FATMAP difficulty grade
This run 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 a few miles working your way up a small valley, 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 running 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 run 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. The route mapped here descends the opposite side of the peak, providing a unique opportunity to bag a summit with out the standard out-and-back route style.
The descent off the backside is steep, fast, and technical with quite a bit of variety.
The trail begins with some tight, challenging rock features and rock gardens up top, but after a couple hundred yards, it opens up and is noticeably less challenging.
As you descend, you’ll encounter entertaining slickrock slabs to run down. As you continue descending, the trail opens up into some wide-open straightaways that allow you to open up your stride and absolutely blaze down the mountainside! Before you know it, you’ll be back down at the bottom, asking yourself, “how is it over so quickly?"