Updated: Sep 21
It was another beautiful day to get out and enjoy a hike. With very little smoke in the air, the temperature had cooled down a little bit, and the sun was shining. It was a perfect fall-ish day to spend outdoors – not too hot, not too cold.
When we left Tahoe, it was windy and the air was cool. Since we knew this hike would bring us up over 7,700 feet, we brought some layers in our packs, just in case we ran into colder weather on the hike. We also packed light snacks and plenty of water.
We are incredibly blessed to live so close to so many amazing hiking trails and areas to explore, even though Tahoe is right out our door. Going back to beautiful Sonora Pass this weekend, however, was as an easy decision, and this time, we didn't have to take a bumpy Jeep road to the trailhead.
The small day-use parking area was empty, but the campground had a few occupants. After we paid our day-use fee, we wasted no time and headed out on the trail.
First thing: A footbridge!
West Walker River below.
(I just love old, weathered wooden trail signs!)
Starting out at 7,135 feet, we were surprised to see so much sagebrush that high up, but it was all around us.
Cool rock formation, right?
Soon, two hikers and their sweet elderly golden retriever dog leading them down the trail were coming towards us. I found a clear space between the sagebrush and quickly scanned the perimeter for snakes (we think we were too high for them, but this landscape and weather seemed prime, so we were on alert, nonetheless) and then stepped aside to allow the hikers to pass, only we all 4 stopped and chatted for a few minutes while their dog licked my hand and rested its cheek on my leg. We all agreed we were surprised that not more people were out since all of the forests had been reopened.
In addition to all the sagebrush, we also hiked through a few groves of aspens, which will look brilliant in a few weeks when the leaves begin to change.
One aspect to this trail that became pretty ubiquitous throughout the 8-mile trek was all of the horse droppings along the way. Coming across such a delight isn't unusual for us on many of our hikes, but this trail had by far the most. Some people are annoyed or grossed out by it, but every time I see evidence of a horse on a hiking trail, I'm always secretly hopeful that it will result in seeing one. So far, that has rarely happened for me.
We continued on until the trail opened up to a picturesque meadow expanse, set in front of the tree-covered mountains, with the West Walker River cutting through it. I had to stop and photo this amazing view. (You can see some of the smoke in the air in this shot.) The contrast of the oranges, browns, and golden yellows with the varying shades of green really caught my eye.
I don't remember why, but we turned to look back at the trail we had just climbed and – just in time – caught a faraway glimpse of our first horse sightings!
Even from a distance, this was a very exciting find.
We enjoyed a unique variety of vegetation and landscape on this hike, despite the elevation gain of only around 1,400 feet. The dry desert landscape covered in sagebrush, a river and several lakes, impressive rock formations, the trail turning to "deep" sand (so hard to hike in sand!), along with some very large cedar, ponderosa, and Jeffrey pine trees with some aspen groves.
For instance, here's an interesting combination of rock formation and cedar tree along the trail:
And this was a particularly massive rock wall that I just had to get my photo taken in front of. As I diverted from the trail and made my way up to the wall (still keeping an eye out for any snakes), another hiking couple appeared and offered to take our photo together in front of the wall.
We thanked them and chatted for a few minutes afterwards. He was on the trail coming back from hunting mule deer. Both my husband and I, having grown up in the northern Midwest, were familiar with deer hunting, so we asked him what kind of tag he got. He told us he'd gotten a buck tag and added that doe tags were very rare and it took him 10 years(!) to get this buck tag.
We were both quite shocked to hear this and explained that was very different than what we were familiar with occurring in the Midwest, where you need to shoot a certain number of doe before you can shoot a buck, but tags are pretty easy to get every year – waiting 10 years is incredible. At any rate, they did not see any bucks and they were pretty sure there were some sheep (of the bighorn variety) that pushed the deer out of the vicinity. Oh, how I wish we'd come across those sheep!
A little ways down the trail, something below us caught my eye and I almost missed my opportunity!
Despite the prevalent droppings, that was the closest we'd gotten to them all day. But to me, it was better than nothing!
We were getting close to Roosevelt Lake, our first lake of the hike. We'd head there first, and then on to Lane Lake, loop around and come back to Secret Lake before we go back to the trailhead.
Whoops. Poor sign.
The trail after this point was especially sandy. I don't know why, but I have the hardest time keeping a swift pace when hiking in sand. 🤷♀️My husband, on the other hand, can seem to walk faster than usual in it. I just feel like I'm walking in place the whole time and getting nowhere. It's crazy.
We reached our first destination: Roosevelt Lake. The lake itself wasn't all that impressive, but the surrounding backdrop was beautiful.
As we rounded the shoreline on the trail, we were treated to a pair of otters showing off for us.
We continued along the sandy trail to Lane Lake.
Then we turned around and headed back toward the trail junction for the route that would lead us to Secret Lake. We saw some more large, majestic trees along the way.
This section of the trail definitely had the most challenging terrain, although, it turned from sand to rocks. And several steep sections to climb.
But we finally made it.
So, we climbed up and out of Secret Lake. And then climbed back up and then went back down a few more times. Eventually topping out at 7,765 feet where the terrain was all rocks and the trees short and stout compared to the taller trees from the beginning of the hike. But the scenery was just as amazing.
With all of our stops along the way, the hike took us around 3.5 hours and we even got done in the daylight! It was really nice to mostly have the trail to ourselves today and we didn't see a single person at any of the lakes. Very serene and peaceful, indeed.