Liberty Pass, Lamoille Lake, Liberty Lake, Favre Lake,
Castle Lake, Lake Peak & Wines Peak: A Central Ruby Mts Tour


Location:Ruby Mountain Wilderness in the Ruby Mountains, south of Elko, Nevada
Access: From I-80 at Elko, NV, take Exit 303 and head west on Business I-80 through Elko. (Thereís a Starbucks in the Red Lion Casino if you need it after your long drive).  Turn left (southeast) on 5th St, which becomes Hwy 227. Head southeast on Hwy 227 through Spring Creek and Lamoille for 18 miles and turn south on Lamoille Canyon Rd (660). Head south 12.2 miles through Lamoille Canyon to the end of the road and park.
Maps: USGS Ruby Dome quad; USFS map Ruby Mts and East Humboldt Wildernesses, available from any Humboldt National Forest office
Trailhead: UTM NAD83 zone 11 637334e 4496098n 8800'
Trail: The trails are well-signed and maintained throughout, though steep in many places. The route described below does not stick to trails the entire time. A trip to Lake and Wines Peak via Liberty Pass is a 17.8 mile round-trip with about 5700 ft elevation gain.
Dogs: This area would be great for dogs.  I can't recall what the dog regulations are, but I saw many canine hikers while I was there.
Fees: None
Weather: National Weather Service Forecast
              Snow Info from LMON2 Station near the trailhead
              Snow map centered on Favre Lake (put in the right date)

July 31, 2009
From Salt Lake City, it took me 4.5 hours to get to the End of the Road Trailhead within the steep rock walls of Lamoille Canyon, and I was on the trail at 12:15 under a great, sunny sky. There were quite a few other folks around, but most were dayhikers whom I supposed were making Lamoille Lake their destination for the afternoon. The trail to Dollar and Lamoille Lakes was wide and well-marked, with plenty of switchbacks to keep the grade modest up the 1500 feet to Liberty Pass.  The route began in open meadows with plenty of sun, but then entered a fairly thick forest of limber pine as it made its way up to the head of the wide canyon, getting closer all the time to the steep rocky walls gouged out long ago by glaciers. After passing the Dollar Lakes, the flowers really became noticeable, and I was pretty impressed with the sunflowers, especially. I kept trucking up to Lamoille Lake, where two tents and a multitude of fishermen lined the lake. Looked like a nice lake, but I was anxious to get over Liberty Pass, so I didnít stop. 
The trail above Lamoille Lake steepened considerably, and the trees petered out until it was just open, rocky tundra. I passed by a couple of dayhikers reinforcing their sunscreen near the top, but otherwise, the traffic really went down to almost nothing beyond Lamoille Lake. At 1:45, I reached Liberty Pass, and removed my pack for a few minutes of relaxation in the shade of a stunted limber pine. It was hot, and I had to wipe sweat off my face with my bandana. A chipmunk boldly tried invading my pack while I sat next to it, and I had to shoo him off. Putting my pack back on pressed my cold, sweaty shirt to my back and I grimaced at the unpleasantness.
I hiked on down the far side of Liberty Pass, enjoying the views of numerous peaks to the south. The trail skirted around the west side of Liberty Lake as it descended, and I saw a tent set up on the southeast edge of the lake. I reached a trail junction: Ruby Crest Trail x Favre Lake Trail. My map showed no Favre Lake Trail, though that was generally where I was headed, but I decided to stick to the plan and continued south on the Ruby Crest Trail. I learned later that the Favre Lake Trail is a short side trail that swings east around Favre Lake and rejoins the Ruby Crest Trail further south near Kleckner Creek. 

I headed downhill through lush grass, flowers and sparse limber pines towards Favre Lake. I took the turnoff for the lake, and noticed a few horses grazing in the meadow above the lake. A few guys had their tent set up not far from the Favre Lake outlet. I passed by with a wave and hiked east along the south shore of the lake, passing by another tent with no occupant around. I kept an eye out for a trail up to Castle Lake, but I didnít see one, so as I neared the eastern edge of Favre Lake, I simply turned south and headed up the steep, heavily-wooded slope to Castle Lake. 

Castle Lake is a bit smaller than Favre Lake, but it definitely seems much shallower. There is no part of the lake you canít see the bottom of if you stand higher up on the surrounding cliffs. The lake sits in a great-looking cirque with barren rock walls, topped by Lake Peak on the east side. The summit of Lake Peak is not visible from the lake, but it is if you hike up just a bit on the western side of the lake to get some elevation. 

I poked around the wooded northern shore and found a great spot about 50 yards from the lake amongst a thick grove of very large limber pine to set up my tent. I tried to set it up so that it would be shaded most of the afternoon, and thereby stay cool in case I wanted to nap after tomorrow morningís hike. Fire rings in the area attested to the use of this lake by campers, maybe hunters.  I  unpacked my gear, hung my food and ventured down to the lake to dip some water into my canvas bucket. I hauled that back to camp and washed my face, arms and chest. Very refreshing.  Then I grabbed my book and settled back to rest for awhile. I hadnít been in camp more than an hour, relaxing against a nice, sloping pine trunk, when a small buck came walking right between me and the tent, seemingly oblivious of me, though I know that canít be. He walked slowly through, and disappeared in the thick willows near the lake. I noted with great pleasure that there were no mosquitoes about at all. Not one. Very unusual. After sitting and reading for a  bit, afternoon drowsiness set in so I took a 1-hr siesta in the tent. After a delicious nap, I got up around 5:30 and walked around to the east side of the lake and higher up to the sound of running water. I found a nice little waterfall with cold, clear water to filter. The lake water probably would be just as fine, but it was quite a bit warmer than the small stream.  As I approached the water and the wet, boggy ground around the stream, the mosquitoes came out to feed, so there are at least some of those little buggers around.  Nothing worse than being bitten all over but having both hands occupied so you canít swat them away. I filtered water as quickly as I could and hightailed it back to the dryer areas around camp where there were no bugs. 

I anticipated thunderstorms in the afternoon, but the sky stayed clear. I had originally planned on trying to climb Lake Peak from this side of the mountain, but after examining the craggy ridge leading to it from the north, and the steep, scree-covered slope on the west side, I decided Iíd better hike around and try it from the south, where the slope didnít look quite so steep on the topo map.  It was 7:00 by then, which was too late to start such a hike.  Instead, I hiked up the western side of the cirque to a ridge that overlooked the pass between Favre and Furlong Lakes.  It was a steep climb up an open slope with just a few trees scattered about, but the walk was worth it. From the ridge, the mountains to the west were visible, including Ruby Dome. An interesting arch in a rock fin jutting out from the ridge I stood on framed the sunset nicely. I puttered around along the ridgeline until after sunset, noting the fresh mountain goat droppings but seeing no goats. I sat near the arch in the still, quiet air of evening and watched surrounding peaks for half an hour or so, scanning for the white fleecy coats of those elusive mountain goats, but I didnít see any. As dark descended, I scampered back down the slope to the tent, arriving in almost complete darkness around 8:45. Bats flitted about amongst the pines. I grabbed my headlamp and washed my socks and shirt in the water bucket, hanging them on a line strung between two nearby trees.  I slid into the small tent and read my book for a bit before feeling cool enough to fall asleep. 

August 1, 2009
I set my alarm for around 5:30, but when it went off, I snoozed blissfully until 6:15 when the sun came out. I ate some cereal at camp, packed some stuff, and left camp at 6:45. It was a clear, beautiful morning, though a bit breezy. I retraced my steps from the prior evening up to the ridgeline west of Castle Lake, and descended a bit on the west face, and followed it around as it curled to the east, putting me on the south face of the slope amongst pines and steep runs of scree. I stayed as high up on the slope as possible, often getting chances to look over the rim down into the Castle Lake Cirque. This was a very fun route to take, and I was glad I decided on it. I continued as close to the rim as possible, often hiking right on the rim, until I reached Lake Peak at 8:25. I was the only human in sight, and I spent 20 minutes enjoying the summit. The Ruby Mountains are such a narrow mountain chain that from a high peak like this, you can see the flat valleys stretch off both to the east and west, effectively allowing you to see the entire mountain range from one spot. The views to the horizon were obscured, however, by a gray haze, presumably fire smoke.  I surveyed the north and east approaches to the summit, and decided that the south approach is really the only Class II route.  For some reason there were hundreds of flies at the summit, but I couldnít figure out what they were there for. Did I stink that bad only one day into my trip?

I left the summit at 8:50 and headed south along the forested ridgeline towards the Wines Peak Saddle.  As the terrain flattened out between Lake and Wines Peaks, the trees ended and I walked through an open tundra of low-growing grasses, lupines and cushion forbs.  This plain descended gradually to the west, but dropped off precipitously to the east. It was from this direction that I heard a clattering of soft hooves on rock and some clattering stones dropping away. I looked over to see 2 large mountain goats nimbly leaping up the near-vertical face of the drop to the plain behind me, and on up into the trees towards Lake Peak. I snapped a few photographs, but I had my short lens on and I was facing the sun to see them, so they are hardly wall-mounting material. I was, nevertheless, pleased to see a mountain goat for the first time. 

At the lowest part of the saddle, I took a break and sat at the overhang of the drop. I took off my socks to dry them and removed my new super-duper insoles because the arch support was giving my foot a blister.  Moving on, I headed right towards Wines Peak, and in the process caught a trail heading in the same direction. The slope was minor, so the trail was easy going all the way up. I climbed a point to the east of the trail, but when I got there I could see it wasnít the true summit. So, I headed west to the highpoint and reached it at 10:15. Lots of flies here, too, for some reason. I only noticed them on the summits.  It was getting very warm, and large cumulous clouds were floating in. Just as I was leaving the summit, 2 guys showed up from the south where they had been hiking the Ruby Crest Trail. They were out of water and anxious to find some. I offered them some of mine, but when they learned that  ? Creek and ? Lake were just down the trail, they said they could wait. I left them at the summit and headed on down that way to ? Creek. 

The trail slid down the grassy tundra into the forest, and I veered off the trail to find a spot to eat lunch at 11:15. I found a shady, grassy spot under an enormous limber pine, and ate a nice meal of crackers, tuna, chocolate and water. While I sat there, the two fellows I saw at Wines Peak summit passed by 200 yards away on the trail, not seeing me. A third guy followed behind them with a dog. Shortly after, I resumed the trail, and passed these three again at the creek where they were filtering water. 

I reached the pass over into the next drainage, and headed down a long trail, with what seemed like an unnecessary amount of switchbacks, to Farve Lake.  At Favre Lake, I crossed the outlet stream and headed towards the lake and then up to Castle Lake. I reached camp at 1:15. Sweaty, salty and hot, I immediately stripped down and took a full-body bath in the canvas bucket (How to Take a Bath in One Gallon of Water, by Sam Cox), glancing around often to see if anyone was coming. This is a pretty remote spot, so I didnít expect any company.  I dried off with a washcloth, and then got dressed in nice, dry, clean-smelling clothes. I then washed my salty clothes and hung them to dry. Big clouds rolled in, and I thought it would certainly rain, but it did not. 

I retrieved my book and sat against a wide log to read. Contrary to my estimation that I would see no other people up this way, three men dressed in camoflauge came stalking through quietly with bows. I didnít think it was hunting season yet, but maybe Nevada is different than Wyoming.  I took a trip up to filter water, and ate some more tuna and crackers (Salt!). I finished my book, which was a bad thing, because I was too tired to attempt any more hikes even if the weather didnít look like imminent rain. I napped about 30 minutes to shake a minor headache, but that didnít work. I think I just lost too much salt on the hike.  It sprinkled a bit around 7:00, and the wind blew in great gusts, but then it passed and left a hot, still evening. I really should have brought another book. I got in the tent around 8:00 and tried to fall asleep as quickly as possible.

August 2, 2009
I woke up at 6:00, and when I glanced out the mosquito netting of the tent, the cirque was glowing orange in the rising sun and looked phenomenal. I threw on my pants, shirt and unzipped the tent with my camera in hand to trot out of the trees and photograph the amazing light, but by the time I got in position, the thin break in the clouds that had let the early-morning sun in had closed, leaving the cirque in a dull, dark gray. I returned to the tent and fell back asleep.  I let myself sleep without a plan, waking only when the sun begancooking my tent at 7:20 after it peeked above the stubborn cloud band to the east. I ate breakfast, packed up camp and left by 7:55. 

Instead of heading back the way Iíd come in, I went around the east side of Favre Lake, staying in the shade of the ridge and enjoying the riotous wildflowers on the steep slope. I eventually intersected the Favre Lake Trail, and followed that uphill to Liberty Lake, where 3 groups of backpackers had their tents pitched around the lake. Busy place. The sun was out in full, and the day was clear and warm. Very enjoyable. I sweated up the dusty trail to a nice perch above Liberty Lake, took a few parting photographs, and then turned north and slipped over Liberty Pass. 

I cruised downhill quickly, past Lamoille Lake, and into the thicker woods beyond, where I stopped opposite one of the shallow Dollar Lakes for a snack at around 9:45. It was a breezy morning, and in the shade where I sat, shirt soaked with sweat, kind of chilly. I kicked off my boots and let my socks dry a bit, and closed my eyes for a few minutes. When I opened them again, I was struck by how much green there was all around. Green grass, green lake water, green pines, green willows. So much green.

I hopped back on the trail and ambled comfortably down, passing lots of hikers on their way up for a day at Lamoille Lake, until I reached the parking lot. I threw my pack in the car, changed shoes, and sucked down a Coke from the cooler that was still surprisingly cold. It was still early in the day, so I prepared my day pack for another hike, and thatís a whole other trip report, friend.

North Furlong Lake and FurlongCreek from Wines Peak
North Furlong Lake and Furlong Creek from Wines Peak

On the trail to Wines Peakwith Lake Peak on the horizon (center right)
On the trail to Wines Peak with Lake Peak on the horizon (center right)

Wines Peak as clouds rollin
Wines Peak as clouds roll in

Stalwart limber pines onthe dry slopes
Stalwart limber pines on the dry slopes

The pass into the KlecknerCreek drainage
The pass into the Kleckner Creek drainage

Afternoon storms at CastleLake
Afternoon storms at Castle Lake

Gleaming morning at campnext to Castle Lake
Gleaming morning at camp next to Castle Lake

Favre Lake
Favre Lake

Peak 11,032 from the slopesnorth of Favre Lake
Peak 11,032 from the slopes north of Favre Lake

Liberty Lake and Pass
Liberty Lake and Pass

In the Dollar Lakes area up towards Liberty Pass
In the Dollar Lakes area up towards Liberty Pass

The trail to Liberty Pass,Snow Lake Peak on the horizon
The trail to Liberty Pass, Snow Lake Peak on the horizon

Looking north from LibertyPass and Snow Lake Peak
Looking north from Liberty Pass and Snow Lake Peak 

Liberty Lake, with LakePeak (left) and the tip of Wines Peak (center)
Liberty Lake, with Lake Peak (left) and the tip of Wines Peak (center)

Wildflowers above LibertyLake
Wildflowers above Liberty Lake

Liberty Lake
Liberty Lake

Trail down to Favre Lake
Trail down to Favre Lake

Favre Lake and Lake Peak
Favre Lake and Lake Peak

Peak 11,032 aboveFavre Lake
Peak 11,032 above Favre Lake

Castle Lake
Castle Lake

Castle Lake and Lake Peak
Castle Lake and Lake Peak

Rugged cirque above CastleLake
Rugged cirque above Castle Lake

Evening on the rocks aboveCastle Lake
Evening on the rocks above Castle Lake

Jagged ridgeline above CastleLake
Jagged ridgeline above Castle Lake

Castle Lake and Lake Peakat sunset
Castle Lake and Lake Peak at sunset

Castle Lake and northernRuby Mts at sunset
Castle Lake and northern Ruby Mts at sunset

Sunset from Castle Lake,looking west towards Ruby Dome
Sunset from Castle Lake, looking west towards Ruby Dome

Arch above Castle Lake
Arch above Castle Lake

The beautiful Castle Lakecirque
The beautiful Castle Lake cirque

Early morning in the CastleLake Cirque
Early morning in the Castle Lake Cirque

Castle Arch above CastleLake
Castle Arch above Castle Lake

The view from Lake Peak:Looking down on Castle and Favre Lakes,with Ruby Dome on the far left
The view from Lake Peak: Looking down on 
Castle and Favre Lakes, with Ruby Dome on the far left

Summit of Lake Peak on ahazy morning
Summit of Lake Peak on a hazy morning

Wines Peak from south faceof Lake Peak
Wines Peak from south face of Lake Peak

The rocky plain betweenLake and Wines Peaks
The rocky plain between Lake and Wines Peaks

Heading south to Wines Peakacross the barren saddle
Heading south to Wines Peak across the barren saddle

Mountain goat encounters,this one was the last of 3
Mountain goat encounters, this one was the last of 3

Lupines on the flank ofWines Peak
Lupines on the flank of Wines Peak

Lake Peak and Wines Peak
Lake Peak and Wines Peak from the pass out of Furlong Creek drainage
 

Dropping down into the Kleckner Creek Drainage
 

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