HIKING THE RUBY MOUNTAINS PART 2 SUPPLEMENT Ruby Mountains Express--Logo by Jocelyne Rohrback: www.jrnewmedia.com                       
Cliffs Above Island Lake




Contents of this page:
Soldier Basin Trail Information & Photos || Seitz & Griswold Lakes Trail Information & Photos || Area Map
Verdi Lake & "Trail" Photos || Winchell Lake & Trail Photos || Lost Lake || Lamoille Canyon Photos || Lake Name Directory
Burning Pleasant Valley || Name Those Lakes and Win $ || Topographic Map Site || Nevada Magazine || Nevada Cowgirls || Site Search Engine

View Photo Preview Page (1) || View Photo Preview Page (2) || Part 1 Trail to Liberty Pass and Beyond
Part 2 Other Wilderness Areas, Photos and Information || Part 3 Outfitters, Pack Trips and Backpacking Guide Service
Part 3 Supplement Outfitters, Pack Trips, Thomas Canyon, Right Fork Canyon and Ruby Valley
Part 4 Hiking the Ruby Crest Trail with Lynda Mellows and Rosanne Baker || Photo Page Hole in the Mountain--East Humboldts New



The drive to Soldier Canyon from Elko can be made through Halleck from I-80, or through Lamoille from SR 227 (Lamoille highway). The directions through Lamoille are somewhat easier to follow so this route will be described. Drive straight through Lamoille to the Crossroads where the rather famous white Presbyterian steepled church will be on your right. Turn left and at about one-quarter mile make a ninety degree turn to the right.

 Lamoille Presbyterian Church Presbyterian Church
© Lamoille Presbyterian Church at the Crossroads

 Resident Deer © Resident Deer  Resident Deer © Resident Deer at Lamoille

Follow the gravel and oiled road nine miles to the turnoff leading to Soldier Canyon. The only junction along the way will be to Lower Lamoille Road but keep going straight. The turnoff to the canyon is identified by an inconspicuous 4" x 24" sign on the left side of the road saying "Soldier Creek". Turn right on the one lane dirt and somewhat washboarded road into the canyon. The road crosses private property for about the first two miles, albeit just sagebrush. To keep this easement in good standing, stop and pick up any discarded cans or bottles that may be scattered along the way.

After crossing a cattle guard and entering the National Forest area, the road will continue about two more miles into Soldier Canyon to the trailhead. Two cars could not pass at many places along this road and if meeting an oncoming car, one vehicle may have to back up to a passing spot. Normally the uphill bound car backs down in a situation like this but the grade is very mild and either car could back up. The road is certainly not a 4-WD road but you probably wouldn't want to take your new Ferrari up there either. The road will come to a creek crossing where there is parking space for about eight vehicles.


Wade Soldier Creek or do a creek crossing balancing act on the rocks to begin the hike. The trail starts out on the continuation of the road when it used to go further up the canyon. The grade is very mild and the trail will soon enter aspens, almost completely enclosing the trail, and this will add to the pleasant hiking. Soldier Creek is off to the right.

 Trailhead Sign © Soldier Basin Trailhead Sign

Soldier Canyon is very narrow which eliminates the possibility of any switchbacks along the trail and the trail has no choice but to follow the steepness of the canyon, and it does start to get rather steep. The canyon then begins to make a sweeping ninety degree turn to the right. To make the rough and rocky trail a little more delightful, mud will be added here and there from springs running across the trail. After a while you are looking forward to breaking out of the canyon and there does seem to be hope in sight. A "V" of sunlight up ahead signals the end of the canyon and only appears to be 100 yards away. After traveling the 100 yards, and another, and another..., you break out of the canyon into sunlight.

 Soldier Creek Soldier Creek
© Views of Soldier Creek Through Canyon

 Trail Through Canyon © Section of Rocky & Steep Trail Through Canyon

The trail empties from the canyon into sort of a meadow (Soldier Basin) and almost flattens out. The hiking is very easy but there are no longer trees along the trail which might be desirable for some shade. The only patches of trees are now up on the hillsides. There are about two more miles of easy hiking to the lakes in the open sunlight. A feeling of extreme dryness may set in, creating a desire to be back in the canyon for relief.

 View from Soldier Basin View from Soldier Basin
© Hillside View from Soldier Basin & Looking Back Towards Canyon from the Basin

 Trail to Ruby Valley © Trail Sign to Ruby Valley

By staying on the main trail, the first lake(s) you will come to will be the Soldier Lake group. Some reports indicate that there are seven or eight lakes in the area but only two of the Soldier Lake group, at best, deserve to be called lakes and the rest are only ponds. If you consider that there are two lakes in the Soldier group, Robinson and the two Hidden Lakes would then make a total of five for the area. There may be some Brook trout in the two Soldier lakes but they are not known for fishing. They are surrounded by the ever present dwarf willows which makes access, let alone catching fish, difficult.

Before reaching the Soldier Lake group, you should turn off the main trail to the right for the trail to Hidden Lakes (see Part 2 for specific instructions for finding this trail). Hidden Lakes have some rather large Cutthroat trout that will challenge your fishing expertise. Due to shallowness near the shores, you can wade some distance into the lakes for fishing.

 Upper Hidden Lake Upper Hidden Lake Lower Hidden Lake © Lower Hidden Lake

Robinson Lake is a little further up the trail from Soldier but can also be reached from the continuation of the trail from Hidden. Robinson is generally the primary fishing lake of the group and it may be a little hard to accept that it is only six feet deep or so.

 Robinson Lake © Robinson Lake

Wade out to the rock shown on the right side of the photo for fishing.

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The one hike that I made to the vicinity of Seitz Lake was mostly through sagebrush up the left side of the canyon where I had parked. The trail starts out on the right side, but, having parked on the left, I just bushwhacked from there rather than making the crossover. This was the second of three excursions that day, so I was satisfied in just getting close before turning back. The road skirting the base of the montains that allowed easy access to Seitz Canyon is no longer available.

More recently, during September 2000 Brian Harasha of Spring Creek, age 14, and family members made the hike to Seitz Lake, and he reported that the trail was good for a ways but after that you were pretty much on your own as you fight your way through aspen thickets, swampy areas and up and around cliffs. They drove from the rifle range to the ridge above Seitz Canyon and started hiking from there. Due to the trail conditions, the hike took up to six hours, at least twice the time it should take.

He reported that the lake was hardly more than a big shallow pond without any fish and was a big disappointment. Accordingly, he does not recommend the hike (especially if you have fishing in mind). A chart previously located at http://www.fs.fed.us/htnf/rubylake.htm entitled Lakes of the Ruby Mountains Ranger District reported that neither Griswold Lake nor Seitz Lake have fish.

There is little doubt that Seitz Lake does not contain fish but two reliable first hand reports indicate that Cutthroat trout up to 18 inches in length were caught in Griswold during 2000 and 2001. Fishing, however, could be limited at anytime from winterkill.

Additional Seitz Lake and trail photos taken by Brian Harasha during his September 2000 hike to Seitz Lake:

Waterfall Along Trail © Waterfall Along Trail to Seitz Lake Seitz Lake © Seitz Lake

White Fir Stand Seitz Canyon
© Stand of White Firs in Seitz Canyon & View of Seitz Canyon from Ridge Above Rifle Range

The White Firs shown in the above photo is the only stand of White Firs in the Ruby Mountains.


The Griswold Lake and Ruby Dome trailhead sign indicates three miles to the lake and six miles to Ruby Dome. Start the hike on a well defined trail in the sagebrush by crossing Butterfield Creek from right to left. The trail will immediately start to gain some altitude but some distance after a fence crossing through a gate, the trail will start to level out and enter the aspens above Butterfield Creek. The hiking is pleasant for quite a distance through the aspens and cottonwood trees.

 Trail Through Aspens © Pleasant Hiking Through Aspens  Object-de-Art © Object-de-Art

The thing you hear most about the trail to Griswold is that there is no trail when you start getting close to the lake and that you have to make your way over, through and around rocks. About three-quarters of a mile from the lake the trail does start to fade and rocky conditions start to develop. This is a preview of things to come.

