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By Tim Hauserman
Just a few miles from Sunnyside Lodge via Ward Canyon lies the Sherwood Express chairlift at the back side of Alpine Meadows. While best known for skiing with views of Lake Tahoe and Twin Peaks, this is also a great place to take a fall hike before the snow flies. The four and a half mile round trip to the top of the ridge is a nice workout and an awesome way to spend a few hours enjoying the Sierra crest.
To get to the hike from Sunnyside: Drive just 100 yards south on Highway 89 to Pineland Drive. Turn right and follow this road to a Y, where you veer left, following the sign to Ward Valley. Soon you emerge from the residential neighborhood on Ward Creek Blvd. and begin a two mile jaunt through the forest along Ward Creek. Eventually, the road becomes Courchevel. Follow the road to the end, park where you can, and begin hiking on the ski area maintenance road.
The route takes long switchbacks to climb about 1000 feet in 2 miles to the top of the Sherwood chair. The views of Twin Peaks and Lake Tahoe keep getting better as you climb. If there is any wind you will hear what to me is the sound of fall at Lake Tahoe: fields of dried mules ears crackling in the breeze.
At the chairlift, walk across the flat and continue up an embankment. Now the route is steeper, with tight switchbacks up the rocky slope. Frequent breaks are needed to marvel at the amazing hemlocks, and the views of Twin Peaks.
Eventually you top out on a large flat, with the lonely but famous F tree next to a Fire Alert camera. Here make your way over to a rocky platform where you enjoy 360 degree views. Starting with Ward Peak to the west at the top of the ridge you sit upon, and moving clockwise, you see all of Alpine Meadows and a part of the Truckee River corridor, the Lakeview Chair, Lake Tahoe, Ward Canyon, Twin Peaks, and then back along the Pacific Crest, which holds the Pacific Crest Trail, to Ward Peak. You will surely want to sit a spell, and after 1300 feet of climbing, you have earned it.
Still have energy in the tank? You can continue along the ridgeline to the top of Ward Peak, where you see the microwave towers. Or you can just relax in the quiet and return to Sunnyside for dinner.