Saturday, July 6, 2019

Terrific Trails at Cave Lake State Park

For Week 11 of my 16-week trail marathon training plan, I was supposed to do a 17-mile long run. I wanted a change of scenery, so I headed to Cave Lake State Park near Ely, Nevada. I hadn't really spent much time on the trails there, but it looked like a good trail system, and if I ran most of the trails, I could get in my mileage. (Trail running has really changed my perspective on trail miles!)

We parked at Cave Lake, then I took off on the Cave Springs Loop. I had never been on this pleasant five-mile loop.

The trail was nice, although in a few places there were eye-level sharp branches and the trail needs a little maintenance here and there. The flowers were great, and I saw some that were a little different than in Great Basin National Park, such as a different species of paintbrush and buckwheat.

This penstemon also looked different.

There was no one else on the trail, and I loved running towards the hills!

I ran the trail in a clockwise direction, which was good, because the trail popped out on pavement at this Area Closed sign, with no trail marker sign. If you read the sign carefully, it's area closed to motorized vehicles, but it's not obvious that this is the Cave Springs Loop.

Then it was back to the vehicle on the gravel and paved road. I passed this big limestone outcrop, with a small cave at the base. It actually goes far enough back to have a dark zone!

After a quick stop at the vehicle (my impromptu aid station!), I started on the Steptoe Creek Trail. This trail parallels the road that comes into Cave Lake.

It's a nice, rolling trail, also in need of some maintenance in overgrown sections.

Next up was the Twisted Pines Trail. I was floored by the abundance of wildflowers. They were everywhere, and all colors!

This trail looked more used, and I saw some mountain bike tracks on it. I'd like to go back out with my mountain bike!

The trail gained elevation and before too long I was near Square Top.

I got to a trail junction and took the longer route of the High Roller trail.

True to its name, the trail rolled up and down along the high country. It was beautiful.

It also passed through some amazing wildflower sections.

I was getting tired at this point, but I was also distracted by the great views.

Don't you want to jump up and start running this trail?!

The lupine was in full bloom.

Then the trail turned and I saw Cave Lake in the distance. It looked so small!

The color sure is a contrast with the surrounding pinyon/juniper woodland.

I couldn't help but notice this limestone outcropping and wondered about its cave potential.

This twisted juniper caught my eye. It was about here that I realized I needed to go the opposite direction on the Cave Lake Overlook Trail, so I turned around and headed back uphill.

Then it was time for a very happy sight--the kids and puppy! They were my next aid station, bringing me water and food. Thank you, kids! I had a longer break with them. They were good cheerleaders, urging me to finish strong.

The lake got bigger as I descended.

I kept pausing to check out the wildflowers!

It turned out the route was just shy of the 17 miles, so I ran through the campground (full!) and along the road a little bit extra to get the miles. Overall, the trails at Cave Lake are fantastic, and definitely underused. Besides the kids, I only saw two other people on the trails. There are lots of people fishing and kayaking, and we'd love to go back to enjoy those pursuits.

And here's what the route ended up looking like!  It was 4,491 feet elevation gain, total over 17 miles. The race will be 26.2 miles and 7,310 feet elevation gain, so I'm on my way.

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