Outbound Collective logo

Backpack Lake Alpine to Spicer Reservoir (Carson-Iceberg Wilderness)

Arnold, California



15 miles

Elevation Gain

1000 ft

Route Type



Added by Nicole Mason

Beautiful loop trail in classic High Sierra terrain. Easily modifiable in length with little elevation gain. Perfect for a trail run, day hike or multi-day backpack amongst Douglas Pine, Juniper, and exposed granite.

Experience this easily accessible but little traveled wilderness loop in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Start at Lake Alpine, an incredibly beautiful lake surrounded by a bike trail, sno-park and tons of camping opportunities. From Silver Valley Trailhead (at the entrance to the Silver Valley campground), take the trail to Duck Lake, passing three abandoned lodges and, if you're lucky, a flock of a hundred geese. Continue south on 20E04 towards Rock Lake, a much smaller but also incredibly beautiful spot. The trail continues through areas of dense evergreen forest, fire-burned dead zones, and bare granite faces. In short-everything we love about the Sierra landscape. 

The base loop of 20E04-18E16-18E20 (Silver Valley to Rock Lake to Mud Lake to Elephant Rock and back) is 11.5 miles and gets you "out there" with minimal elevation changes, making it a perfect backpack trip for a short weekend or wilderness newbies. It can be shortened to a long day trip by cutting across to Elephant Rock from Rock Lake, or lengthened by taking Highland Creek Trail down to Spicer Reservoir to camp with amazing views of the Dardanelles range. An even longer trip of about 28.5 miles can be done looping all the way around the Reservoir (from Highland Creek Trail, take Sword Lake Trail to Spicer/Wheats Trail and along the access road back up to Elephant Rock). I saw some of the tallest Douglas Pine I've ever seen on this hike and at least 30 different types of wildflowers.

As of June 2016 there were lots of downed trees across the trail-victims to beetle kill and old forest fires. They are easy to get around and will be cleaned up soon, but be careful not to take a false trail when going around them.  Also watch out for false duck/cairn trails, especially around Elephant Rock Lake. If you need to build your own trail markers destroy them on your way out. 

There is snow up here until at least June, resulting in numerous beautiful creeks and a healthy Stanislaus River. Crossings are usually easy by July but always be careful. Mosquitos are a factor but were almost non-existent camped above the reservoir. 

Read More

Download the Outbound mobile app

Find adventures and camping on the go, share photos, use GPX tracks, and download maps for offline use.

Get the app




Have you done this adventure? Be the first to leave a review!

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


Snow Camp at Bull Run Lake

Backpack To Wheeler Lake

Snowshoe Bear Valley

Ski or Snowboard at Skyline Bear Valley

Hike To Bull Run Lake

Climb Lookout Peak in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness