Back to index Evergreen Trail to Horse Canyon Trail Hike
Trip Date:  10/06/2017

Distance
: 15.5 Miles

Vertical Gain: 2100'

Group Size: 1
Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard   Strenuous
Evergreen Horse Cyn Hike Route
Download GPXGPX for this trip
Evergreen Horse Cyn Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 38.446, W 119 57.300     End Coordinates:   N 38 40.796, W 120 06.969
Car Shuttle Req'd:   Yes Parking Directions:   Take Highway 88 to Blue Lakes road and turn south.  Follow the road for a little more than 15 miles to the parking area on the left between the two lakes.    After 11 1/2 miles the road turns to the north, and becomes dirt for the last few miles.   Park near the trailhead sign for the Evergreen Trail just at the north end of Upper Blue Lake.
Park a second car at the Horse Canyon trailhead just to the east of Silver Lake, approximately 2 miles west of Thunder Mountain trailhead on the south side of Highway 88. 
Hazards of Note:   There is an excessively steep climb in open, exposed areas after 6 miles into the hike.  There is some water about halfway up, but this is a demanding section of hike.
The Horse Canyon trail to the north of Squaw Ridge is torn up significantly from motorcycle use on the trail.

Crowd Factor:   Negligible.  The Evergreen trail down into Summit City Canyon is lightly used and if you run into anyone it will probably be those heading to or coming down from 4th of July Lake.  From the junction at Horse Canyon up to Squaw Ridge you will not run into anyone.  There might be a few hikers on the last section of Horse Canyon from the Scout Carson Lake turnoff to the parking area, but probably very few if any.
General Notes:
From the parking area head west on the Evergreen trail, which will gradually head up about 300 feet before beginning a relatively steep drop over about a mile of more than 1700' in elevation toward the canyon floor.  Most of this trek is through forest and along the old jeep trail which used to be accessible into the canyon.  There is one water crossing in the first mile that could be a bit tenuous in early spring and summer or after a heavy rainfall, but otherwise this trail stays to the north side of the creek all the way down to the turnaround point far ahead.  
Once the trail nears the canyon floor, there are spectacular views to the south toward Deadwood Peak, and the granite protrusion that extends about a mile to the north of the peak.  As you continue down the trail you will meet up with the junction of the Forestdale Divide Trail which dropped down the north side of the canyon walls, and then less than a half mile further west is a second trail junction.  This one has a trail which splits back to the north, and heads up to Fourth of July Lake, and eventually Round Top Lake 2000' above the canyon floor.  There are two great camping sites here with fire rings and access to the river close by.
Past this junction the trail becomes very remote, and winds slowly toward the south west as it follows the canyon down toward the Horse Canyon Trail junction a little past the 5 and three quarter mile mark.  8 miles further down the Evergreen trail is Camp Irene, once a popular destination on the Tahoe to Yosemite route, but this trek will have you head right and begin a significant, serious climb of over 2200' feet in the next couple miles to reach the crest of Squaw Ridge.  This majority of this section is in open chaparrel type landscape, with long switchbacks helping to keep the constant elevation gain from being too intense.  There are a number of tree-covered sections along the way, and about a mile up you will cross the Horse Canyon creek with in October of this year still had a reasonable amount of water if needed.  
There are great views back down into the Mokelumne River Canyon as you continue to gain elevation, and you can even make out the Bear Valley ski resort buildings once you get high enough up the canyon.  The last half mile of the trail is a little hard to follow with the lack of use on this trail, but cairns along the trail help as well as map reading skills.  At the crest of Squaw Ridge, which you reach just a little before 10 miles into the trip, there is a wilderness sign indicating you are leaving the Mokelumne Wilderness, and then a short walk over an open area to meet up with the rest of the Horse Canyon trail which will take you past the junction for the beautiful Scout Carson Lake in about a half mile, and then follows along the back side of the Kirkwood ridge, including The Thimble and Thunder Mountain for the last 5 miles until you finally emerge from the forest at the Horse Canyon Trailhead on Highway 88, a little over 15 miles from the starting point at Upper Blue Lake.

Upper Blue Lake and Deadwood Peak near the Evergreen trailhead just a little further up the road to the right. Upper Blue Lake
Devil's Corral and Deadwood Peak from the Evergreen Trail. Devil's Corral
Paul and Dave, a couple other forest service volunteers along with me until the Horse Canyon junction. Paul and Dave
The sign for Lower Summit City, actually about a mile west of the true location of the old settlement which is back near the two campsites along the river. Lower Summit City
The splintered signpost at the Horse Canyon trail junction which was damaged by a bear last year and was being replaced by the workgroup that I initially walked in with later on in the weekend.  I used the wood to leave them one last message with the old boards. Splintered Signpost
A sampling of the ridge which I will need to climb (just to the left of the granite) in the next few miles.  Would have been preferred to do this early in the morning before it got as warm as it did. Horse Canyon ridge
The route to look forward to as you make your way up 2200' in the next couple miles. GPS route of the climb ahead
Stopping to check out the views along the way is a welcome respite from the grueling climb up this ridge.  Bear Valley Ski resort can be seen just to the right of center near the top of the furthest ridge. Open views
Every so often the open climb is broken up by a short stint through a shady, wooded section of the climb. A brief break in the woods
The views get even better and better nearing the top, as now you can look back and see that you are actually far above the Bear Valley Ski Resort. Even higher
It is a huge relief to reach the crest of Squaw Ridge at the end of the long, difficult climb out of Horse Canyon.  This is the edge of the Wilderness area, and you are immediately greeted with a view of the back side of the Thimble mountain at Kirkwood Ski Resort. Huge relief
There are many historic information signs around the area, but this one has peeled off of its backing so I replaced it at the base of the pole. Info Sign
Outside of the Wilderness area motorbikes are allowed on the Horse Canyon trail, but the incredible damage they have done to this section of the trail is amazing. Incredible Damage
About halfway down the Horse Canyon trail you skirt along the back side of the Thimble Ridge at Kirkwood Ski Resort. Behind the Thimble
A look back up at Squaw Ridge and the area just to the right of the highest point where the Horse Canyon trail crested and started back down this side of the ridge. A look back
A close look at the only recently publicized Machado Postpile formation, milllions of years older than the more famous Devil's Postpiles in the Central Sierras. Machado Postpiles
Panning out offers a good indication of why the postpiles remained undiscovered for so long, as they blend in well near the bottom right in this shot. Well hidden
Looking down from the trail toward the westernmost part of Silver Lake and Highway 88 in climbing up the grade behind it. Silver Lake and Highway 88
Trail mileage sign at the Horse Canyon Trailhead parking area.  9 miles is to the junction where Horse Canyon Trail meets up with the Evergreen trail, down at the bottom of the Summit City Canyon far below. Mileage Sign
GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike