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Highland Lakes from Tyron Peak on the Pacific Crest Trail Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your Backpacking Guide to the High Sierras Ebbetts Pass in the afternoon
Boulder Creek drainage off the West Sierra.
Highland Lakes
Boulder Creek drainage off the West flank of the Sierra Crest links the PCT with the TYT.
Ebbetts Pass

 

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Backpacking
Boulder Lake Junction
to the
East Carson River Trail

Hiking
The Pacific Crest Trail
between Ebbetts Pass and Sonora Pass

 

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Guide Index Highway 4 to Highway 108 North
Murray Canyon to Boulder Lake Junction
South
East Carson River to Sonora Pass

7.5 Topo Map Swampy Lake to Boulder Lake

Boulder Lake to Sonora Pass

This 30 min Map Ebbetts Pass to Sonora Pass Ebbetts to Sonora Pass MILES AND ELEVATIONS ALL TOPO MAPS EBBETTS TO SONORA Resupply North: Lake Alpine. South: Kennedy Meadows National Forest: Toiyabe & Stanislaus Weather all maps index

The Boulder Lake Trail Junction on the Pacific Crest Trail

Hike West to the TYT: Boulder Lake Trail to the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus

Boulder Lake trail junction decorated by the local Bears.
Boulder Lake trail Junction.

Cranky Bears?

Asa Lake to East Carson River
15 minute Topo Backpacking Map

Boulder Lake Trail Junction to the East Carson River

Index

PCT MAP

PCT-TYT LINK MAP

On this section of the Pacific Crest Trail, from North to South

Boulder Lake Trail Junction: Connector to the TYT (below)

 

Boulder Lake Trail Junction: Mapping Notes

 

Dead Pond

 

Behind "the plug"

 

Creek Campsite

Weather and Road Information

Point Forecasts

Nat Weather Service
Ebbetts Pass

Sonora Pass

Regional Forecasts

NWS
West Slope

NWS
East Flank

Ebbetts Pass
Regional Weather Information

Sonora Pass
Regional Weather Information

All
High Sierra Weather Resources
Real Time Ground Reporting Stations

Ebbetts Pass
Reporting Station

Stanislaus Meadow
reporting station

Bear Valley
reporting station

Sonora Pass Bridge

Poison Flat
Reporting Station

All Ground Reporting Stations

MesoWest N Calif Stations

Calif Snotel

Road Conditions

Caltrans Hwy 4

Big View
Radar

North California Radar

Big View
Space

Western US Satellite

All
Weather
and Fire Information

All High Sierra Weather Resources

Comprehensive High Sierra Fire and Smoke Information

Switchbacks

 

Video: Down the Switchbacks

 

Landmarks on the East Carson River unmaintained trail

 

Aspens at the bottom

 

East Carson Trail Junction

Forum: comments-questions-your experiences

Basic Facts

Topo Hiking Map

Boulder Lake trail junction

Boulder Lake to Sonora Pass

Miles and Elevations

Boulder Lake trail junction is 3 miles North of the East Carson River trail junction

The Boulder Lake trail junction is 17.71 miles South of Ebbetts Pass

The Boulder Lake trail junction is 11.73 miles North of Sonora Pass

Boulder Lake TYT Forum.

Boulder Lake PCT Forum.

Boulder Lake Trail Junction
to the
East Carson River

Basic Facts, the Lay of the Land.

Hiking South from the Southern Sharkfin (peak 9501) on the Southern side of Murray Canyon we begin circling around the Southwest side of Boulder Peak, swinging into and climbing out of Westward drainages for the first time since our brief descent from Tyron Peak.

Hiking South from Wolf Creek Pass we have been following along the Eastern side of the Sierra crestline capped by Arnot and Disaster Peaks to our Southwest. South of Disaster Peak we briefly cross over to the Western flank of the Sierra as we circle around the Southwest side Boulder Peak.

Two Rivers, Two Trails

After circling all the way around to the Southeast side of Boulder Peak we find ourselves perched on a narrow sliver of forested ridge crest dividing and overlooking both the Eastern and Western drainages off of the Sierra Crest. This narrow neck divides the two great rivers draining this section of the Eastern and Western Sierra, the East Carson River to the East from the Western Flow of the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus, and therefore this ridge also divides the two great trails that follow these rivers, the PCT and TYT.

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail passes 2.74 miles below us to the Southwest via the Boulder Lake trail. We are standing at the closest point that these the PCT and TYT pass to each other along the trail. At Highway 108 the Pacific Crest Trail Trailheads at Sonora Pass are one mile East from the Northbound Tahoe to Yosemite Trail Trailhead at Saint Marys Pass.

Boulder Lake is the closest point between the PCT and TYT along the trails themselves from the Lake Tahoe Basin, where these routes divided, to where their routes rejoin below Bond Pass in Jack Main Canyon.

East and West Flanks

The drainage from the East sides of Arnot, Disaster and Boulder Peaks feed the East Carson River. The Western-sides of this line of peaks feed Disaster Creek and Boulder Creek via Boulder Lake, both of which contribute to the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus.

This particular little piece of crestline is special because it is one of the rare places where we can actually stand between these Eastern and Western drainages. We are usually hiking along the East or the West flank for many miles. The Pacific Crest Trail route North from Dorothy Lake Pass to Carson Pass can be characterized by its Eastern flank route compared with the Western flank route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Here at Boulder Peak to the Boulder Lake trail junction the PCT peeks into both the East and West drainages.

Hiking the PCT North and South of Boulder Peak we will again be decidedly on the Eastern Flank of the Sierra. South of Boulder Peak we will be deep within the drainage of the East Carson River. Southbound hikers will remain on the Eastern flank of the Sierra, with a few notable exceptions, until we enter Yosemite National Park through Dorothy Lake Pass and enter the Western Drainages of the Toulumne River. Northbound hikers along the PCT will also be hiking along the Eastern flank of the Sierra up to the Lake Tahoe Basin, again with a couple of notable exceptions (Tyron Peak, The Nipple above Blue Lakes, and the top of the North Fork of the Mokelumne River drainage at Carson Pass), until you enter the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Continuing South on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail from the Boulder Lake trail junction the Pacific Crest Trail brings us switch-backing down to the East Carson River. Dropping down to the East Carson river the Sierra crestline dividing us from the Clarks Fork now sits above us to our East, capped by Stanislaus and Sonora Peaks running North to South. Sonora Peak's Northeastern flank composes the Western side of the East Carson River's headwaters bowl. Climbing out of the East Carson River's headwaters bowl we will traverse around Sonora Peak's Eastern and Southern flanks to finally access Sonora Pass.

Backpacking Loops

This little neck of ridge that separates the great Carson and Stanislaus rivers is also special because it allows us to craft great backpacking loops through the magnificent upper reaches of both the East Carson and Clarks Fork rivers. The Boulder Lake trail linking these Eastern and Western drainages gives us easy access to the stunning high country up to and around the headwaters of both the Clarks Fork and the East Carson Rivers without having to hike too many miles.

Headwaters Loop

The loop from Sonora Pass North along the Pacific Crest Trail to the Boulder Lake junction then through the Boulder Lake trail down to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail along the Clarks Fork and South up to the Clarks Fork Trailhead on Highway 108 is 23.52 miles. If you hike variations of this loop out of the Clarks Fork Road trailheads you can pump up the miles by enlarging the loop.

The Carson Iceberg topo hiking map is decorated with these loops

Continuing our Hike South along the Pacific Crest Trail

We have one more high ridge line and one more high drainage to cross South of the Boulder Lake trail junction before we pass around the West side of "the plug," the massive granite formation that pinches the course of East Carson River twelve hundred feet below.

Passing around to the South side of "the plug" we begin switch-backing down to the East Carson River. The USGS 7.5 topo map quadrangle appears to be inaccurate here. The bulk of the switchbacks down to the river from the crest line appears to be situated further South of The Plug, AKA Peak 9065, and the trail itself down to the East Fork of the Carson River now switchbacks down crossing this creek multiple times, rather than being composed of a couple of big traverses winding their way down-mountain North of this small drainage cascading down the mountain flank, as depicted on the USGS Disaster Peak quad.

Currently (2010) the switchbacks are centered on this steep creek tumbling down the canyon-side.

Either the trail or the creek has moved since the maps were drawn.

Once at the bottom of the switchbacks the Pacific Crest Trail becomes a a gentle track on gently rolling terrain Southbound through dense swaths of spreading Aspens shortly bringing you to the unmaintained East Carson Trail junction on the Southbound hiker's Left.

The East Carson River Trail turns North here to follow the East Carson River downstream to Carson Falls. Just South of Carson Falls you will find the Golden Canyon Trail leading West up to the PCT and North of Carson Falls the Murray Canyon Trail tracks West to join the PCT. These junctions also offer options for hiking loops, but these loops incorporate the difficulties of the unmaintained trail section between the East Carson River trail junction on the PCT to Carson Falls, a difficult section.

Hiking South along the PCT we cross a small stream a few feet North of the East Carson trail junction, which provides water for the uneven campsite on the West side of the PCT across from the trail junction.

I am one of the people who yearly duck the PCT East Carson junction when I can first get through the route as the snows recede, but I do not duck the E Carson Trail itself. Injury has knocked me out of the Spring opening of this rough trail in 2011 and likely 2012. Nonetheless this well-worn trail junction is easy to spot.

A much superior campsite overlooking the East Carson River than the uneven site along the trail sits about a hundred yards down the East Carson River Trail.

At 8160 feet the Pacific Crest Trail junction with the East Carson trail is the lowest point of our hike through the East Carson River drainage. Hiking either North or South from this point offers significant climbs. North up the switchbacks to the Sierra Crest line, and South up through the steady climb up to through the headwaters of the East Carson to the high Gap on the Southeast flank of Sonora Peak above Sonora Pass. The climbs in either direction make the East Carson River trail junction an excellent break spot.

South from the Pacific Crest Trail junction with the East Carson River Trail we face a 5.86 mile ascent up 2376 feet of elevation to the Sonora Gap at 10,500 feet, our highpoint on this section of the trail. Another 2.88 miles South from the Sonora Gap brings us down into Sonora Pass at 9624 feet and road access on Highway 108 down to our next resupply spot at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

The East Carson River trail junction to Sonora Pass: 8.74 miles

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Boulder Lake trail junction with the Pacific Crest Trail

Boulder Lake Trail Junction

Topo Mapping Notes: 2009 USDA Forest Service Carson-Iceberg Wilderness map

Boulder Lake Junctions and Trails omitted

The posted trail junction pictured above connecting Boulder Lake to the Pacific Crest Trail has been omitted on the 2009 USDA Forest Service Map of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. My 1987 version of this USDA map and the 1979 USGS Disaster Peak 7.5 quadrangle both depict this trail.

The unmarked trail junction down to Boulder Lake to the South of the posted trail junction is also omitted from the 2009 USDA Forest Service Map. The location of the Southern Boulder Lake trail junction is marked by a black pond.

The 2009 map should have depicted these routes as unmaintained, at the very least. Possibly the omission was a mistake. The Boulder Lake Trail from the marked trail junction goes faint a few times between Boulder Lake and its marked junction with the Pacific Crest Trail, but it is a very follow-able route even when the trail diminishes. The route down to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail from Boulder Lake is well-trod.

Boulder Lake TYT Forum: comments

The Boulder Lake Trail Junction

Break-time at Boulder Lake Trail Junction along the Pacific Crest Trail South of Boulder Peak.
Break at the Boulder Lake trail junction along the Pacific Crest Trail.

At left my pack is resting on the trail junction post. The Pacific Crest Trail runs North-South between our packs.

Look West, High Sierra Hikers!

Boulder Creek trail West from the Pacific Crest Trail.
Boulder Creek trail West from the Pacific Crest Trail.

This is the forest around the unmaintained trail West from the marked Boulder Lake junction down to Boulder Lake. From Boulder Lake a well maintained trail runs Southwest down to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail at Boulder Creek, which is above the Clarks Fork Trailhead at the end of Clarks Fork Road.

Westward Ho!
Down to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

The view of the Boulder Creek drainage from a bit further North down the PCT gives us an overview to the Southwest that can discern the shape of the forest from the trees.

We're looking at the Boulder Creek drainage tracing its way down the West flank of the Sierra from the Pacific Crest Trail to the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus River.

The view above is looking down this canyon from ground-level at the trail junction on the Pacific Crest Trail. The picture below gives us an overview of this cool route connecting the PCT and the TYT.

The valley immediately below us leads from the PCT, out of sight to our Left, down to Boulder Lake, which is out of sight on the lower Right corner of the image above.

The trail from Boulder Lake, which is out of sight behind the ridge and tree in the lower Right corner of the image, follows Boulder Creek down to the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus River.
Boulder Creek flows through the fold in the mountain from the lower Right corner of the image to the Left along the base of the exposed rocky ridge in the middle distant Right of the image. Boulder Creek joins the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus, and our trail down from the PCT joins the TYT at the base of that ridge.

 

South from the Boulder Lake Trail Junction

The Lay of the Land

We've got two more little climbs South of the Boulder Lake trail junction before the Pacific Crest Trail flattens passing behind "The Plug," and then switchbacks down to the East Fork of the Carson River just past "The Plug."

From the Boulder Lake trail junction we have a short trail straight up the next Southern ridge, then the trail bends West from this ridgecrest to traverse West down its Southern flank to a dead pond.

At the dead pond we again turn South to make the gentle climb up and around the backside of "the plug," one of the dominant features that landmark this section of the trail. The plug is noted as Peak 8990 on the USGS 7.5 topo map.

 

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Granite

Hiking South on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Boulder Lake trail junction we turn around to look North across the gully down to Boulder Lake.
Looking North across gully and trail down to Boulder Lake.

Granite again dominates the terrain. Passing South of the Southern Sharkfin granite begins to emerge out of the red soils of volcanic terrain and grows has we hike South.

 

Looking North across the drainage holding the unmaintained trail down to Boulder Lake we take note of the South side of the ridge to the North between us and Boulder Peak.
South of the Boulder Lake junction, Pacific Crest Trail.

We are not only passing into granite terrain from the volcanic, the unique colors, shapes, and jointing of the granite along the East Fork of the Carson River is amazing as we see it emerging from its volcanic captivity.

Curious Rock Formaton
Inclusions

Unique rock formation lays like a ribbon across granite, South of the Boulder Lake trail junction.
Excellent metamorphic rock combination.

A curious formation.

 

A closer look reveals a string of blocks sitting atop glacial carved granite.
Blocks on rock detail.

These rocks are different than the granite they sit upon, yet appear "original."

 

An inclusion in the original granite pluton accessed by glacial carving, then exposed by thousands of years of weathering?
rock formation laid on carved granite.

Has subsequent erosion worked to separate and highlight this geologically exposed vein of included rock?

Check out the interesting inclusions I spotted along the Tahoe to Yosmite Trail along the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus River on the West side of Stanislaus Peak.

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Dead Pond & Southern Route down to Boulder Lake

Dropping Westward down the South side of Peak 8722 we come to a black pond. We continue dropping down to the the pond, where the trail again turns South to make the gentle climb around the backside of "the plug," Peak 8990.

Both the 1985 30 minute and 1977 7.5 maps show a trail junction at this position heading West down to Boulder Lake. There is no marked junction here, though it looks like a valid route either down to Boulder Lake or the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus could be found through the terrain beyond the pond.

I'll scout it out next time through this section.

Dead pond marks your turning point.

The black pond is not marked on the Disaster Peak USGS topo map. "Dead" or "Black" ponds are not fed by active streams. Thus they hold the runoff from the Spring Thaw until they finally dry out.

Have you hiked this route down to Boulder Lake from the PCT? Post up your experiences and impressions.

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Pacific Crest Trail Hikers

Hiking South past the black pond we climb up a short chute to access the backside of "The Plug." Chugging up this chute on my 2009 Tahoe to Whitney Trip I started to meet various Pacific Crest Trail hikers and other various long-distance and section backpackers heading North.

I ran into Becky, Kent, Radar, and Carly as they were coming down the chute and I was climbing up. We met where a little flat extended the trail, a convenient place to stop and chat for a moment.

  Becky and Kent.  
  Kent and Becky south of Boulder Lake Junction.  

Doing a quick weekend Sonora to Ebbetts Pass hike with their fine trail dogs.

High Sierra Hiking Dogs

Good Dogs!

  Radar.       Carley.  
  Radar and Carley: Good trail dogs. Radar and Carley like to meet cool hikers.  
 

Trail dog watching nature while hanging out with the new guy.

Note my backpack. I have learned to take it off when I chat up hikers.

During 2000 I figured I should build this guide, and I began picking the brains of backpackers I meet along the trail. I started carrying a camera, and going off-trail for better shots...

Carley was more worked by the trail than radar.

 

Sierra Dogs Forum

 

South of the Dead Pond.

Pacific Crest Trail hiker encounters, 2009, below.

Pacific Crest Trail hiker encounters, 2010.

Continuing South past Becky and Kent I encountered Riff-Raff and Ben & Jerry totally kicked back in a fine shady flat spot alongside the trail.

They were recharging their batteries, which had been severely tested by the 1000+ miles they had already hiked, including the last very difficult section between Tuolumne Meadows and Sonora Pass.

Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.

Riff-Raff and Ben & Jerry.
Riff-Raff and Ben & Jerry, Pacific Crest Trail.

Out of Ohio.

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Backside of The Plug

Passing around the backside of "The Plug' we encounter a fine campsite with great views and easy water.

MAP

Campsite near the top of the last rise behind "the plug."
Campsite South of Boulde rLake junction.

This campsite is located by the stream running North and Sough along the backside of "The Plug," AKA Peak 8990.

 

Creek South of Campsite.
Water Source.

This is the upper section of the creek that drains of the West side of Peak 8990 where the PCT crosses.

 

Views, Break Spots, and Backpackers on the backside of the The Plug

View Northeast through the trees.
View of East Carson River rock from Campsite South of Boulder Lake trail junction.

The East Carson River Gorge is more that the Eastern backdrop of this section of trail. It is the dominating feature.

We'll get another longer view of this whole face as we continue South and lose elevation.

 

Road Dawg, Buffy, and Bill taking a break on the nice shaded flat behind The Plug.
Road Dawgs, Buffy, and Bill.

On a Sonora Pass to Ebbetts Pass trip. Note the fine campsite beyond.

Hikers out of the East Bay Area.

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Hiking South approaching the Switchbacks down to the East Carson River

Coming out from behind the plug we get a front view of the exotic rock formations on the South side of Peak 10440, on East side of the East Fork of the Carson River.
Majestic East Carson River granite formations.

The ridgeline in the background is rising towards Whitecliff Peak.

 

View across and down East Carson River.
View across and down East Carson River.

This is the same structure we looked at across the canyon from the South side of Boulder Peak.

I really love the dynamic views of the rock here as our route rotates our views.

 

Looking North down the East side of the East Carson River.
East Carson River granite beauty.

This is the head of the formation below Peak 10440.

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Carson Gap at the Head of the Canyon

To the South: Our Goal, The E Carson Gap.
The gap to Wolf Creek Lake in the distance.

We pass out of the East Carson River headwaters over to Wolf Creek Lake through this low point in the terrain linking Whitecliff Peak and Sonora Pass.

Sweetness at our Feet

Flower, red, Indian Paintbrush.
Paintbrush.

Flower Forum

Grandure across the Canyon

Switch-backing down to the East Carson River we start to observe key landmarks for hikers on the unmaintained East Carson River Trail.
East Carson River granite formations.

If you plan on ever hiking in from the East and then South up the unmaintained East Carson River Trail it is time to pay close attention to the features along this section of the East Carson River.

 

 

East Carson River Rock Formations

Arches of the Rock Gods

Looking North down the gorge protecting the upper reaches of the East Carson River.

Rock formations East Carson River.

The arc of this groove once held the bottom-edge of the glacier that slid down the East Carson's gorge, in its rocky grip.

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The arc of the groove sits atop a massive vertical granite formation.
Great granite formation, East Carson River.

The trail between Carson Falls and the PCT traces its route thousands of feet below these sheer walls.

 

Switchback Creek

The switchbacks down to the East Carson center on this creek.

Thus we will hike by a series of gentle relaxing waterfalls on our way down to the East Fork of the Carson River.

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Descent to the East Carson River

The Lay of the Land

Switchbacks. Long twisting trail laid like a piece of twisting ribbon down the mountainside. The switchbacks are centered on a stream tumbling down the steep flank of the mountain.

Each time the trail crosses the stream the ears are delighted by the tinkling sounds of falling water, the eye by the shimmering cascade down the mountain, and the skin by the coolness brought along by the falling water.

We cross 8880 feet of elevation hiking behind "The Plug," just North of where we begin our 720 foot descent down the switchbacks to the 8160 feet of elevation at the Pacific Crest Trail junction with the East Carson River Trail.

The trail surface of the switchbacks is fairly soft, much of the trail is shaded by forest clinging to the mountainside, and the switchbacks are well graded.

Miles and Elevations

2.99 miles total distance from the Boulder Lake junction hiking South to East Carson River trail junction, including the section of switchbacks down to the East Carson River.

The switchbacks have been remodeled and rerouted by trail crews over the decades since the 1979 USGS Disaster Peak Map was laid out. Note that all of the mapping services rely on the USGS data. Tahoe to Whitney is where all of the mapping data depicting the main trails are checked out against reality. Thus I built the comments-forum feature so recent hikers can report route modifications. The switchbacks begin further South of The Plug than indicated by the map, have more turns than the map depicts making this segment a bit longer than indicated by the maps.

11.73 miles from the Boulder Lake junction South to Sonora Pass.

17.71 miles from the Boulder Lake junction North to Ebbetts Pass.

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Video: Down the Switchbacks

  Boulder Lake Trail Junction to East Carson River unmarked trail junction.  
     

Video: East Fork of the Carson River on the Pacific Crest Trail. 3:55.

MAP

Been here? Done That? Add your hiking perspective and experiences to enrich ours:

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Upper section of the East Carson River from the switchbacks down to the East Carson. This is beautiful country.

We are headed down into the forests.

Last Southern view, East Carson Gap.

The PCT roughly parallels the East Carson River up to the gap from the point where the ridgeline descending from the Left (East) of the image reaches River level.

 

We cross this creek many times hiking down the switchbacks. Check out the video above for some shots of this creek.
Switchback Creek at the top.
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Creek centering switchbacks down to East Fork of the Carson River.

Creek centering switchbacks down to East Fork of the Carson River,

"Switchback Creek."

East Carson River Headwaters

The upper East Carson ford is hidden behind the little tree in the foreground middle of the image.
 

Check this view while coming down the switchbacks looking South up to the East Carson Gap against the 30 minute topo map of this section.

