Hiking Esmeralda Basin

A meadow along the Esmeralda Basin trail

A popular hike throughout the summer and fall, Esmeralda Basin features both dramatic views and gorgeous wildflowers – it’s not hard to see why people love it.

Even the trailhead for this hike is picturesque – two picnic tables beneath a waterfall offer you the perfect place to make sure you have your 10 essentials , didn’t leave any valuables in the car, and to lace up your hiking boots. The first quarter mile or so (running parallel to the north fork of the Teanaway River) is a bit steep but don’t fear, it becomes easier quickly and allows a chance hikers to catch their breath.

At about .4 miles the trail enters a lush meadow and splits off from the Ingalls Lake trail. The Ingalls Lake trail forks right and slopes up but stay headed straight. The trail will take you through a series of lovely meadows – it would be a great idea to bring a wildflower identification guide on this hike!

At 2 miles, the abandoned mining road will curve off to the right and you will continue up switchbacks toward Fortune Creek Pass. At 3.1 miles you will come to another junction – the Esmeralda Basin trail turns west and down to Fortune Creek and The County Line trail heads north to an unnamed pass above Lake Ann. Stop here an take in the spectacular views of Hawkins Mountain and the Alpine Lake Wilderness.

The trail continues north from here, dropping down to Lake Ann and then on to Van Epps Pass and 4X4 country.

Roundtrip hiking distance is 7 miles and gains 1750 feet. As with any excursion, don’t forget your 10 essentials , and for this hike you will need a Northwest Forest Pass .

Directions to the trailhead: From I-90 heading east get off at Exit No. 85 then go east (right) onto Highway 970 and in about 7 miles turn left onto Teanaway River Road. Continue about 13 miles to a road junction just past 29 Pines Campground (where pavement ends) and Forest Service Road No. 9737 begins. Drive about 10 miles on Road No. 9737 to the end of the road and trailhead, elevation 4,200 feet.