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Trip Report: Old Army Pass - New Army Pass Loop

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Trip Report: Old Army Pass - New Army Pass Loop

Postby Obrknoch » Sat Jan 02, 2016 10:12 am

Old Army Pass / New Army Pass Loop September 16 - 22

Pictures can be found on:

This year we decided to do a loop that would start at the Cottonwood lakes trailhead then via "Old Army Pass" via "Soldier Lake" and "Rock Creek", back to Cottonwood Lakes via "New Army Pass". This hike would be the end of our three weeks holiday in the US, where we travelled from Denver to LA. Different from last year, when we hiked the Circle of Solitude ( at the beginning of our holiday, this time we planned our hike at the end of it, which turned out not to be the best timing.

When we picked up our permit on September 15, we were anxious to learn more on the big fire going on and how it may affect our hike. The night before, the lady from the Motel told us that the air got much better, compared to the previous days, when the valley was full of smoke. It even rained the day before we arrived, which also caused a cooldown. In the visitor’s center, there was not much new to find on the fire and our permit was issued quickly. Also on water, we would be fine.

From our motel in Independence, we started the day by driving to the Cottonwood Trailhead. Clear blue skies were much promising. We quickly gained height and the Owens valley was beautifully visible below us. When we arrived at the trailhead, we were clearly not alone. Lots of other cars were parked. We took our gear and made ourselves on our way toward Lake Number 3, where we planned our first night. Although all was extremely dry, there were still several smaller streams running. After having hiked a few miles through forest, we arrived in a more open area where the different lakes of the Cottonwood Lake area opened up for us. A wonderful landscape of lakes, granite walls and several deer made us very happy to be back again is such amazing landscape. We passed the other lakes that make up the area and arrived at Lake Number 3, where we found a great spot at the end of the lake, to make camp. Although the sun was shining abundantly, the wind was blowing very strongly as well, which overall, made it very cold. After having put on several more layers of clothes, we set up our tent and explored the area. We hiked up a bit further, to have a look at lake number 4 and the foot of the Old Army Pass. Although officially no longer maintained, we understood from several descriptions that it was still in a good condition.

We returned to our tent and made diner. As the wind was still blowing strongly, we decided to hit our sleeping bags early.

The next morning, again crystal blue skies but frosty temperatures. After breakfast and hot coffee, we packed our packs and started our hike up Old Army Pass. The pass was in very good condition and gave beautiful looks on Lake Number 4. The wind though, was blowing again very strong and made it feel very cold. We took a very easy approach for the day and already made camp very early that day near a beautiful spring that we came upon, fairly quickly after we got down from the Pass. The wind started to calm down which made us feel more comfortable and we even enjoyed just lying in the sun. We camped on a little hill near the trail, which gave us a very good view on our surroundings. Apart from some deer on day one, we did not see any other animals. Dinner tasted good and again, we hit our sleeping bags early, due to the cold weather.

On day three, we were having breakfast and coffee, when we saw a coyote playing around in the meadow in front of us. Another clear day and so far, apart from a little smoke in the far distance that could be seen from where we were, we did not have any problems with smoke at all. We packed all our gear and moved on towards Soldier Lake.

We followed the small stream that was coming from the spring in the meadow where we stayed the night before. Along the stream, all was beautiful green but otherwise, the effects of the constant dryness were good visible. Shortly before we arrived at Soldier Lake, we came on to a big meadow that almost had a perfect surrounding. After a few more minutes, we then arrived at the shores of Soldier Lake, which is a wonderful lake. A few ducks made the view perfect.

From Soldier Lake, we moved via another big meadow and lake, in the direction of Rock Creek ranger station. On our way, we passed several other deer. Water was still plenty available. We passed the turn off to the ranger station and wanted to move a little bit further to look for a camp site for that night. In the meantime, we were on the PCT and passed along a bear box that is placed near a camping spot along the trail. We checked out the place to see if we wanted to stay there, but decided to trace back a little bit to set up camp near Rock Creek, near the Ranger Station. It was good though, to read on the bear box, that due to the drought, there was no water available between this point and the next nine miles south on the PCT, as we were heading into that direction the next day.

From our camp ground near Rock Creek Ranger Station, we were overlooking a big meadow on the other side of the creek, where several deer were having their dinner, when we ate ours.

The next morning, we got up and made sure we had sufficient water with us to follow the PCT south. We hiked through a very very dry landscape, where indeed, no water was to be found. On this stretch up to the junction to Siberian Pass, we only saw one other individual. At the junction, we decided to move north again, to get back to the trail where we came down two days earlier. At the junction Soldier Lake and New Army pass, we turned right. There we made camp one more night near the creek, where we slept on our first night as well.

The next day, we moved up the pass and early afternoon, we arrived at the New Army Pass. The pass gave way to fantastic views of the lakes that lay in the valley. After we had lunch at the pass, we moved further, passing High Lake and Long Lake. This is a very pleasant area to hike in with wonderful views. From there, we hiked up once more to Lake Number 3, but this time, we stayed at the beginning of the lake. We made camp there and enjoyed the stars and Milky Way above us, when the night arrived.

The next morning, again after a night with frost, we noticed for the first time some little clouds in the sky. Again though, not a trace of smoke. It appeared that the clouds were an early warning for some thunderstorms later that afternoon. We were however on our way back to the car. Although we did not make as many miles as initially planned, we still enjoyed this magnificent landscape that we love so much. We will surely be back once more!

Pictures can be found on:

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