Back to index Hawley Grade to Camp Sacramento Hike
Trip Date:  10/13/2016

: 10.0 Miles

Vertical Gain: 900'

Group Size: 2

Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard    Strenuous
Hawley Grade to Camp Sacramento Route
See video of this hike   See video of hike   Download GPXGPX for this trip
Donner Summit Mt. Judah Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 47.638, W 120 01.258     End Coordinates:   N 38 48.233, W 120 07.051
Car Shuttle Req'd:   Yes Parking Directions:   Take Highway 50 to S. Upper Truckee Road.  Turn south and head down approximately 3.6 miles to the entrace to the Hawley Grade National Recreation trail.  If the gate is closed, then park off the road in this area.  Otherwise, continue up the road for 1/10 of a mile to the parking area at the coordinates listed.  The end parking coordinates are at the parking area for Mt. Ralston, across from Camp Sacramento on the north side of the highway.
Hazards of Note:   A small section of the hike from the top of Hawley Grade to the PCT parking area are a walk along Highway 50.  At the end, Highway 50 needs to be crossed from Camp Sacramento to the parking area at the Mt. Ralston trailhead. Crowd Factor:   Moderate.  This is a well-publicized trail for South Lake Tahoe and the Hawley Grade section only (2 miles up and 2 miles down) is an easy and popular day hike.  The area from Echo Summit to the Highway 50 crossing for the PCT and the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) can see a good number of hikers in the summer.  The last section to Camp Sacramento will have the fewest number of other hikers potentially on the trail.
General Notes:
From the start parking area, follow the road south for a short distance until you get to a trail to the right which begins the Hawley Grade trail.  This first section, about 2 miles up to Echo Summit are all at a fairly constant and moderate uphill grade.  One mile in there is a section of trail which will be impassable in spring and early summer, due to the amount of water flowing down and across the rocks on the trail, making this the turn-around point for the hike during these conditions.    As the trail nears the top of Echo Summit, the views to Lake Tahoe open up significantly, as well as views to the east to Christmas Valley and south toward Stephens Peak.  
At the Echo Summit the trail actually becomes Highway 50 for a short distance, until you reach the PCT and TRT trailhead at the Echo Summit Adventure center.  This trail parallels Highway 50 for about a mile, until the PCT/TRT turns north and heads across Highway 50.  The trail you are on follows the dirt road which heads eventually all the way up to Scout Peak for a time, before a signed Pony Express marker near the number "5" marker on the Scout Peak road puts you back on single track trail once again.
This next section takes you to a junction with the paved Sierra-at-Tahoe access road, which you cross and then pick up the Pony Express trail on the other side.  Some of this next section is dirt access road for maintenance vehicles at the ski resort, until you cross under the West End Chairlift, and then pick up the single track trail again on the right side, which will lead you all the way to a final, unmarked junction just past the site of Camp Sacramento (you are well above it at this point.)  Take this junction to the right and head all the way into Camp Sacramento and then across the highway to the parking area at the end.

Fall colors on the S Upper Truckee Road near the parking area make this a great addition to this hike during this time of year.   Fall color
The sign for the parking area you are looking for, which a gate that might be closed.  In this case, park just to the side on the road at the location. Start of the hike 
An old well off to the side of the trail within the first 500 feet of the hike.  You quickly angle up and gain elevation above some US Forest Service leased cabins. Old well 
Christmas Valley comes into view as the trail makes its way gradually up toward Echo Summit. Christmas Valley
Mark looking for a geocache that has been in the area since 2002, and when found had its lid rusted shut. Looking for a cache 
Looking down on the trail from the geocache site, also showing the elevation which we have already gained in just the first mile. Trail from above
Some of the colors visible in Christmas Valley from the trail. Christmas Valley color
The waterfall area that makes the rest of the hike impassable in the spring and early summer.   The waterfall area
Looking east toward Waterhouse Peak from the trail. Views toward the east
Just a hint of Lake Tahoe to the north is visible from the upper section of trail, including Mt. Rose in the distance. Lake Tahoe to the north     
The forest service sign at the top of the Hawley Grade trail.  From here you can head back down to make this a little over 4 mile out and back trek. Top of Hawley Grade
Just off the trail at the Echo Summit Adventure Center parking area we discovered this hand crafted sign announcing the site location. Sign
Along the upper Pony Express trail section past Echo Summit is a view of the Mt. Ralston ridgeline, where you can see Becker Peak, Talking Mountain, and then even a hint of Mt. Ralston in the furthest distance. Ralston Range
Three bridges cross water on this section of trail, including this first one from the east which crosses the still-flowing Alder Creek even this late in the fall. One of three
Mark checking out more of the incredible colors wee were able to check out in various areas along the trail. More color
A look northeast toward Monument and Freel Peaks from the section of trail cutting through the middle of Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort. Views
A pretty amazing sliced rock along the way showing the sheer power of water and ice on granite. Sandwich rock
Third of the three bridges that we crossed nearing Camp Sacramento, and this one was the longest and the only metal one.   Third of three
GPX image of the hike. GPS track of hike