Shealor Lake, pearl of the Sierra Nevada
June 28, 2007
Hiking trails often lead to the top of a mountain where the views are panoramic. Others wind down to mountain lakes, nestled amid walls of granite.
The trail at Shealor Lake does both, giving hikers an awesome view of Silver Lake and Thunder Mountain (at Kirkwood) and an inviting view of much small Shealor. We’ve hiked this trail several times thinking its name was Sheraton Lake.
But a new sign makes it definite. You’ll spot the sign on the right on Highway 88 one mile west of Kay’s Resort. Not much warning, so take it slow once near Silver Lake on the other side of the highway.
The trailhead parking area has been worked on recently and is now paved with about 20 parking slots. As you enter the lot the trailhead is off to the right or east side.
A warning: The trailhead is not marked and could be mistaken for just woods. But it’s there. Do not make my mistake and take what might be taken for the trailhead on the left. I did once when things at the trailhead were in a state of construction and I paid for it by having to bushwhack through thick manzanita and brush and scramble over rocky heights. Wearing shorts was a mistake that day.
It’s a mile and a half up and then down to the lake, almost all of it over rock surfaces with small forests. There may be a trail, but the only way I ever descended after hitting the ridge overlooking everything was by following the cairns. There are more piled up rocks serving as cairns here than at any other hiking trail I’ve tried, many of them almost works of art.
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Once you’ve made it to the ridge the whole area spreads out before you. Some magnificent, weathered trees dot the rocks, and down below the green dots the granite. The lake is blue and inviting from the ridge, backed as it is with sheer walls of granite.
You can ignore the cairns and just wander along the flat rocks going down; coming back it’s wise to follow the marked route. There’s a long, flat section of the trail once you get to the lake level; it leads to lakeside. If it’s been hot on the trail down, the air around the lake is cooling. You’ve gone up to 7,600 feet and down to 7,250 feet by the time you’ve reached the lake.
This is not a large lake, perhaps 150 yards by 300 yards, and its depth is not known, at least by me. But it is blue with brush along the west shore and clear rocks on the east and largely protected from westerly winds. There are two more lakes down the valley from Shealor, but we didn’t explore them.
For those who want to camp here and enjoy a night sky uncluttered by ambient light, there’s a camping grove in a clump of trees at the north end of the lake. It’s not quite backcountry camping, but there are no facilities and everything has to be carried down that rocky trail.
Last time I was there a family was camping in the grove, and they had lugged down an inflatable rig and were enjoying floating about the lake. Most of the times I’ve been there I’ve been alone, but the area is becoming more popular as people staying at Kirkwood are given maps to the place.
What can one say about a place of such tranquil beauty? You climb up, you climb down and you dangle your feet in the water or skinny dip, depending on the audience. You’ve not climbed an important peak, you’ll never be able to brag about it. But spending one night there, with the Milky Way splendid across the heavens, is as close as one can get to mountain peace.
• Contact reporter Sam Bauman at email@example.com or 881-1236.