Objective: One night backpacking loop through Carson-Iceberg Wilderness
Location: Ebbetts Pass, CA
We decided to sneak one last quick backpacking trip into the season before winter hit too hard, and given that the Sierras had just gotten their first snow a few days prior, we knew it would be cold. We set out early Saturday morning with the goal of doing a short backpacking loop somewhere off Highway 4, since that is one of the areas of the Sierra that we have explored the least. We stopped at the ranger station just outside of Arnold, CA to talk with the rangers and get a permit. For once, it was pretty breezy! This was likely because it’s late in the season, but it may have also been because this region is far less crowded than areas we usually go (Tahoe, Yosemite).
At the ranger’s recommendations, we started from the Highland Lakes trailhead, which was 5 miles up a forest road off of Highway 4. It was an easy 2.5 miles to Asa lake, which was pretty and had a few really nice campsites, but it didn’t have the views we were looking for. We kept moving toward Noble Lake for another 2-3 miles or so, crossing only one saddle and not gaining or losing too much elevation.
It was extremely windy in the higher country, which made cool temperatures even cooler. Noble lake had a few nice campsites and some great views of the surrounding peaks. We found a nice lakeside campsite and settled in for the night. The best news of the trip was that we were allowed to have a FIRE! Legally! In the backcountry! It had been a really long time since we’d been in a region that would allow this, and given that it was literally freezing, we were beyond stoked. We enjoyed a windy night of campfire, sausages, and wine as we watched the sun set.
After spending a windy night in the tent, we decided to hike cross country to make a loop out of our hike (we’re not huge fans of out-and-back trips). So we essentially cut straight back toward the Highland Lakes trailhead from Noble Lake, which turned out to be fairly simple to do. The views from the saddle above Noble Lake made it easy enough to navigate our way down and back to the car.
All in all, we experienced some beautiful, chilly, and mellow hiking which made for a great end to the backpacking season. I would say that this area does not get the attention it deserves, likely because it happens to be situated in between two of the most popular and beautiful places on Earth. We would definitely consider coming back to this region, especially when the other areas tend to be overcrowded. Bring on the snow!