There is parking for 6 to 8 cars on the south side of the road next to the Ward Canyon Trailhead. The trail drops down slightly and metal barrier crosses the service road that appears to be rarely used. The road turns to trail shortly, wandering through pine and fir trees with split log fences bordering the trail. There is not much shade, so don’t forget to use plenty of sunscreen.
After several miles you arrive at the Tahoe Rim Trail’s Ward Creek Bridge, a very stout bridge built in 2007 with a grant from the Tahoe Conservancy. It is a good water source in spring and until midsummer, however it is a lot of work to get to. One would have to climb down underneath the bridge to get the water. It is otherwise a dry section of the TRT. The trail eventually becomes a single track going through meadows of corn lily and budding mule’s ear. You will see short fir and small pine trees standing like Christmas trees, scattered about the meadow as well. Shortly after mile three Ward Creek Trail you arrive at McCloud Falls, cascading into a heavily wooded canyon and stream bed, mostly inaccessible, unless you’re out of water and have little choice.
The trail becomes very steep at this point climbing up over rock ledges and switchbacking up the steep incline towards the ridge. All the while climbing the hill looking back over your right shoulder to see Ward Peak peering down on you, a lava promontory visible for most of your trip.
After approximately one more mile you arrive at a large open meadow with Twin Peaks in full view. As I was there in early June, there was still abundant patches of snow on northeast facing slopes, that rarely get enough sunshine to melt at the higher altitudes. In this section of Ward Creek Trail, one begins to realize how much work the TRT Association Volunteers puts into these trails. Stones and boulders weighing several hundred pounds look as though they were precisely laid out for your staircase to the top of the ridge. Please take an opportunity to thank the TRT Volunteers for all that they do keep these trails maintained for us to enjoy.
Now turning west toward the ridge line and Twin Peaks the trail follows the steep contour of the hillside cutting through groves of twisted trees trying to grow toward the sunlight. It’s easier to see in the picture what I’m trying to say.
I have been meaning to ask a ranger why these trees grew this way; did the earth shift and they had to grow differently? A question I hope have answered someday.
Finally arriving at the ridge line, proximally 8,400 feet, you arrive at the trail junction of the Stanford Rock Trail. A large flat area with low-growing Manzanita and sparsely scattered rocks decorate your path toward the TRT and PCT Trail Junction at Twin Peaks.
At this time in early June, there was still a great deal of snow to navigate through and around. With the lack of coarse markings, such as TRT Trail Medallions and blue spray paint on trees, the way to the trail was quite ambiguous. I bushwhacked my way off of the trail as I could not find it, and my Garmin 800 cycling computer that I had converted to a hiking computer, was too difficult to read for these old eyes.
I came upon the crumbling stone and rock edifice of Twin Peaks and large piles of rocks… as though a dump truck had dumped a load of rocks and boulders in my way. Eventually through dumb luck and perseverance I found my way to the top.
Limitless panoramas were there for the taking with views of Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Granite Chief Wilderness to the west and Alpine Meadows and Sugar Bowl to the north.
It had taken me nearly 4 1/2 hours to get this far and I had already had my usual late start. It was time to get off the mountain and get back to my campsite before sundown. Of course the trip down was far easier than the trip up, with one admonition. Please make note that this is a very popular mountain bike trail. Diehard mountain bikers will join the Stanford Rock Trail from Ward Creek and come back down Ward Canyon behind you. With many 20% plus downgrades they may be coming at a pretty good clip. Most of them are pretty good about warning you are ahead of time, but just keep this in mind.
One more thing to make note of is your bug repellent and mosquito nets. From spring until fall the mosquitoes and flies own the Ward Creek Canyon. Just be forewarned. Unless you don’t mind donating several pints of your blood to the local mosquito population I suggest that you put on plenty of deet or whatever bug repellent of choice you have and/or mosquito head nets. There are several guidebooks that indicate you can camp in several areas of the Ward Canyon, all which may be true. Just bear in mind the bugs… Just may not be a pleasant night’s stay.
Once back at the trailhead it was time to head back to the lake, take a dip and give back the trail dust I borrowed for the day and relax.