Ringed by mountains, Lake Valley State Recreation Area features a championship 18-hole golf course. Since the elevation is over 6,000 feet, shots carry farther in the thin mountain air. In the winter, the recreation area has snowmobiling and cross country skiing.
Did this loop (counter-clockwise) in early May 2016. Great hike for this time of year, as the front half of the loop is south-facing. The road to Echo Chalet was still closed due to snow, so we had to park at the sno-park right off the 50 (Parking permits available at the general store in Strawberry). This added about 2 miles to the trip.
In early May there were still decent sized patches of snow on the front-half of the trail. Once you get to the top of Lower Echo Lake the trail essentially disappears, so we just followed one of the many streams up up up. At the right turn on Spring Trail, the trail itself was under a few feet of snow, so we headed up the granite in the general direction of the ridge line. You don't need a trail in this section really as there is only one way you can possibly go (up). Some large patches of shallow snow dotted the ridge line, until the final half mile, where the snow disappears and the trail to the summit becomes visible. We could not find a register at the summit. (Safety note: snow on the leeward side (toward Lake Tahoe) of the ridge is likely to be unstable and it's a long way down. Stick to the rocks).
The back half of the loop (west-facing) was under 3+ feet of snow the entire way down (you could ski this). This helped to level out the steep sections of rock underneath as well as provide some shock absorption on descent. Watch for snow bridges between trees and above running water, the few collapses we had were more funny than painful, but your mileage may vary. The snow on the back half also means there is no trail to follow, so bring a topo/compass or a gps unit.
Five stars, this one was an adventure for sure.