 Rocky Section of Trail © Rocky Section of Trail

As you get closer to the lake the rocky conditions take on more meaning as you are constantly stepping on, around and walking across sheer rocks of all shapes and sizes. You must closely watch your footing to keep from twisting an ankle or worse. However, it is not as bad as might be imagined. By paying close attention to the trail markings, the cairns (piles of rocks) will keep you guided along the "trail". Try to follow the cairns rather than forging a route of your own. The thing that makes it somewhat forgiving is that the steepness of this rocky terrain is not that overwhelming.

 Trail Through Rocks  Trail Through Rocks
© Rocky Sections of Trail Approaching Lake

The approach to the lake is rather deceptive as you are constantly trying to guess the lake's location. Scrambling up and over rocks, you know that the lake just has to be beyond the next tree line or just over or around the next granite shelf but you are almost always wrong. Finally, when you are just about to run out of canyon, and there are no more shelves to climb or go around, the terrain will flatten out and after a short, easy walk you are there. The lake sits in a typical and very scenic granite basin but the shallowness at the near end of the lake that extends outward for quite a distance does detract from the overall beauty of the setting.

 Griswold Lake © Griswold Lake  Pleasant Valley © Pleasant Valley from Canyon

Follow the cairns to get back down the rock pile.

(On the way to Griswold Lake)

The trail to Griswold Lake is up the left side of the canyon to the left of Butterfield Creek, but about a mile from the trailhead the trail branches to the right and crosses Butterfield creek on the right. During another hike, the trail crossing the creek was more distinct than the trail continuing up the left side of the canyon so we thought we would try the creek crossing. This was a hugh mistake and we eventually had to give up out of sheer frustration as the trail disappeared into a thick growth of downed aspens. The trail continues into the aspen growth for a ways but then just vanishes. At that point you think you might be seeing remnants of several different trails leading in different directions. Various approaches were attempted from that point but each one just led into dense thickets of downed aspens and we were unable to proceed beyond a certain point.

We got as far as an old sign on a tree saying "Griswold Canyon", but continuing past that point required more luck than we had that day. We thought we could fight our way through without that much difficulty, but after backtracking several times and trying new approaches, we would continue to come up against walls of downed aspen and tangled underbrush, and gave up the effort. It's impossible to tell whether you might get through this mess in the next 100 yards or the next half mile.

We weren't able to backtrack the "trail" leading back out of the canyon and getting out wasn't all that much fun either. We came across a small clearing in the undergrowth that contained the rusty remains of an old shovel and several moldy and disintegrated pieces of clothing including a yellow rain slicker. Why would anyone leave the items? We looked around for the owner's skeleton but the coyotes must have made short work of it.

Griswold Canyon Sign © Griswold Canyon Sign Trail Lost © Where to From Here?

Aspen Thicket
© Climbing out of the Canyon Through the Aspen Thicket

At least this was an interesting side excursion.

This link provides a good overhead view of Griswold Lake: Griswold Lake Photo.

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 Area Map Map Displaying Lake Locations and Other Geographic Features

Click the map image to expand to full size (file size is 282k so loading time may be slow). The map will show the locations of many features mentioned on these pages. Included are the communities of Elko, Wells, Deeth, Jiggs, Lee, Lamoille and Spring Creek. Some geographic features shown are Ruby Valley, Secret Pass, Harrison Pass, the Ruby Marshes (Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge), and Lamoille Canyon. Relative positions are shown for all named lakes in the Ruby Mountains and East Humboldts as well as some other major canyons. To prevent over-crowding, the distances apart are not exactly to scale.


Verdi Lake © Verdi Lake Verdi Lake & Peak © Verdi Lake & Verdi Peak
Above photos courtesy of William E. Johnson.

Climb to Verdi Ridge  Climb to Verdi Ridge  Climb to Verdi Ridge
© Photos Taken During Climb Towards Verdi Ridge

Terraces Picnic Area © Terraces Picnic Area  Cliffs Behind Terraces © Cliffs Behind Terraces

Go to Part 3 Supplement at this site for Verdi Lake trail and access information.

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The trail to Winchell Lake is easy to follow and alternates between open hillsides and through dense aspens and foliage with a creek crossing or two. The overall elevation gain is minimal since the trail starts from a high elevation just a short distance below Angel Lake. (See Part 2 for explicit directions to the Winchell Lake trailhead.)

 Scenery Along Trail  Scenery Along Trail
© Cliffs Above Trail to Winchell Lake

Trail Photo  Trail Photo Trail Photo  Trail Photo
© Sections of Trail Through Rocky Terrain, Foliage, Open Country and Through Cone Flowers.

The trail passes some former beaver pond activity in one or two places but apparent loss of water caused the beavers to move on to other locations.

Old Beaver Pond Activity Old Beaver Pond Activity
© Old Beaver Pond Activity Along Trail

 Winchell Lake © Winchell Lake  Angel Lake © Angel Lake

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To get to Lost Lake you must really, really want to get there. There are two main obstacles: 1) finding out how to get there, and 2) getting there once you may have found a way. This lake is the least viewed lake in the Ruby Mountains. Birdeye Lake holds the same distinction in the East Humboldts.

Lost Lake, located on a steep, rocky ledge on the west side of the range near the head of Rattlesnake Canyon, is about three miles crow flying distance from Overland Lake. This suggests that you could get there from Overland Lake. This is one possible route but you must first get to Overland, either from the Ruby Valley trail or by hiking in from either end of the Ruby Crest trail.

Once at Overland you are on your own. There is of course no trail towards Lost Lake. You could take the Crest trail south out of Overland until reaching the east-west divide on the ridge overlooking Gennette Creek Canyon. At that point leave the trail rather than lose altitude by following the trail down, and then try working your way north (to the right) around the head of Gennette Creek Canyon and see if you can make it to the ridge separating Gennette Creek and Rattlesnake canyons.

If successful, looking down from the ridge you will be viewing a lake which has the shape of the state of California. There is a pond at the upper end. If you want to descend to the lake, it is a steep and treacherous scramble over loose rocks. This should be a prime bighorn sheep and mountain goat spotting area. Now and then the Forest Service has indicated that they might plant fish in the lake but who would come around to do any fishing?

 Lost Lake © Lost Lake  Pond © Pond at Upper End of Lake

Another way that could be tried is through Lee. Rattlesnake Canyon is the largest canyon on that side of the range and is easy to recognize. But like going to Echo Canyon, the road to Rattlesnake Canyon passes through reservation land and requires paying the access fee.

 2U Ranch Entrance © 2U Ranch Entrance
Mouth of Rattlesnake Canyon visible behind left sign pole.

First stop at or telephone the Reservation Travel Office at Lee (775-744-4273) to make the necessary arrangements. To find the canyon, continue a mile or so passed Lee until coming to the entrance to the 2U ranch. The road into the ranch heads directly towards Rattlesnake Canyon. Someone from the Travel Office will probably accompany you into the area. Once in the canyon, hike to the upper end and the lake will be on the high shelf on the right. Topo maps show a trail leading up the canyon but don't expect it to be at all maintained.

 Rattlesnake Canyon © Rattlesnake Canyon from SR 228 to Harrison Pass


Lamoille Canyon Rd 1930s Lamoille Road 1950s  Lamoille Canyon Rd 2000
© Lamoille Canyon Road 1930s, Lamoille Road 1950s and Lamoille Canyon Road 2000

Mileage Sign into Canyon © Mileage Sign Leading to Canyon
The Terraces is a picnic area on the left side of the road about two miles from the turnaround.

 Right Fork Lamoille Canyon  Boulder Outcropping
© Right Fork Lamoille Canyon and Massive Outcropping along Lamoille Canyon Road

View from Verdi Gorge  View from Verdi Gorge View from Verdi Gorge View from Verdi Gorge
©Views Across Lamoille Canyon from the Gorge Leading to Ridge Above Verdi Lake

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The following table lists all the named lakes in the Ruby Mountains and East Humboldts and identifies the pages of this site where information for each lake can be found.

