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2014: Cedar Grove to Lake Reflection

August 30, 2014

Cedar Grove to Reflection Lake

(30 miles to Lake Reflection and back, plus lots of side trip miles)

August 23–28

Nick and Shahe

Cedar Grove to Lake Reflection and Side Trips

Cedar Grove to Lake Reflection and Side Trips


Day 1: Cedar Grove (Road’s End) to Charlotte Creek (8 miles)

Day 2: Charlotte Creek to Harrison Pass trail junction (8 miles) plus side trip to Lake Reflection (5 miles)

Day 3: Harrison Pass trail junction to below Harrison pass and back (5 miles?)

Day 4: Harrison Pass trail junction to Lake below Longely pass then back to Lake Reflection (6 miles?)

Day 5: Day hike from Lake Reflection to below Millie’s Foot Pass and back (4 miles), then to Charlotte Creek (9 miles)

Day 6: Charlotte Creek to Cedar Grove (Road’s End) (8 miles)


This itinerary is not at all what was originally planned as will be described in the trip report. Originally I had planned to take us over Millie’s Foot Pass to South American Lake, to South Guard Lake, over Longely Pass and Sphinx Pass to Sphinx Lake,  down Sphinx Creek, and back out to Road’s End. In talking to people on the way, a better and more doable trip would have been more or less that in reverse:
Cedar Grove—Sphinx Pass—Longely Pass—Lake Reflection—Charlotte Creek—Roads End. Oh well, maybe next time. We had a great time with what we did anyway.



Day 1: Cedar Grove (Road’s End) to Charlotte Creek (8 miles)

5,100' – 7,300'

5,100′ – 7,300′

We leave Santa Cruz at about 7:30 and arrive at Cedar Grove Ranger Station (Road’s End) at about 12:30. We pack up our gear, have lunch, get our permit, and head off at about 1:45 pm. Much of the way is switchbacks and steep, flattening out in some places. For the first several miles we are bothered by small”face flies” that buzz us. I manage to get a quick dip in Bubb’s Creek on the way up.

Shahe at Bubb's Creek

Shahe at Bubb’s Creek

We get to a campsite by Charlotte’s Creek at bout 5:45. The campsite we pick is just before the main part of Charlotte’s Creek (after passing over a smaller tributary). It is somewhat in the trees. Access to Bubb’s creek is not good, but easy access to water from Charlotte’s Creek.

Campsite at Charlotte's Creek

Campsite at Charlotte’s Creek

Day 2: Charlotte Creek to Harrison Pass trail junction (8 miles) plus side trip to Lake Reflection (5 miles)

7,300' – 10,000'

Charlotte Creek to Harrison Lake cutoff 7,300′ – 10,000′

We get an 8:00 am start and get to East Lake by 12:45 pm. On leaving the main trail we have to ford Bubb’s. It is only calf deep this time (when I crossed it in mid June it was thigh high).


Shahe fording Bubb's Creek

Shahe fording Bubb’s Creek

After fording the creek it is a lot of uphill climb. There are good views of East Creek with water falls along the ay. Arriving at the far end of East Lake we leave our packs at a nice site there and have lunch at about 12:45 pm. There is even a bear box.

Nick at East Lake

Nick at East Lake

On the way we meet some hiker/climbers who have been in the are we are going and when we tell them we are planning on doing Millie’s Foot Pass, they say they did it going down without packs and describe it as a difficult 100 foot shoot at the end, and how they would not want to do it with packs on.

9,500' – 10,300' – 9,500'

Day hike: East Lake to Lake Reflection and back: 9,500′ – 10,300′ – 9,500′

After lunch we take a day hike up to Lake Reflection. There is a use trail; it does require some boulder hopping, and in places there are multiple trails, but you cannot really lose you way.

Back at camp, after some discussion and looking at the map, we decide to try a different pass over. Having looked at our Topo we see an actual trail listed going over Harrison Pass that will also get us to South America Lake. I have not researched that pass, but we assume if there is a trail shown, it must be easier than Millie’s. To save us some miles for attempting the pass, we decide to camp a little further up. We get our packs from East Lake and camp at where it shows the junction to the trail to Harrison Pass at where the stream from there comes in. The site is wooded and right along East Creek. It is really the only decent camp site between the lakes, though not as scenic as by the lakes, quite nice.


Day 3: Harrison Pass trail junction to below Harrison pass and back (5 miles?)

10,100 – 12,000' and back

10,100 – 12,000′ and back

We head up for Harrison at 8:00 am, though we could not find an actual trail. We saw on the map that is was supposed to be on the north side of the river. There are boulders and a lot of brush by the river, so we end up circumventing a bit north.

Shahe boulder hopping

Shahe boulder hopping

After a while we sort of find what might be a trial, but quickly we are on boulders and open ground, with no trace of a trail, just following the river up and using the map as a guide.

