Commonly Backpacked · Fishing · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers
Wilderness permits are required and trailhead quotas apply. Permits can be reserved at recreation.gov/permits. Usually some permits are reserved for walk-ins, but not in 2020. It is easier to get a permit for Pine Creek Pass than for Piute Pass, because of the 3270-foot climb vs. a 2078-foot climb.
Need to Know
Trail is entirely above 10,000 feet, so no campfires are allowed.
The Elba Lake Trail starts from a signed junction on the French Canyon trail, about 0.9 miles below Pine Creek Pass. Once you make it here, the Elba Trail is fairly easy, climbing less than 500 feet in 1.7 miles. The hike starts by dropping a few feet to cross the stream from Pine Creek Pass, and then another from French Lake. The second is a good source for water. The trail then contours up the canyon slopes, providing a good view of Merriam and Royce Peaks and the falls from Royce Lakes. The falls can be heard from here and even all the way up to Puppet Pass. At about 0.8 miles, we arrive at Elba Lake, a somewhat shallow lake lined by rocks, trees and flowers. There is a nice campsite here, as shown on the USGS Topo map. The campfire rocks have been converted into a couple of small benches. It is possible to climb the steep rocky slopes on the south side of the lake to reach Puppet Lake and its neighbors.
Although it is not shown on the USGS map, the very clear rut of the Elba Trail continues east, climbing gently up the soggy ground (with the expected mosquitoes), until it passes along the northern shore of Moon Lake. From here we begin to hike through many acres of short, purple lupine. The Tom Harrison map, "Mono Divide High Country", shows the trail ending at the outlet from L Lake. In fact, the clear rut that marked the trail continues across the outlet and then splits into two parts, one heading up the south side of the lake. The other may head towards Star Lake.
It is also possible hike along the west side of L Lake, climb a low ridge, and then follow the stream up to Steelhead Lake
Shared By: Lee Watts