Back to index Wade Peak (via Horsethief Canyon) Hike
Trip Date:  09/09/2014

: 10.8 Miles

Vertical Gain: 3262'

Group Size: 2

Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard    Strenuous
Wade Peak Route
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Wade Peak Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 46.671, W 119 53.088     End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates  
Car Shuttle Req'd:   No Parking Directions:   Take Highway 88 east toward Markleeville and Woodfords.  Just a couple of miles past Sorenson's resort on the south side of the road, turn into the dirt parking area on the north side at the coordinates to find the trailhead for Horsethief Canyon.
Hazards of Note:   Steep incline on the first part of the hike.  Significant cross-country route finding skills will be necessary after you leave the trail and head toward Wade Peak.  A large amount of manzanita and other sharp scrub brush will need to be crossed through as well in both directions.

Crowd Factor:   Limited to none.  Heading up the first part of the hike on the Horsethief Canyon trail you will probably run into a hiker or two, but once you go cross country and head toward Wade Peak, you will most likely encounter nobody.
General Notes:
From the parking area in the dirt parking lot, the trailhead can be found at the eastern side of the area.  Head up the trail, and almost immediately you will enounter the start of a long climb, with granite lined switchbacks helping you cover over 1000' of elevation gain in just the first mile.  Once you reach the top of the canyon where it starts to level off, the path is easier going.  You will pass through a cattle gate that needs to remain shut after going through it, and then you will find two different intersections where a small sign points you toward the way that simply says "Trail."  At the second sign, where the trail heads left toward Freel and Road 51, turn right up an old dirt road, and follow that for as far as you can.  From this point on you will be cross-country all the way to the peak, and it is a long, difficult scramble through unforgiving vegetation.  There is a peak above you that you can skirt around either to the left or the right, but be aware that past this peak is another drop down into a forested area before once again making the final assault on the peak ahead.
The summit of Wade Peak is a rocky climb, and approaching from the Northwest side seemed to offer the least resistance.  On the way back down the mountain, we skirted around the unnamed peak mentioned before on the right, and actually spotted a number of old tree blazes indicating a non-longer recognizable path, but continued searching may reveal more of these headed somewhere.  Continue on this path back toward the original canyon, and after you drop back down toward a meadow seen far below, you will pick up the "Trail" about 3/4 of the way back down.  Head south on this and it will take you back to the junction where you originally left the path and back down Horsethief Canyon.

Mark headed up into Horsethief Canyon in the early morning sunlight. Starting out early on the trail
Looking back down the early part of the Canyon trail, toward the small town of Woodfords in the far distance. Looking back 
Apparently Horsethief Canyon is fed by a very active spring, as it was late in the summer and this flow was still raging all the way down the mountain. This much water?!?
Heading up the canyon the rock formations all around us were very impressive.  Even this one early before the sun had even come up over it. Formation
Hawkins Peak was clearly visible most of the way up, and from the peak later you could even see the communications building with its solar roof below the summit. Hawkins Peak
As we continued our cross-country climb, the views back into the Carson Pass area just got better and better. Views toward Carson Pass
There was a little bit of haze in the air from the Yosemite fires, but the views even opened up toward Raymond and Reynolds peaks far to the south. Raymond and Reynolds
One advantage to cross-country trekking are finds like this amazing rock formation.  Especially the one perched precariously on top. Interesting rocks
After a couple of miles of cross country, with still another mile to go, Wade Peak (on the left) finally presented itself to us. Finally, Wade appears
It wasn't easy, but we did manage to get to the top.  In the summit register can was a sheet of paper to memorialize the occasion, so I did! Made it!
To the north, the grand view we had looked toward Freel (highest in the Tahoe area,) Job's Sister (2nd highest,) and Job's Peaks.  Hadn't seen this angle of the mountains before. Freel, Job's Sister, and Job's Peaks from left to right
As a stark contrast to where we had been most of the day, the dry Carson Valley of Nevada was visible to the east. Into Nevada
There was a little bit of rock scrambling at the top, but nothing too terribly difficult. On the way down
We did have to put the poles away, however to make sure we navigated back down the summit block successfully. Climbing down
The reward for getting down from the summit block successfully was another couple of miles of manzanita and forest cross country trekking.  Yay. More climbing
But in the end it is always worth the effort, and a toast to my dad from a spot he would have enjoyed. A toast...
GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike