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Mt. Elwell

Gain stunning views above the Lakes Basin area from the summit of Mt. Elwell.

Hiking Difficult

13 km
663 m
663 m
3-4 hrs
Low Point
2 km
High Point
2.4 km
Mt. Elwell Map

The hike to Mt. Elwell's summit begins at a relatively nondescript trailhead in the Lakes Basin area, yet it leads to an unbelievably beautiful reward!


After just a short distance, the trees will open up as you begin passing many of the iconic lakes in the basin, such as Big Bear Lake and Long Lake. Stop and enjoy the views, but when you start moving again, keep your eyes on the singletrack. The Lakes Basin trails are filled with boulders, roots, loose gravel, and rolling babyheads, requiring careful hiking and maybe even the occasional hand for scrambling.

The main climb up the flanks of Elwell follows a well-built singletrack trail that is, all things considered, relatively smooth. While this hike undoubtedly gains some respectable elevation and may test your fitness, this might be one of the smoothest summit trails you’ll find. Thanks to the smooth terrain, you’ll be able to keep your head up and enjoy the stunning vistas as you climb high above the lakes that you just hiked along earlier.

Once on top of the peak, your effort will be rewarded with stupendous views of the Lake Basin and the surrounding Sierras! Be sure to scramble up one of the small rock outcroppings for an even better perspective, and enjoy a snack while you soak in the view.

Once done, return to your car the way you came. Alternatively, you could turn this hike into a loop, but it’s best to plan that in advance. For the loop option, check out this trail running route.



Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.


4 out of 4

In the high mountains or remote conditions, all individuals must be completely autonomous in every situation.

Best time to visit

between July and September


  • Alpine
  • Picturesque
  • Summit Hike
  • Water features

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area