The Toiyabe National Forest administers almost all of the Pacific Crest Trail route through the Northern High Sierra from the Yosemite National Park boundary North through Carson 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 down to its Southern limit at Highway 120. The Toiyabe wraps around the North and Northeastern sides of Yosemite National Park.
From the Carson Range bounding the Eastern side of the Lake Tahoe Basin South through Carson Pass, Ebbetts and Sonora Passes, the Toiyabe National Forest administers the Eastern parts of the Mokelumne Wilderness, the Eastern Eastern Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, and then composes the Eastern boundary around the Emigrant Wilderness between Sonora Pass and the Yosemite boundary.
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. On the other side of the mountain, Pacific Crest Trail hikers will see little of the Stanislaus National Forest, which covers the Western flank corresponding with the Toiyabe National Forest along the East flank.
The Toiyabe National Forest boundary continues South along the Eastern Sierra flank around Yosemite when our routes enters Yosemite, administering the Hoover Wilderness. The Hoover Wilderness makes up the Eastern boundary of Yosemite, wrapping around Northeastern Yosemite almost down to Highway 120.
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 between the forests 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 Yosemite. If you are not in the Toiyabe between Carson Pass down to Yosemite, you will be shortly, and you are always looking into the Toiyabe National Forest every time you can see far 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 or visited the Ranger District Offices I've met the best, most helpful and knowledgable folks.
Toiyabe National Forest LinksandContact Information
I'll be coordinating each page of the trail guide, and its accompanying map and National Forest page, with an interactive backpacker input feature on that section of the trails between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney.
Right now I'm still building the trail guide, maps and National Forests pages, but as soon as I get the first trail section between Lake Tahoe and Highway 4 finished, I'll integrate it with the interactive backpacker input feature.
Permits are obtained from Ranger Districts. The Carson and Bridgeport Ranger Districts 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 the Hoover Wilderness will put you into the Toiyabe NF, and requires you obtain a permit from either the Carson or Bridgeport Ranger Districts.
(Eastern Sierras from Northeastern side of Lake Tahoe following the Carson Range to, and along the Sierra Crest to Sonora Pass, including the Eastern sections of the Mokelumne, Carson Iceberg, and Emigrant Wilderness)
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 backpacker does not cross the Hoover, you may want to use it enter Yosemite on shorter hiking trips, rather than starting your trip in 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.
Because of its proximity to Yosemite the Hoover Wilderness may also experience a shortage of permits during the height of the Summer backpacking season.
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 the that we will backpack on 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 that. 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 you've got to get a permit from one of the Toiyabe National Forest Ranger Districts.
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.
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 Natiional Forest.
South of Ebbetts Pass
Though the Mokelumne Wilderness ends just North of Ebbetts Pass the Southbound backpacker on the Pacific Crest Trail will remain in the Toiyabe National Forest across Highway 4 to hike into and across the Carson Iceberg Wilderness to Sonora Pass.
South of Sonora Pass
The Toiyabe NF first wraps around the Eastern Boundary of Emigrant Wilderness, then South of Emigrant Wilderness wraps around the Eastern boundary of Yosemite as the Hoover Wilderness. The Toiyabe extends South almost down to Highway 120, the Tioga Road.
The Toiyabe offically administers small bits the Pacific Crest Trail as the trail moves back and forth across the Eastern Boundary as it winds through the mountaintops.
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 Stanislaus and Toiyabe National Forests.
After descending the Southern side of Leavitt Peak, the PCT turns East at Kennedy Canyon into the Toiyabe National Forest and remains within the Toiyabe South until entering Yosemite National Park through Dorothy Lake Pass.
The Toiyabe National Forest continues Southeast of the Yosemite National Park to mark out Northeastern border line between Yosemite and the Toiyabe administered 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 Sierras from the Carson Range on the Eastern shore of Lake Tahoe 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 Northeastern boundary of Yosemite National Park.
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 contines North from Carson Pass, administerning the Eastern Drainage of the Carson Range. 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."