HIKE OF THE MONTH: SIERRA WATCH TRAIL
Take advantage of the unseasonably clear weather to hike one of the Land Trust's higher trails. Starting at the Hoelter Hall Trailhead off Soda Springs Road in the Serene Lakes neighborhood, follow the Rowton Peak Loop Trail identified by red markers in the trees, then turn left on the Sierra Watch Trail (signed) in less than 100 yards for the most direct route to the summit. While the climb is steady it's never steep, passing through beautiful red fir stands along the way. Note: this is a hiking only trail.
The trail crosses both the Rowton Peak and Hewlett Rim Trails on its way up, offering numerous options for loops, depending on how long, or short of a hike you'd like.
The 7,524-foot-high Rowton Peak offers 360-degree views of Donner Summit's most striking landmarks and scenery, including Snow Mountain, Devil's Peak, Granite Chief Wilderness Area, the North Fork of the American River drainage, Serene Lakes and Castle Peak.
The South side of the peak drops off steeply, revealing lava flows, mudflows and other fascinating geologic formations. While the wildflowers of earlier this summer are gone, gnarled, twisted trunks of Sierra Juniper dot the ridgeline.
The Sierra Watch Trail is eponymously named for one of the Land Trust's conservation partners in acquiring Royal Gorge in 2012.