Nick at lake below Harrison Pass

Nick at lake below Harrison Pass

At about noon, we get to the lake near the ascent to the pass. We have lunch there–a bit windy and cold. We then hike up to between the lakes to where we can see the pass. It looks like scree all the way up, getting very steep near the pass itself (or at least what we assume must be the pass). We both decide it is not something we want to attempt. It takes us another 3 hours to get back to camp, with no more success finding a real trail, especially as we near the bottom. We arrive back at about 4:00 pm and camp at the same site. We enjoy relaxing there, and of course I find a nice pool to take a dip in the creek, just up from our site.


Day 4: Harrison Pass trail junction to unnamed lake below Longely Pass then back to Lake Reflection (8 miles?)

10,000' – 11.900'

10,000′ – 11.900′ – 10,000


Longley pass from Lake Reflection over to South Guard lake was our backup plan, making up for the day lost failing the other passes. We get an earlier start at 7:40 am, and make our way up to Lake Reflection. We cross East Creek just at the beginning of the lake, before the main part. It is cross-able here on rocks and logs without having to actually ford it. Getting around Reflection Lake is tricky, as it is sort of cliffy on this side and finding a passable route takes some trial and error–staying somewhat above the lake but not too high. Occasionally there are ducks, but these are not always reliable.

Shahe boulder hopping up the creek toward Longely Pass

Shahe boulder hopping up the creek toward Longely Pass

From our Topo it looks like the best route is following the northerly tributary, but staying on the south side of it. However, as we climb, we cannot really tell for sure where we are, and if we missed it. Once we are a good ways up, I make the decision that we should just give up on going over the pass, and make it another out and back. It is around 1:00 pm at this point.

"Arrow" Lake (3496 meters)

“Arrow” Lake (3496 meters)

We drop our packs there, and continue hiking up. After about 10-15 minutes we find ourselves at the what I called “Arrow” lake (WL3496). From there we climb up to the last lake before the ascent to the pass.

View of Longely Pass

View of Longely Pass

While certainly doable, it looks like making the pass requires hiking on a lot of steep scree. Later we are told that it is much easier coming the other way, as the west to east approach is rather gradual. Once again, I do get in a dip at this high altitude lake. We then make our way back down. We pick up our packs, and scramble back down, through brunch and over boulders.

Camp at Lake Reflection

Camp at Lake Reflection

We camp this evening just at the north end of the main part of Lake Reflection, on the west side, arriving there at about 4:30 pm.


Day 5: Day hike from Lake Reflection to below Millie’s Foot Pass and back (5 miles?), then to Charlotte Creek (9 miles)

10,000' – 11,200' – 10,000'

10,000′ – 11,200′ – 10,000′

Reflection at Lake Reflection

Reflection at Lake Reflection

Since we had the time we decide to do a day hike up to get a view of Millie’s Foot Pass in the morning, before heading down to Charlotte Creek. We pack up our gear and leave camp at about 8:30. We bring our gear over to the other side of the creek so as not to backtrack and recross the creek. While at first there seemed to be a trail, we soon mostly lose it. Instead, we leave ourselves ducks all the way up. After a bit of woodsy part, soon it is mostly boulder hopping up.

Millie's Foot Pass

Millie’s Foot Pass

Nick and Shahe below Millies

Nick and Shahe below Millie’s

Millie's Foot Pass

Millie’s Foot Pass

We arrive at the lake just below the last ascent at about 12:30. We have a snack there, look around, and I took a dip.

Nick in pond below Millies

Nick in pond below Millie’s

We head back down and are able to follow our ducks back almost the whole way. We pick up our packs at noonish, and then go to East Lake, where we stopped for a dip, lunch and a rest. Even Shahe took a dip there!

Shahe napping

Shahe napping

We arrive at Charlotte Creek at about 5:30. This time we stopped at the more well established and more open site just before crossing the creek from this side. Tehre is even a Bear Box there. The access to Charlotte Creek is closer than to Bubb’s, but not good access for getting water. It is a medium short walk to Bubb’s Creek through ferns, but there is even a nice place to get a dip in there. At first there are some mosquitoes, but they died down.

Shahe plays flute at campfire

Shahe plays flute at campfire

We even build a fire, and Shahe played a bit of flute.



10,000' – 7,300'

10,000′ – 7,300′

Day 6: Charlotte Creek to Cedar Grove (Road’s End) (8 miles)

We got a nice early start at about 7:30 am for our hike out. It started off pleasant enough, and we kept a good pace all the way down. However, after the first hour or two, the “face flies” came out in full force and were quite annoying.We both ended up putting on our mosquito head nets.

6 flower

We arrived back at Road’s End at around 10:30 am.

Shahe and Nick at Road's End

Shahe and Nick at Road’s End


To see more of my photos from this trip click here

  1. Fantastic. Looks like you had a blast and those high lakes look cold enough to turn one’s balls into raisins!

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