Contributed by Lois Ports for Bristlecone Audubon
Because of its beauty and ease of access Lamoille Canyon gets lots of visitors. There is another canyon you might want to explore next time you have a day or two off. Soldier Canyon might not have any developed campgrounds but there are several primitive campsites along the road up to the trail head. What it does have to offer is wonderful scenery, wildflowers, and bird watching.
Most people head immediately for the trail head before starting to hike. I like to park on the side of the lower road and walk for a while. Break your walk into comfortable sections and just keep moving your vehicle. The narrow road overlooks Soldier Creek and is bordered by a bounty of wildflowers. Some of the showier species you can see include sticky geranium, showy penstamon, solomon’s seal, wild rose, and scarlet gilia.
As you walk be sure to watch and listen for the many birds that nest in Soldier Canyon. Bushtits, mountain chickadee, warbling vireo and lazuli bunting can be found in the aspen thickets. As you walk through the areas of pinyon pine and juniper you can find western tanager, chipping sparrow, and both spotted and green tailed towhee. As the road opens up near the trail marked to John Day I usually decide to drive the rest of the way to the trail head.
There is ample parking and a turnaround area with a vault toilet at the end of the main road. The road then crosses Soldier Creek just past the outhouse. This area attracts many butterflies. The edges of the creek provide excellent spots for mud-puddling. Mud-puddling is a behavior most conspicuous in butterflies but other insects may also be present. They suck up the fluid from the wet soil which provides them with vital nutrients including salts and minerals. Some of the butterflies you can expect to see include the western white admirals, checkerspots, blues and anglewings.
After you cross Soldier Creek there is 3/4 mile of rough road which requires a high clearance vehicle (Many people chose to walk this stretch). At this point there is a USFS kiosk and a gate blocking access to any vehicles. The first two miles of this hike follow Soldier Creek up Soldier Canyon. The trail is rocky and muddy in places so watch your footing. The canyon is the only place a hiker has shade from the Nevada sun. After two miles the trail reaches the beginning of Soldier Basin which is treeless and has open meadows. After about mile and a half of hiking in the basin the trail for Krenka Creek goes to the left. Continuing another two miles a hiker will get into the main part of the basin with Hidden lakes, Soldier Lake, and Robinson Lake as possible destinations. Robinson Lake is the farthest from the trailhead at about five miles. For more information on these destinations search online or inquire at the USFS office in Elko or Wells.
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