Thursday, July 26, 2018

Half Moon Lake Trail (17E31)

Half Moon Lake backdropped by Dick's Peak
The level, switchback-free path to Half Moon Lake is a single-track trail within the Desolation Wilderness passing granite-based ponds and lakes surrounded by stunning mountain peaks. The beginning section of the two-mile-long Half Moon Lake Trail (17E31) runs parallel—but at lower elevation—to the Tahoe Rim Trail/Pacific Crest Trail (TRT/PCT) between Gilmore Lake and Dick's Pass. Trail 17E31 then loops around the north side of Half Moon Lake and ends at the smaller Alta Morris Lake. These two subalpine lakes lie just below the treeline at the foot of imposing Dick's Peak (9,974 ft, 3040 m) and Jack's Peak (9,856 ft, 3004 m).

Although Half Moon Lake Trail (HMLT) is a pleasant treat, to do this hike you first need to get to the four-way intersection where Glen Alpine Trail meets the TRT/PCT—half a mile south of Gilmore Lake. This is where the HMLT begins.
Glen Alpine Soda Spring at historical site

The shortest way up to the TRT-PCT/Glen Alpine/Half Moon Lake trail intersection is from the Glen Alpine trailhead. After filling out your day-use permit and box-dropping the requested part, start out on the gravel trail via the Glen Alpine Springs Historical Site toward Grass Lake.

At the Grass Lake Trail junction, continue on Glen Alpine Trail (following the Mt. Tallac direction). This trail ascends for 1.8 miles to another junction, from where two short trails connect with the TRT/PCT: the left-side trail leads to Susie Lake and the right-side trail ascends toward Gilmore Lake and Dick's Pass. You want to take the latter.

Lily pond near four-way intersection
After a short climb you will pass a lily pond overlook point and then soon reach the four-way intersection, at which the HMLT begins.   

Four-way intersection
Enjoy the easy hike along 17E31 through a forested area with occasional views of Crystal Range peaks in the south. On July 24 of this year, when I hiked this trail, the air quality was not the best. But the light-gray silhouette of Pyramid Peak and a white band of snow alongside the north-facing wall of Crystal Range did show up at the horizon.

Half Moon Lake Trail (HMLT) through forested area
Just before arriving at the eastern tip of Half Moon Lake, you will see a couple of little lakes (which I can locate on my map, but which I am unable to identify by name).

One of the unnamed little lakes

Half Moon Lake

Map of Half Moon Lake and Alta Morris Lake with nearby Dick's Peak and Jack's Peak
Does anyone know how the trail label 17E31 came about? Is there a deeper meaning to it? I prefer the trail acronym HMLT that I made up for this this post, which may have been used by other writers as well.

Waterfall above Half Moon Lake

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