CastlePart 1
Cold (2)Parts 1, 2 Sup , 3
Dollar (2)Part 1
EchoParts 1, 2 , 3 Sup
FavreParts 1, 4
GoatPart 3 Sup
GriswoldParts 2 , 2 Sup
Hidden (2)Parts 1, 2 , 2 Sup , 3
IslandPart 1
LamoillePart 1
LibertyParts 1, 2 , 3 Sup, 4
LostParts 1, 2 , 2 Sup , 3 Sup
North FurlongPart 1
OverlandParts 1, 2 , 3 , 4
RobinsonParts 2 , 2 Sup , 3
SeitzParts 2 , 2 Sup
SoldierParts 2 , 2 Sup , 3
VerdiParts 1, 2 , 2 Sup , 3 Sup
AngelParts 1, 2 , 2 Sup , 3 , 3 Sup
BirdeyeParts 2 , 2 Sup
BoulderParts 1, 2 , 3 , 3 Sup
GreysParts 1, 2 , 3 Sup
SmithParts 1, 2
SteeleParts 1, 2 , 3
WinchellParts 1, 2 , 2 Sup , 3

Echo Lake takes top honors for size and depth at 29 acres and 155 feet in depth. Liberty Lake is second in both size and depth at 21 acres and 108 feet. Castle is the shallowest at five feet and Robinson Lake is not far behind at only six feet. Robinson Lake is located on a flat area rather than in a basin and this would account for the shallowness of the lake.

Both Echo and Liberty lakes have large Mackinaw trout.

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It probably won't come as any real exciting news that SR 228 from Spring Creek to Harrison Pass was not always paved. Like all county roads, before being promoted to a state road, it started out as washboarded gravel. Finally a road construction company came to Elko to pave the first 15 miles. I hired on with the road crew for the summer and being low man on the totem pole, I started with a very low totem pole job, that of sagebrush grubber. What is a sagebrush grubber?

The road width is first marked out with two parallel lines of stakes to mark the sides of the road. Turnapulls then clear the brush between the two stake lines but they always leave up to a foot of brush on each side that must be removed. Here is where the grubber comes in. Armed with an ax, the grubber chops down the brush missed by the turnapulls and stacks it in neat piles in the center of the cleared roadway for burning. The burning is usually uneventful.

Often there was a breeze blowing at right angles across the road. One particular day, having piled the brush too close to the edge of the roadway, the wind caused the flames to jump to the adjoining brush and cheat grass. The flames were spreading rapidly across the sagebrush flat in the direction of distant ranches in Pleasant Valley. The burning sagebrush was not advancing all that rapidly and could have been contained with the ax, but the cheat grass was something else.

After a few minutes it was obvious that nothing could be done other than to stand there and panic and imagine the next day's headlines in The Elko Independent and Elko Daily Free Press: "Careless High School Kid, Now in Elko City Jail, Burns 100,000 Acres which Destroys Hundreds of Heads of Livestock".

Then all of a sudden the flames stopped advancing. Was it a wind shift? No. If ever a game trail was in the right location, this was it. The low flames from the cheat grass could not jump the two foot wide trail and the burning brush, which could have easily jumped the trail, had not reached that point. After a huge sigh of relief by the arsonist, the burning sagebrush was controlled with the grubbing ax. There must be some lesson to be learned here: avoid the possibility of making negative newspaper headlines by first making sure there is a game trail nearby when carelessly burning brush.

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This is not your average giveaway extravaganza (it is far below average) but if you are a winner you can purchase a beverage of your choice, a movie for two, or even lunch for two. The three lake photos shown below are from the combined Ruby Mountains Wilderness and East Humboldt Wilderness Forest Service map that has been mentioned several times throughout these pages. Can you identify any of the lakes in the photos? It only costs an email stamp to try.

Lake #1 Lake #1  Lake #2 Lake #2 Lake #3 Lake #3

Identify one lake correctly, win $5; identify two lakes correctly, win $15; identify all three lakes correctly and win $25. The lakes are NOT identified on the Forest Service map, but different views of the lakes are shown throughout these pages. Include your name and mailing address and send your reply to: Ruby Mountains Express. You will be informed of the results by email, and the check is in the other kind of mail for one or more correct answers.

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Topozone Topographic Maps
Click to Access Topozone.com Web Page

Use Topozone to search for names of lakes, creeks and canyons that have been mentioned on these pages. Show the state as NV and if the place name is recognized, a listing of one or more possibilities will display. Select what appears to be the correct possibility (the correct location will be Elko county) and the feature will appear near the center of the resulting map and marked with a small red cross. The map can be displayed in small, medium or large size. The small size covers about 35 square miles while the large size covers around 200 square miles but with no loss in detail size. The topographic map pages are quite good and can be printed.

