A Sierran crest lava dome: Elephants Back

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Elephants Back

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Elephants Back seen from the Pacific Crest Trail/Tahoe to Yosemite Trail junction
between Frog Lake and Winnemucca Lake

The Carson Pass Management Area has various prominent landmarks—many of them with a history of volcanism such as Elephants Back (also written Elephant's Back) and Round Top. Elephants Back is located southwest of shallow Frog Lake. In contrast to Round Top Peak, an ancient craggy volcanic vent, Elephants Back is a smooth massive lava dome—an elongated dome of solidified lava (see, for example, Round Top Geologic Area).

Elephants Back and nearby Red Lake Peak are part of the present-day Sierran crest within the Carson Pass region. Geologists study this area to understand the volcanic, stratigraphic and structural evolution of the Hope Valley-Carson Pass-Kirkwood palaeocanyon system. A geologic map of the Carson Pass-Kirkwood Valley area (Figure 2 in GSA Bulletin paper) illustrates the relation of Elephants Back—chronostratigraphicly marked as stratified cobble breccia-conglomerate—to other landmarks including Black Butte, Round Top, Thimble Peak and Thunder Mountain. While you are hiking around Elephants Back and are surveying the fascinating scenery, you may wonder how this landscape will look like in coming epochs—projecting from past to future events.

The picture above shows the northwest-facing slope and rock outcroppings of Elephants Back, seen from the trail junction where the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) branches off from the hiking trail between Frog Lake and Winnemucca Lake. The latter flanks Elephants Back. Along this trail, you get close-up views of Elephants Back's talus slopes.

Stephen Berei, in his LAKE TAHOE ALL ACCESS blog, describes a hike to the top of Elephants Back with its spectacular vistas of surrounding lakes including the Blue Lakes and Caples Lake. Ted's OUTDOOR World also features Elephants Back's environment, including snapshots of beautiful wildflowers.