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Crown jewels of the Rubies: A lofty hike to Northern Nevada alpine lakes
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Crown jewels of the Rubies: A lofty hike to Northern Nevada alpine lakes

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Ruby Mountains

Liberty Lake, located at just over 10,000 feet elevation in the Ruby Mountains, is a pristine spot well worth the hike.

The Ruby Mountains in northeastern Nevada offer high-elevation landscapes. Hiking into Liberty Lake requires crossing a pass at 10,450 feet, and an opportunity to see five alpine lakes. The Ruby Crest Trail offers the chance to get close to heaven and access the heavenly Liberty Lake.

To access the trailhead, drive through Elko and Spring Creek. Turn onto Lamoille Canyon Road just before the small town of Lamoille. The 12-mile drive up the canyon offers a view of the most heavily glaciated mountains in the Great Basin. The road passes Thomas Canyon Campground about halfway up the canyon.

The trailhead at end of the road can be a busy place on a summer weekend, but this hike will leave behind almost all of the other people. The trailhead has a large parking area and restrooms. From the parking lot, Liberty Pass is in view as a deep notch, about 1,600 feet higher in elevation than the parking lot.

The trail through the pass is the first part of the Ruby Crest Trail, running more than 40 miles to Harrison Pass.

The first goal is Lamoille Lake, about 900 feet higher. There is a choice of trails. The hikers’ trail runs two miles, with lots of switchbacks and can carry a lot of hikers. The stock trail starts about 50-yards along the road from the hikers’ trail. It is steeper, rockier, shorter, with less hikers. Horses always have the right-of-way. If encountering a horse group, leave the trail, go downhill and stand quietly as the riders pass by.

After a stop at Lamoille Lake, continue on the trail another half mile or so, and another 700-foot climb, to the top of the pass. On the way, look back at the iconic view of upper Lamoille Canyon. This U-shaped, glaciated, canyon is a great photo opportunity. More photos have been taken of this view than about anywhere else. One problem is your vehicle will still be in view, far below. It just seems wrong to climb that far and still see your vehicle.

At the top of the pass, you enter the Ruby Mountain Wilderness Area. The surrounding view is mountain peaks in all directions. After resting for a moment, continue on about 100 yards to the best view in the Ruby Mountains. Below will be your destination, Liberty Lake. Below that, but out of sight, will be Favre Lake. Beyond and above it, and in view, will be Castle Lake.

One more downhill mile, dropping 400 feet, and you are at Liberty Lake. This large lake offers several campsites. From its edge, you can look down at Favre Lake and North Furlong Lake in the distance.

Liberty Lake is the second deepest lake in the Rubies. It offers brook trout and very elusive lake trout. It also makes a good base to explore the other alpine lakes.

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