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Consider a subscription to Nevada Magazine. The magazine features a number of articles on entertainers, both past and present, in Vegas, Reno and Tahoe, but the real great stories are out of rural Nevada. Two favorites are about the Nevada haylift and the wreck of the City of San Francisco streamliner.

February 1999 February 1999

"The winter Nevada's ranchers faced their own cold war."

The winter of 1948/49 hit northern and eastern Nevada with a vengeance and brought more snow and dipping temperatures than the state had seen in years. Snowfall and snowdrifts piled higher and higher, roads could not be kept open, and it became impossible for ranchers to get feed to their livestock in the hills and on the open range. Elko and White Pine counties were the hardest hit.

Sheep and cattle were dying on their feet and emergency procedures were desperately needed. Nevada officials alerted Washington of the situation and President Truman authorized funds for the existing state of emergency. The Air Force furnished about 28 C-82 Flying Boxcars and, coordinated by Ely rancher George Swallow, Operation Haylift began. Usually accompanied by an area rancher, the C-82 pilots would locate stranded livestock and bails of hay were dropped nearby.

Somehow my friend Ken Hammond of Elko was recruited as a "pusher" and he worked hay drops in Ruby Valley. I was a little miffed that he didn't volunteer my name as someone who would like to do it also. The pushers did just that, lashed inside the plane with ropes and harnesses to keep from falling out, they pushed the bails of hay out the open cargo doors. Ken reported that he was constantly nauseated and throwing-up because of the air turbulence and thousands of hay particles swirling around inside the aircraft.

Thousands of sheep and cattle did perish but Ken kept pushing and throwing-up and did his part in preventing the situation from becoming much worse which would have brought complete economic disaster to the area. Two thousand tons of hay were dropped during the haylift.

October 1997 October 1997

"Was the famous train wreck of 1939 caused by speed or sabotage?"

Probably wondering what it was like to be inside, most people would stop and admire the yellow streamliner as the City of San Francisco roared through Elko at night without stopping. On the night of August 12, 1939 the train was about a half hour behind schedule as it pulled into Carlin, 25 miles west of Elko, to change crews. The new engineer is to have told the fireman that they would arrive in Oakland on time since they could throttle up to 90 mph across the Nevada flats. The train didn't make it to Oakland.

Fifteen minutes later, between Carlin and Beowawe, 24 people would die when the train jumped the track at a railroad bridge and fell into the Humboldt River with several cars stacked up and scattered around like match sticks. The engines and a few cars had made it over the bridge. Southern Pacific railroad officials immediately declared the derailment an act of sabotage, claiming that track spikes and bars connecting two rails had been removed and that the receiving rail had been moved inward about four inches and re-spiked. This claim of rail tampering was never proven.

The train crew claimed that they were traveling 60 mph at the time. S.P. detectives displayed two jackets that they said were found in the river, and, trying to suggest they had been dropped by the saboteurs, offered a $10,000 reward for "Whose Jackets are These?" Rancher Buck Bell reported however that while riding fence he had seen the jackets two weeks earlier and neither was in the river.

S.P. records are to have indicated that over 93,000 people were interviewed over the next six months. That figure seems absurd and would require interviewing 500 people a day, and would take in about the entire population of the state of Nevada at the time. No suspects were ever developed. S.P. officials stuck to the sabotage story while many others, including train survivors, contribute the derailment to excessive speed.

Link to Nevada Magazine web page for subscription information.

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Nevada Cowgirls Nevada Cowgirls

Email correspondence to Ruby Mountains Express
I respond to all emails
George Sheaks
Ventura, CA
(Elko native)

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Part 1, Trail to Liberty Pass and Beyond
Part 2, Other Wilderness Areas
Part 3, Outfitters and Pack Trips
Part 3 Supplement, Outfitters, Pack Trips, Thomas Canyon, Right Fork Canyon and Ruby Valley
Part 4, Hiking the Entire Ruby Crest Trail with Lynda Mellows and Rosanne Baker