The view above depicts the section of the PCT from the junction with the East Carson Trail up to gap in the headwaters bowl.

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Another Perspective: Critical Landmark for hikers coming up the East Carson River Trail

Landmark wall above upper East Fork of the Carson River.

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View East of the East side of the East Carson River as we descend the switchbacks South down to river level.
East Carson River trail Lankdmark.

The highest point of the formation on the Right along the crestline of the image above is the "Castle" landmark. If you are following the unmaintained trail up the East Carson River from Carson Falls this formation informs you of the location of the upper ford.

You will begin looking for the ford over to the PCT after passing this formation Southbound along the unmaintained trail.

Views North from the lower section of the Switchbacks

View North, downstream through the great canyon holding the East Fork of the Carson River.
View downriver East Carson from Switchbacks.

Down the East Carson River.

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Where Are We?

We are in an Exceptional short section of Granite Terrain between vast stretches of Volcanic Terrain

Detail of landmark formation above.
Landmark rock for crossing the East Carson River from the unmaintained trail.

I call this formation The Castle. It looks like a castle when you are looking almost straight up at it from the East Carson River Trail. It is a noticeable feature viewed from its base, looming up out of the forest at the top of a vast wall.

After spotting this formation from the East Carson Trail you start bending Southwest to find the upper ford over the East Carson River which is very close to the East Carson River trail junction on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Detail: Grand Granite Formation rising from the East Bank of the East Carson River

We are looking East at the granite wall rising from the East Shore of the East Carson River across the river from our position on the switchbacks on the Western side of the canyon.

The ford separating the East Carson River Trail from the Pacific Crest Trail is just South (Right) of where the near granite ridge arm, descending laterally to the lower-Right corner of this image, reaches river level.

Yup, the ford's rigggght down there. Really.

This "castle" landmark keeps you squared-away in relation to the location of the upper ford of the East Carson River for hikers coming up the East Fork of the Carson River's unmaintained trail from Carson Falls.

My trail song is,"Castle, meadow, cut right, and the ford comes into sight, all after you pass that old campsite...," and so on. Sing me a song. With your feet beating the rhythm.

Check out the far East side of the Carson-Iceberg regional topo map to review the unmaintained East Carson River route up from Carson Falls.

Carson Falls is an excellent destination all by itself, but is most easily accessed through the remote Eastern Escarpment of the Sierra from Highway 395.

Access through Rodriguez Flat and the Corral Valley Trailhead.

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The next three images depict the terrain where the unmaintained route coming up the East Fork of the Carson River meets the route of the Pacific Crest Trail.
The great wall on the East flank of the East Carson River's canyon.

The great granite ridge capped by the Castle shows us the end of the unmaintained trail is near.

In the Right foreground a great ridge arm is dropping down off the end of the Castle Ridge to mark the point where the unmaintained route fords the East Carson River.

 

View South. We are looking at the bottom of the granite ridge arm dropping from "The Castle" formation pictured above.

The unmaintained trail ford is just out of the right side of this image where the end of the granite ridge arm enters the forest on the canyon floor.

Switchback view upriver, East Carson River, Pacific Crest Trail.

View Up the East Carson River. The ford from the East Carson River Trail sits in the forest before the descending ridge arm in the background of the image.

 

Junction of East Carson River trail and PCT trails.

Junction of East Carson River trail and PCT trails.

 

Upper section of the East Fork of the Carson River.
Upper section of the East Fork of the Carson River.

We can see the foot of the end of the ridge coming off from the sheer flank topped by the Castle formation entering the forest on the near far-left of the image.

The ford point of the unmaintained trail up the East Carson River to the PCT is located just to the Right of the end of that ridge arm. The PCT route is just to the Right of the ford.

We are one switchback from entering the canyon floor and the gradual descent to the unmarked trail junction with the unmaintained trail down the Canyon of the East Carson River.

There's one real nice campsite and one marginal campsite there.

