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2020-07-16  
Soldier Basin Trail to Hidden Lakes, NV
mini location map2020-07-16
23 by photographer avatarOregon_Hiker
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Soldier Basin Trail to Hidden Lakes, NV 
Soldier Basin Trail to Hidden Lakes, NV
 
Hiking avatar Jul 16 2020
Oregon_Hiker
Hiking11.87 Miles 2,831 AEG
Hiking11.87 Miles   11 Hrs   2 Mns   1.36 mph
2,831 ft AEG   2 Hrs   18 Mns Break15 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Partners none no partners
The trailhead for this hike in the north end of the Ruby Mountains is located at the end of a dirt road, FR335. The road crosses about 2 miles of private property from its intersection with county road 703 before entering Soldier Creek Canyon. After entering the canyon it's about a 2.4 mile drive on the narrow one lane but 2WD capable dirt road to the parking area for the trailhead. This TH is equipped with the standard Forest Service outhouse which appears to be occasionally cleaned. Crossing the creek is required to begin the hike and may require wading but the water level was low enough and rocks piled high enough to allow crossing without wading when I was there. The road continues beyond this point but driving on it is prohibited based on the Forest Service Motor Vehicle Use Map I downloaded from the internet before starting this trip. It's obvious that many vehicles ignore this restriction and cross the creek continuing about another mile to the absolute end of the road where there is a nice secluded and shaded campsite. However large embedded rocks in the road at the creek crossing require high clearance 4WD and I decided not to risk it with my FJ Cruiser. Dispersed camping is allowed along the road in the canyon but I only saw 3 to 4 campsites and none of them had any significant shade. I picked the site closest to the TH (1/4 mile) and managed to get the backend of my car squeezed into the small patch of shade under a lone pine tree where I camped for 2 nights. There were no other campers in the canyon during those 2 nights.

I camped overnight at the dispersed campsite near the TH before starting on the hike the next day. Hoof beats on the ground outside my car woke me up during the night but I never saw the critters and didn't see any hoof tracks around camp the next morning - maybe I was dreaming (it's happened before). The trail follows the 4x4 track for about a mile after crossing the creek before reaching what used to be the TH gate back when the road could be driven all the way to its end. There was a Ruby High Lakes Angler Drop Box located at the gate and a back country angler had left a record of trout caught over a 2 day period 3 days ago at Cold Lake. The fishing was good for 11" to 13" trout. Cold Lake is at the end of the Middle Fork Cold Creek which is located across 3 canyons south of this Drop Box. That fisher-person either backpacked or horse packed some serious distance.

The trail follows Soldier Creek up a narrow canyon to reach Soldier Basin. The creek banks are so crammed with brush that getting to or even seeing the creek along this stretch is next to impossible. Water falls could frequently be heard but not seen. After about 2 miles the canyon opens up and the creek becomes visible. The trail levels out and maintains a moderate incline as it follows the creek through Soldier Basin. Trees are few to none along this stretch with wide open views of the Basin. Water is easily accessible along this stretch of the trail as it is on many of the Ruby trails so I only carried 2 liters of water and a lightweight filter for refilling as needed. Almost like being back in the Oregon Cascade Mountains. :)

I encountered an unmarked heavily traveled trail forking off of the main trail and suspected that it was a shortcut to the Hidden Lakes. However I didn't want to take the risk of following it and stayed on the planned trail shown on the map. I would later find out after getting home that it was indeed a shortcut used by Outfitters and knowledgeable locals that was so well worn that it can be clearly seen on Google Earth. It reduced the roundtrip distance to those lakes by 2 miles. When I got to the sign for the "official" trail to the Hidden Lakes I was surprised to discover that the trail had so little use that it was overgrown and could only be followed using the rock cairns that marked its location. Evidently everybody but me knows about the shortcut. ](*,)

Hidden Lakes were emerald green alpine gems like most of the other Ruby Mountain lakes. I followed a well worn trail over a knoll at the end of the larger lake and discovered a large outfitter's camp left set up with about a half dozen small tents for the customers and tarp covered equipment and supplies. No one was home and there were no horses. I assume these lakes were a regular destination for that outfitter and he just left everything setup so he wouldn't have to haul it all in with the next batch of customers. I only saw two people, backpackers, all day.

I enjoyed this hike along the creek through the wide open lush meadows of Soldiers Basin with its commanding views of the surrounding mountains. Hidden Lakes were a beautiful reward at the turn around point for the return. Now knowing about the shortcut trail I would make this a lollipop loop going past Soldiers Lakes on the "official" trail and then taking the shortcut on the return.
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