic views from the top without needing to be ready for a 22-mile hike!

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