Back to index Little Round Top to Lover's Leap

Trip Date:  09/01/2017

: 11.2 Miles

Vertical Gain: 2600'

Group Size: 3
Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard   Strenuous
LRT to Lover's Leap
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LRT to Lover's Leap Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 43.538, W 120 02.843     End Coordinates:   N 38 48.228, W 120 07.050
Car Shuttle Req'd:   Yes
Parking Directions:   Take Highway 88 to the turnoff to Schneider Cow Camp Rd on the north side of the road signed "Caples Lake Maintenance Station.   Pass the Caltrans buildings on your right and turn right onto Strawberry Creek Rd.  Continue on this rough, dirt road to the coordinates where there is parking for a few vehicles on your right.
For the end of the hike parking location,
take Highway 50 to the parking area at the coordinates provided which are just across the highway from Camp Sacramento.  If Camp Sacramento is open, you can drive up the access road and park in a designated area just across the bridge on your left.
Hazards of Note:   Once you turn off of the trail around Little Round Top to head north, this is a mostly unknown route which may require good route-finding skills for areas of this hike.  Stay on the ridgeline and don't be tempted by a couple of side trails which head to the west toward Strawberry Canyon 4WD trail.

Crowd Factor:   Negligible for the ridgeline between the start and end of the hike.  Moderate for around Little Round Top and potentially high for around Lover's Leap.
General Notes:
Technically this trail can be hiked in either direction, but the first mile and a half along the ridgeline past Lover's Leap gains so much elevation so quickly that the recommendation is to hike south to north (from Little Round Top to Lover's Leap.)  Head up past Schneider Cow Camp as far as you can get, until the road becomes too rugged and washed out for a larger vehicle to negotiate.  The start of the trail which spurs off this road is the Little Round Top Trail, which immediately begins a gradual uphill climb which will top out at just over 400 feet in elevation over the first mile.  This trail takes you around the back side (north side) of Little Round Top, passing through forest with a few good views back toward Carson Pass and Kirkwood.  Behind Little Round Top you will see the gentle slope to the top which defines the south and west areas of the peak is no longer active, with high cliffs above the trail being what would challenge access to the top from this side.  
A couple miles into this route, before you hit the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT,) there is a use trail off to the north side which is not signed but does have a marker indicating "No Motorized Vehicles" past this point.  This is the trail which you will turn off onto, and for much of the way to Lover's Leap the trail is relatively well defined for something which is on very few maps.  However, it is easy to lose the trail at the meadow a half mile further on, so just make sure to stay as high on the ridgeline as possible in this location to avoid dropping down into the canyons on either side of this ridge.  5 miles into the hike you will emerge from the forest, with spectacular views all around as you traverse a large, open area for another mile.  There are old fenceposts laying on the ground in this area, with barbed wire still attached.  The trail continues on and gradually drops back in forested areas, with some amazing granite rock formations along the way.  
The last mile before you reach Lover's Leap is an extremely steep slope down, as you drop over 1100' in this mile.   Once you reach Lover's Leap you head down the trail to the east, finishing up at the parking area at Camp Sacramento (or across the road at the Mt. Ralston parking area.)

The Little Round Top Trail which starts just to the northwest of Schneider Cow Camp.
Heading up LRT trail

Looking up toward Little Round Top from the Northwest of the peak. 
Looking toward LRT from Northwest

Granite debris melded with volcanic basalt in this area which was formed as a combination of both.
Volcanic evidence

Mark and Greg B headed through a large area filled with late season wildflowers almost directly north of the LRT peak.
Through the flowers

Another look at the wildflower area with a partially obscured by smoke view of Desolation Wilderness to the north, the direction we will soon be heading.
Another look

This junction and small vertical sign are what you will be looking for to start the ridgeline section of this hike.  If you miss this you will then dead-end into the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) about a half mile further.  
Key junction    

Just about 1/2 mile north of the junction onto the ridge trail was a large, open meadow which appears to be nameless on any available maps.  It also was still filled with wildflowers on this early September day.
Unnamed meadow

After a few miles of forest-dominated hiking the trail emerges onto an open area of the ridgeline, where you are provided great views in all directions for quite a ways.  
Heading into the open 

Although it was getting smokier throughout this day from wildfires burning in California and Oregon, Desolation Wilderness was still a special sight.
Desolation Wilderness

A unique perspective of Jack's Peak and Lake Aloha below were afforded to us from this vantagepoint along the ridge.
Jack's and Aloha

Yours truly stopped along the open ridgeline with Horsetail Falls and Desolation Wilderness in the background.
Yours truly on the ridge

For a good distance we actually followed old fenceline along the top of this bare ridgeline.
Following fenceline

All of us stopped for lunch about halfway through the trip at a great overlook area of Sayles Canyon to the East and Sierra-at-Tahoe's back side lift area on the next ridgeline over.
Lunch break 1/2 way through

The view into Sayles Canyon from the lunch spot looking east toward where the PCT traverses the furthest ridgeline in the distance. Sayles Canyon

This section of trail as we began to get closer to Highway 50 had some interesting granite rock formations, as well as evidence of a previous settlement of some type based on black squares on the topo map and apparently randomly cut trees throughout an open area.
Rock formations

Pancake rocks just before the steep dropoff which also now support a geocache placed by our group.
Pancake rocks
A quick look at the steepness of the trail we were heading down during the toughest elevation gain/loss of the trip.
Looking down at the narrow ribbon of Highway 50 from the trail shows just how much elevation is still to be given up over a short mile.
Brief look down
A very short detour off the trail at Lover's Leap provides a great look down into the Highway 50 canyon and Pyramid Peak beyond.
Lover's Leap
Mark heading down the Lover's Leap trail toward Camp Sacramento.
Lover's Leap Trail
Although it is considered invasive in some areas (not here) this bloom of Foxglove was pretty amazing.

GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike