Place Name: Plumas County
Place Description: State: California
Elevation: 7,818 Feet
Prominence: 806 Feet
Elevation Gain: 1,880 Feet
Lists: Tahoe-Ogul, Sierra Sampler, Sierra Club Sierra Peaks Section, Western States Climbers
A Hidden Gem In That Lakes Basin
Looking for a hidden gem? An easy hike? Lots of lakes? Well you have come to the right place. Mount Elwell is a low key treasure in Northern California and great hike for beginners!
- Nice well marked trail
- Beautiful lakes
- Great beginners hike
- A long ways from the valley or Bay Area
- Can be busy
- Not a lot of bonus peaks in the area
I can honestly say that I had never heard of Mount Elwell until I took up peak bagging. It’s one of those mountains that you wonder how it was included on the Tahoe Ogul List.
After visiting Mount Elwell, this should be on everyone’s to-do list in Northern California. The region doesn’t have high altitude peaks, mostly topping out around 8,000, however, what it lacks in vertical, it makes up for in beauty. The lakes basin area is home to many gorgeous lakes and beautiful dense forests.
From the central valley, you will actually spend more time driving than hiking if you make this a day trip. Mount Elwell lies between Highway 49 and Highway 89, just southwest of the town of Graeagle.
The Gold Lake Highway connects both of these highways and will be the jumping off point to Mount Elwell and fellow Ogul List peaks Sierra Buttes and Haskell Peak.
The trailhead is found by driving to the end of Elwell Lodge Road where there is a small parking lot. Start at the trail that is signed for Long Lake.
The Long Lake Trail starts out by crossing a creek and then works it’s way through gentle manzanita covered terrain. After 1/2 mile, you will start walking the ridge above the eastern shores of Long Lake and your first views of Mount Elwell are achieved.
The trail is very easy to follow and well maintained. After crossing a little dam, you will turn left to follow the trail along the north shore of the lake which also happens to be the base of the mountain.
Keep following the trail southwesterly until there is a Mount Elwell Trail sign. From here you will start up the ridge going north and gently switchbacking all the way up until you reach the summit area.
Mount Elwell’s summit is a large pile of boulders that will require some fun and easy class 2 scrambling. My 9-year old son made quick work of it, so it’s not that hard at all. The views are pretty nice to say the least.
You can see lakes sprinkled all over the area below you and have a great unobstructed view of the jagged Sierra Buttes. Mount Lassen was also visible on this day.
The Final Word
Mount Elwell and the surrounding lakes offer some awesome trails that are very family friendly. After living my whole life in this state and never turning north on Highway 89 in Truckee, I have definitely missed out on some great areas.
Are there better areas in California? Without a doubt! However, this area is definitely one worth checking out if you are resident of the valley or the Reno area. You really won’t be disappointed.