Key Reason to Go: An easy hike (actually kid-friendly) into a basin with several lakes to visit, and as for flowers, you will find a nice display of the common flora and even a few special plants that most people would walk right past. You will probably also enjoy more solitude; this is a good alternative to the usually-busy Carson Pass hikes.
Best Time to Go: Late June on into August for flowers, even possibly October. Earlier the better for flowers, but the scenery is really the attraction on this hike, and it still looks good in autumn color. In fact the views out over Silver Lake and off to Round Top are beautiful when fall colors start to take hold.
The hike takes you along through a short bit of forest but soon climbs up gently over open granite. There are decent flower displays of Wyethia (mule-ears), penstemons, gilias, calochortus, etc., so there will be plenty to enjoy, from trail scenes all the way to vistas of Round Top, other nearby peaks, and Silver Lake below.
You would not like to be on this trail during a thunderstorm! At least I would not, so you check the weatherClick for
Weather Underground info... forecast and decide for yourself.
The parking lot and trail head signs at Shealor Lakes are only a few years old so they don't show up on older topo maps, but the place is easy to spot as you drive Hwy 88 just along the west side of Silver Lake. Here is a Google map. The elevation of the parking area is around 7500 ft, and the lake level of the biggest of the three lakes is 7100 ft, so you can see it's a pretty easy elevation profile. In fact the hike is only a little less than a mile.
Going to Shealor Lake will let you have some fun with flowers; it's a good place to practice your knowledge of the common flora of the higher elevations without being overwhelmed. You'll find many of the standards and have plenty of opportunities to practice your flower ID skills. (Plants of the Tahoe Basin is an excellent book for your pack; it covers just about everything you‘re likely to find on any of the hikes in El Dorado or Alpine Counties. Check this link for a greatly reduced price.)
There are a few special things to watch for if you get there early (June): watch for a cool display of Lewisia kelloggii on top of the ridge on your way in, and if you wander off the trail a bit you might find some Austin's milkvetch, an odd plant to find there because it hadn't been reported from Alpine County.
I confess that I have not gone past the first of the lakes, but that first lake in itself is rewarding. It is backed by a steep cliff that is “painted” with colorful orange and green lichens, and there are plenty of evergreens to admire as you sit to have your picnic lunch.
This is a good hike for kids: not too difficult, not too long, and a great place to play along the lake.
[back to top]