Esmeralda Basin Backpacking Loop

Having visited the Esmeralda Basin area multiple times before, to take various trails off the end of of the Teanaway River Road, we concocted a loop of sorts to backpack. We were hopeful it’d be good, and it did turn out well. So follow along for a trip not found in the hiking guides. We started on Esmeralda Basin trail #1394, at the end of the Teanaway River Road. This trailhead is often clogged and overly used, so be aware of that. Show up as early as you can, and hike midweek versus weekends. Shoulder seasons, rather than late July-August, have less people.

Heading up the Esmeralda Basin Trail, looking back down the Teanaway.

The hike wanders along meadows, and in season is often full of flowers.

The views up to the peaks along the way, with meadows in front.

Lilies, peaking out after the snow has melted.

Ford waiting for me, as he always does these days. Our friend Marty is in the lead, with Tori far ahead as we headed uphill towards Fortune Pass.

We took a right onto Trail 1226 to check out Lake Ann, about 3 miles from the trailhead. Originally this had been our idea of where to camp for the night. But as we stood there, looking down at the tiny lake, it didn’t hold much to us. The trail to the overlook is 1 mile one way, and about 500 ft more gain. The views were worth it though.

Heading back to the main trail. The side path is worth the time to do it.

On top of the wide Fortune Creek Pass. Our view was toward Gallagher Head Lake, past Ford’s head. The pass is a wide, barren ridge with just a few wildflowers growing. We set camp up here.

It is dry up there, so you must plan on having enough water with you. We topped off our bladders and water bottles on the way up. In late season one might need to carry all the need from the car.

We saw no one at the pass, we had dropped down a bit from the top of the pass. The views of the peaks and of the night sky were wide open. It was a peaceful place to spend the night. The gentle winds and no water kept the area mostly bug free.

We woke up with first light and packed up. The trail continues on, and descends down into the forest, to reach the “road” (Jeep Road) which you can see below. We took a left onto it, and followed the rutted road up to Gallagher Head Lake.

As we wound up to the lake, looking across, we could see someone camping at the lake. They had taken the road in, but had set up a tent next to their truck.

The lake sits on a flat bench, between the ridges, and is subalpine forest.

If it’s not busy with 4 wheelers, it makes a lovely camp. Though it can be quite buggy as they often are.

We rounded the lake, following the road. Paths do wander off here and there.

As we rounded the lake, we found our trail to complete the loop (it starts behind the last camping area). Boulder-De Roux trail and the goal is down, down and down, through lovely forest, following the creek. There are camping spots to be found along the creek along the way. Pass one trail junction, stay on the main trail. Eventually it drops down to a massive bridge and comes out to the De Roux campground. which is the end of the trail. We then had to road walk Teanaway River Road till we got back to the car. That might have been the only unpleasant part of the hike, a second car would have been nice. The road part was hot, dusty and exposed – and uphill. For once our hitch hiking skills failed, we were hoping at least one of us would get a lift. Oh well!

Side note:

We would come back in the middle of August, on a 4 wheeling trip. We came in via Cle Elum and drove up to the lake. It was hot that day. With time on my hands we wandered around, checking out the trails around the lake. One thing to note….it was definitely nicer walking the “road” than driving the upper part.

It’s a pretty lake on warm days.

Wandering down a side path I found a privy.

It had seen a few hard winters.


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