The Toiyabe National Forest administers almost all of the Pacific Crest Trail route hiking South through the whole of the Northern High Sierra from a bit North of Carson Pass until we cross over into Yosemite National Park through Dorothy Lake Pass.
The Toiyabe National Forest administers most of the Eastern flank of the Sierra from the Eastern flank of the Carson Range wrapping around the East shore of Lake Tahoe South to Highway 120. The Toiyabe's administration ends at the bottom of the Hoover Wilderness after wrapping around the North and Northeastern sides of Yosemite National Park in the guise of the Hoover Wilderness.
The Toiyabe National Forest is BIG. Its Western side encompasses most of the East flank of the North Sierra.
Our High Sierra Focus
We are only concerned with a small portion of this vast forest. Specifically we are concerned with the Ranger Districts that administer the portions of the Sierra Crest our Tahoe to Whitney trails cover. The Toiyabe National Forest administers the Eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada Mountains South from the Lake Tahoe Basin down through the bottom end of the Hoover Wilderness to Highway 120.
Two Ranger Districts
This would be the Carson Ranger District covering the East ends of the Mokelumne and Carson Iceberg Wilderness down the Eastern flanks of the Sierra from Highway 88 down to Highway 108, and the Bridgeport Ranger District administering the strip of National Forest on the East flank South from Highway 108 including the whole of the Hoover Wilderness down to Highway 120.
Unlike the Mokelumne and Carson Iceberg Wilderness, which are draped across the Sierra Crest into the El Dorado and Stanislaus National Forests on the Western flank, the Hoover Wilderness remains on the East flank of the Sierra and solely within the scope of the Toiyabe National Forest.
For the most part permits are easy to get in the Toiyabe National Forest. Except for the Hoover Wilderness. The Hoover Wilderness Permit Reservations may be booked up during peak Summer backpacking weekends and weeks. This is because Hoover Wilderness acts as an overflow when Yosemite is highly congested.
Hikers on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route will not visit the Toiyabe, as the TYT route stays on the Western flank of the High Sierra.
Besides administering the East Flank of the High Sierra from the Lake Tahoe Basin South to Sonora Pass, the Toiyabe National Forest boundary continues South along the Sierra Crest when PCT and TYT routes enter Yosemite.
This means that even though PCT hikers have finally departed the Toiyabe National Forest, it is still off to our East and Northeast, administering the Hoover Wilderness wrapping around the North and Northeast perimeter of Yosemite National Park.
The Toiyabe National Forest directly administers almost all of the trail that the Pacific Crest Trail backpacker will hike across between Lake Tahoe to Yosemite. But here's the deal:
As the Toiyabe is so very large, neighboring National Forests administer the special zones and trailheads on their boundary line with the Toiyabe National Forest. The Carson Pass Management Area is one example. The Southbound PCT almost directly enters the Toiyabe NF administered Mokelumne Wilderness South of Carson Pass.
Another example is the Southbound PCT trailhead at Sonora Pass. The PCT tracks the boundary line of the Emigrant Wilderness across the Leavitt Massif, then enters the Toiyabe through Kennedy Canyon South of Leavitt. Yet the Stanislaus NF administers this trailhead.
The Toiyabe administers the whole Eastern Flank of the Northern High Sierra from North of Lake Tahoe to Highway 120 East of Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite, but not a whole lot of its mountain pass trailheads.
Nonetheless, if we are not in the Toiyabe between Carson Pass down to Yosemite while hiking the PCT, we will be shortly, and we are always looking into the Toiyabe National Forest every time we can look East from anywhere between Carson Pass and Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite.
The extent of the Toiyabe National Forest is indeed massive.
And they are great folks working for the Forest Service out there. Every time I've called them up, visited the Ranger District Offices, or met their Wilderness Rangers on the trail, I've found that they are the best, most helpful and knowledgeable folks.
Toiyabe National Forest
Permits are obtained from Ranger Districts.
The Carson and Bridgeport Ranger Districts of the Toiyabe National Forest cover the Eastern Sierras from the Eastern flank of the Carson Range astride Lake Tahoe all the way down through the Hoover Wilderness along the Northeastern borders of Yosemite National Park.
Entering the Sierras from the East between Lake Tahoe and Highway 120 will put us into one of these two Ranger Districts, and requires we obtain a permit from either the Carson or Bridgeport Ranger Districts.
Carson Ranger District Eastern flank of the Carson Range around Lake Tahoe then covering the Eastern flank of the Sierra South to just North of Sonora Pass, including the Eastern sections of the Mokelumne and Carson Iceberg Wilderness.
Genny Wilson District Ranger
1536 South Carson Street
Carson City, NV 89701
Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 4:30 pm
Carson Ranger District Information features and information Carson Pass to Ebbetts Pass PCT route
Bridgeport Ranger District Eastern Sierra flank from South end of Carson Iceberg Wilderness just North of Sonora Pass South along East side of Emigrant Wilderness down to the NE border of Yosemite, then South along E. edge of Yosemite as the Hoover Wilderness.
Mike Crawley District Ranger
HC 62 Box 1000
Bridgeport, CA 93517
Winter: Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Summer: Seven days a week 8:00 am to 4:30 pm
Bridgeport Ranger District Information features and information
Excellent trailheads to the Sierra Crest Bridgeport RangerDistrict
Leavitt Pack Station, Highway 108, to Chain of Lakes, Dorothy Pass, or Emigrant Pass. Leavitt Lake, dirt road off Highway 108 to Leavitt Lake, hike the Tungsten Road to Emigrant Basin. Twin Lakes, back door into NE Yosemite, from Bridgeport on Hwy 395.
East Sierra Trailheads and Access to North Yosemite Backcountry
The Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake map above Left shows how the trail out of Leavitt Meadow hooks up with the PCT at the West West Walker Bridge, and then the TYT through Emigrant Pass.
It shows how we can hike Northwest up Kennedy Canyon from the West West Walker Bridge onto the low gap on the Sierra Crestline at the top of Kennedy Canyon. From there we can hike North, South, East, or West.
Or, we can hike Southwest into the Emigrant Basin upriver from the West West Walker Bridge following the West West Walker River to Emigrant Pass.
We also have the option of hiking Southeast from the West West Walker Bridge on the Pacific Crest Trail into the North Yosemite Backcountry.
We've got some pretty good backpacking options out of Leavitt Meadow.
Bensen Lake Loop out of Twin Lakes Trailhead
The Bensen Lake map on the Right above lays out the the Bensen Lake Loop out of Twin Lakes. It also shows the trail leading out the top of Virginia Canyon up towards either the Green Lakes or Virginia Lakes Trailheads on the East flank of the Sierra, though it does not show its route to the trailheads.
I'm going to fix that as this final edit of the North sections of the guide progress... so bear with me.
Because of the Hoover's unique position around the Northeast and East border of Yosemite, permits can be highly sought after during Summer. Though the thru-hiking backpacker along the Sierra Crestline does not cross the Hoover, we may want to use it enter Yosemite on shorter hiking trips, rather than starting our trips in Yosemite.
It will be easier to get a permit out of Leavitt Meadow or Twin Lakes than Yosemite!
The best way to get to Yosemite is to hike there.
I would much rather end a trip at Yosemite than begin one there. My preferences for the nearest trailheads I prefer when hiking into Yosemite are Kennedy Meadows Pack Station and Sonora Pass. I would rather walk down from Lake Tahoe, but sometimes we don't have the time or money.
Because of the Hoover Wilderness' proximity to Yosemite it too may also experience competition for reservations covering the High Summer Holiday Dates, leading to a shortage of permits during the height of the Summer backpacking season.
The information above will allow you to plan trips ahead, if possible. If not, the Bridgeport Ranger District will be happy to apprise us of the situation.
Southbound boundary markers into the Mokelumne, Carson Iceberg, and Emigrant Wilderness in the Toiyabe
Entering the Mokelumne Wilderness, Toiyabe NF, a couple of miles South of the Carson Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail
Entering the Carson Iceberg Wilderness, Toiyabe NF, South of Ebbetts Pass just past Noble Lake on the Pacific Crest Trail. Yes, it says Toiyabe!
Southbound through Stanislaus NF entry to Emigrant Wilderness at Sonora Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail. Though entering through Stanislaus NF, the NF boundary follows the Crest & Most of the PCT to Dorothy Lake Pass travels through the Toiyabe NF.
Entering the Sierrasfrom theEastbetweenCarson Pass to Yosemite
The Toiyabe National Forest
The Toiyabe National Forest is vast. The Toiyabe covers almost all of our route along the Pacific Crest Trail between the Carson Pass South to Yosemite, excepting a couple of small bits. And there is a lot more to the Toiyabe than this. The Eastern entrances to the Carson Iceberg and Emigrant Wilderness are great start points for backpacking trips North to Lake Tahoe or South to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite.
If we want to enter the Sierras from anywhere East of the Sierra Crest for a local or long distance backpacking trip anywhere South of Lake Tahoe down to Yosemite National Park we've got to get our permits from one of the Toiyabe National Forest Ranger Districts.
Below we will figure out which one and its contact information.
The Big Picture
This Toiyabe National Forest page is mostly concerned with the Pacific Crest Trail as it travels through the Mokelumne, Carson Iceberg, and around the Emigrant Wilderness within the Toiyabe National Forest between the Carson Pass to the Northern boundary of the Yosemite National Park Backcountry at Dorothy Lake Pass.
This means that the Toiyabe offers access points hiking West up the Eastern Sierra to the Pacific Crest Trail along the Sierra Crestline. Check the maps above for ideas and I've a whole series of links to the PCT sections that we can divide the trail between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite into on the home page...
The Toiyabe NF is massive!
If you are interested in hiking the Mokelumne, Carson Iceberg, and Emigrant Wilderness from the West side of the Sierra Crestline, check out the El Dorado and Stanislaus National Forest pages.
The El Dorado manages the Western Mokelumne Wilderness while the Stanislaus National Forest administers the Western half of the Carson Iceberg and the totality of the Emigrant Wilderness.
Toiyabe National Forest
Administering the Eastern Sierrasthroughthe Carson, Ebbetts,andSonora Passesto Yosemite
When we backpack South out of the Tahoe Basin on the Pacific Crest Trail through the Carson Gap our view South is of the Mokelumne Wilderness. To the Southeast we are looking into the Toiyabe National Forest administered section of the Mokelumne Wilderness. To the Southwest we are looking into the El Dorado NF administered section of the Mokelumne Wilderness.
The Carson Gap is where the Pacific Crest Trail breaks off from the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail to head Southeast towards Ebbetts Pass along the Eastern flank of the Sierras within the Mokelumne administered by the Toiyabe National Forest. The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail tracks Southwest to Lake Alpine along the Western flank of the Sierras Through the Mokelumne Wilderness administered by the El Dorado National Forest.
South of Ebbetts Pass
Though the Mokelumne Wilderness ends just North of Ebbetts Pass the Southbound backpacker on the Pacific Crest Trail remains in the Toiyabe National Forest as we cross Highway 4 hiking into and across the Carson Iceberg Wilderness to Sonora Pass.
As with the Mokelumne Wilderness North of Highway 4, the Toiyabe administers the Eastern portion of the Carson Iceberg Wilderness south of Highway 4 while the Stanislaus National Forest administers its Western half. North of Highway 4 the Toiyabe shares its administration of the Eastern flank of the Mokelumne Wilderness with the El Dorado National Forest's authority over its Western flank.
South of Sonora Pass
The Toiyabe National Forest wraps around the Eastern Boundary of Emigrant Wilderness South of Sonora Pass, South of Emigrant Wilderness it continues to make up the Eastern flank of the as the Hoover Wilderness. The Toiyabe extends South almost down to Highway 120, the Tioga Road.
South of Sonora Pass the Toiyabe officially administers small bits the Pacific Crest Trail as the trail moves back and forth across its Easternmost Boundary as it winds through the mountaintops poking out like a pin cushion on the Leavitt Peak Massif.
Though the Southbound Pacific Crest trailhead at Sonora Pass is within, and posted by, the Stanislaus National Forest, the Pacific Crest Trail route South along the Sierra Crest crossing Leavitt Peak wobbles back and forth bouncing between the edges of the Stanislaus and Toiyabe National Forests sharing the Sierra Crestline.
After descending the Southern flank of Leavitt Peak the PCT turns East down Kennedy Canyon into the Toiyabe National Forest and remains within the Toiyabe South until entering Yosemite National Park through Dorothy Lake Pass.
It Follows Us South...
The Toiyabe National Forest continues to administer the East flank of the Sierra after our PCT route takes us through Dorothy Lake Pass over onto the West flank of the Sierra when we enter the North Yosemite Backcountry.
The Toiyabe administers the East flank of the Sierra South of our entrance into Yosemite as the Hoover Wilderness almost all the way down to Highway 120, the Tioga Road.
Vast Extent of the Toiyabe National Forest
The Toiyabe National Forest is vast. It extends all the way down the Eastern Flank of the High Sierra from the East flank of the Carson Range wrapping around the Eastern shore of Lake Tahoe South through Carson Pass, Ebbetts. and Sonora Passes, then moves a bit East to make up the Eastern boundary of both the Emigrant Wilderness and the whole North Yosemite Backcountry.
Virtually all of our entrances into the Sierra from the East Flank between Tahoe and Tuolumne Meadows will require a permit from either the Carson or Bridgeport Ranger Districts of the Toiyabe National Forest.
A Northbound hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail will essentially remain within the Toiyabe National Forest from their Northern exit from Yosemite through Dorothy Lake Pass until they hike North through Carson Pass to enter the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
The Toiyabe continues North from Carson Pass, administering the Eastern Drainage of the Carson Range into the Carson Valley. The Carson Range is a spur of mountains off the main Sierra Crestline that makes up the mountains wrapping around the Eastern shore of Lake Tahoe.
Toiyabe National Forest Resupply
There are two resupply possibilities for long distance hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail within reasonable distance of the Toiyabe National Forest between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe
The Southernmost is Kennedy Meadows located a mile off Highway 108 nine miles West of Sonora Pass.
The middle resupply is the Lake Alpine Lodge located fifteen miles West of Ebbetts Pass on Highway 4.
15 miles North from exiting the Toiyabe at Carson Pass we resupply at Echo Chalet.
To the South of the Toiyabe NF our next resupply spot is the Post Office and Store at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park.
The Toiyabe encompasses all of your PCT hike South through the Mokelumne and Carson-Iceberg Wildernesses to Sonora Pass, where you briefly enter the Stanislaus NF administered Emigrant Wilderness.
This brief venture into the Emigrant Wilderness soon ends, as the PCT reenters the Toiyabe NF just South of Leavitt Peak, where a left turn at the Kennedy Canyon trail junction swings the PCT East, and then South to cross Dorothy Lake Pass into the Yosemite Backcountry.
It's a nice route, but the PCT route is the low elevation route to Yosemite. It's a real nice route, because it routed the PCT around the High Emigrant Basin, which keeps it nice and quiet up there for me. Ha!
I believe it is a mistake to follow the PCT route and exit the Emigrant Wilderness into Kennedy Canyon when coming off of the Southern shoulder of Leavitt Peak. Hell, you are not actually in the Emigrant Wilderness between Sonora Pass to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction, only following along the boundary between the Emigrant Wilderness and the Toiyabe National Forest. Or you could say you hiked both along the boundary.
I suggest continuing South through the Kennedy Canyon trail junction to climb over Big Sam to enter the Emigrant Basin, which sits on the other side of Big Sam. It's a splendid place, though in Spring this granite bowl holds lots of water and acts as a massive mosquito bowl. It buzzes like a dynamo in that basin during the height of the burst of Spring Life.