We can see the Carson Gap marking our exit from the headwaters of the East Fork of the Carson River in the far distance at the head of the canyon.

Detail

A closer look. We can see the East Carson winding upriver beyond the descending granite ridge arm.
View up East Carson River to headwaters from switchbacks on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Our Southbound Pacific Crest Trail route down the switchbacks is bringing us down into this forest alongside the East Carson River.

Once we get to the base of these switchbacks it is a short hike South to the East Carson River Trail junction, where we are going to take a break before beginning the long climb up to the Sonora Gap through the E Carson Gap.

We're going to eat some food, drink some water, and rest for a while.

Once we get under the forest it will get harder to see the surrounding terrain.

The Pacific Crest Trail passes to the right of the massive granite ridge beyond the forest in the image above. The East Carson runs through the forest, closer to our side than the granite ridge.

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Aspens at the bottom of the switchbacks

  The last cascade of the creek that accompanied us down the Switchbacks.   Fat Aspens greet us at the bottom of the Switchbacks.  
  Cascading water down switchback creek, East Carson River.   Aspens greet the end of your descent to the East Carson River.  
   
A thick green canopy of Aspens shade us as we cross a small creek before reaching the East Carson River Trail.  
  Yeah! Going down steep descents is hard on the knees.    

 

Bright Green of Aspen suckers breaking towards sunlight.
Aspens bursting out just North of the East Carson River ford on the Pacific Crest Trail.

We are now just a short distance North of the East Carson River Trail with the Pacific Crest Trail.

 

East Carson River Trail Junction

miles and elevations

Elevation: 8160 feet

20.7 miles South of Ebbetts Pass

8.74 miles North of Sonora Pass

The section of trail between this junction North along the East Carson River down to Carson Falls is unmaintained and unmarked. Not many trail markings through here, and the ducks and the blazes there are older and grumpier than I.

During decades hiking this difficult route I have only encountered other backpackers here once. I was heading upriver when I heard them breaking through to my South, so I stopped and sat quietly to watch their approach.

They were two couples in their late '50. That was surprising, but they looked very fit. They were working very hard to pass over the rough terrain and were not observing past their current obstacles, so I remained unobserved.

As their route was going to bring them directly to my position, and I figured that walking up to me would scare the shit out of them in this remote location, I gently coughed to reveal my position without shocking them too badly.

All four of their heads shot up from their down-ward gazes as if a bomb had gone off when I coughed. This made me laugh, as I never hike with my head down... for long... I want to be and see the surprises, and never-ever be surprised.

We exchanged brief greetings, and I continued South to the PCT, and they resumed their head-down trudge North to the beauties of Carson Falls.

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East Fork of the Carson River
The Unmaintained Trail North to Carson Falls

My custom pedestal ducks.
Pacific Crest Trail junction with the East Carson River trail.

No, these ducks are not setup to survive the Winter Snows. I plan on putting them up again next Spring when I can break through...

After I finish the Main Guide I will depict this amazing section of trail down to Carson Falls.

In the meantime here's a report on the

Un maintained Trail up the East Carson River.

Backpacking Trail Guide

North PCT

Murray Canyon to Boulder Lake Junction

West to the TYT

Boulder Lake Trail to Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus

 

Backpacking Trail Guide

South PCT

East Carson River to Sonora Pass

East Fork of the Carson River

Backpacking Ebbetts Pass to Sonora Pass

H

7.5 Map
Boulder Lake to Sonora Pass

30 min Map
Ebbetts Pass to Sonora Pass

Miles and Elevations

comments

Next page South
Boulder Lake to East Carson River

 

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If you have experiences, comments, questions, or pictures and videos of the Pacific Crest Trail between Ebbetts and Sonora Passes, Post up here:
Forum Section
Ebbetts Pass to Sonora Pass
Forum Segment
Boulder Lake Junction to East Carson River

North: Murray Canyon to Boulder Lake Junction                                                 South: East Carson River to Sonora Pass

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Backpacking Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney:

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