After a night next to Grizzly Peak Lake I exit the Emigrant Wilderness over Bond Pass to enter Yosemite's Backcountry and rejoin the Pacific Crest Trail at the top of Jack Main Canyon just South of Dorothy Lake Pass.
Both Routes are beautiful, but I would rather see the unique pink granite of the Sierra Crest as it crosses the high altitude Emigrant Basin to enter Yosemite at Bond Pass, than dropping down in elevation and circling around this amazing feature to enter Yosemite following the Pacific Crest Trail through Dorothy Pass.
Because the Pacific Crest Trail and the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail routes compose two of the many route options you have between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney, I suggest that you plan on hiking the whole extent of the trails between Highway 108 (Sonora Pass Highway) at least three times. One trip on the Pacific Crest Trail, one trip on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, and one trip weaving together the finest parts of both, with your own explorations thrown in too.
But I am honestly happy the PCT goes around this gem, the High Emigrant Basin. It would be a lot more crowded up there if the PCT did not avoid this amazingly beautiful section of the Sierra Crest.
I thought you should know these things, though it may bring more traffic up there.
Kennedy Canyon/Big Sam Trail Junction
the trail junction where the PCT splits East down Kennedy Canyon into the Toiyabe NF towards Dorothy Pass, and the Tahoe-Yosemite heads over Big Sam towards Bond Pass
looking back and down at Kennedy Canyon where the PCT heads East into Toiyabe NF, while hiking South up Big Sam to the Emigrant Basin. I will rejoin the PCT below Bond Pass, but I am going to enjoy the Emigrant Wilderness in the Stanislaus National Forest, first.
Let's Take an even closer Look at this Junction!
Viewing the Trail Junction where the PCT heads down Kennedy Canyon, and our custom route climbs over Big Sam into the High Emigrant Basin. Viewed from the South Flank of Leavitt Peak.
From here you can see trail options into the High Emigrant Basin as well as the PCT route around it.
The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail Hiker: No Toiyabe for You!
The Tahoe to Yosemite backpacker will not enter the Toiyabe National Forest at all, but pass through the Western parts of the Mokelumne and the Carson Iceberg Wildernesses South of Lake Tahoe that are administered by the El Dorado and Stanislaus National Forests, respectively. The TY Trail runs through the High Emigrant to Bond Pass, and does not dip into the Toiyabe before entering Yosemite as the Pacific Crest Trail does.
Eastern access to the High Sierras is spectacular and remote. The steep Eastern escarpment does not look anything like the Western Slope's forty miles of gently rolling rise from the Totally Flat Big Valley. The Western Flank rises gently upward through the rolling foothills which eventually transitions into steeply rising high ridges, finally terminating at the precipitous lava-bathed granite pinnacles of the Sierra Crest. The Eastern Escarpment of the Sierras is quite different.
The Eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada rises almost 5000 feet vertically out of the 5000 foot elevation valley that marks the Eastern limit of the range. Yes! Brutal, but beautiful.
Highway 395 traces the Eastern boundary of the High Sierras from the Kingsbury Grade, East of Lake Tahoe on the Carson Range spur of the Sierra, all the way down to, and past Lone Pine, which is the town at the base of Mount Whitney. It is an amazing road that is worth a trip to explore, if you've never driven it before.
Almost all of the trails entering the Sierra from the East between Tahoe and Lee Vining are administered by the Toiyabe National Forest.
My favorite places to Jump Into the Toiyabe NF for extended backpacking trips are through the Little Antelope Pack Station (n. of Walker. Trip: cross the Silver King Creek to the E Carson River up to Sonora Pass, and down the PCT to TM). Another is into the Emigrant Wilderness through Leavitt Pack Station, Highway 108, (summer) or through the Marine Base (winter). Twin Lakes to Tuolumne Meadows is also an excellent backpacking trip out of Eastern Sierras. (Bridgeport, Twin Lakes, to Kerrick Canyon & the PCT, to TM).
Map Credit: Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region, "A Guide to National Forest Wilderness in California."