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Tree, Poison Flat, Carson Iceberg Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your Backpacking Guide to the High Sierras Yellow Flower
Banner: Miles and Elevations Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows
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Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows
Miles and Elevations

Backpacking
Emigrant Wilderness and the North Yosemite Backcountry

Backpacking Miles and Elevations on the Pacific Crest Trail through the High Sierra Nevada Mountains

 

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Miles and Elevations Trail Guide Maps: PCT Permitting Authorities Indexes Other Info
North PCT Ebbetts Pass to Sonora Pass Northwest TYT
Bond Pass to Kennedy Meadows
South Tuolumne Meadows to Reds Meadow Section Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows Page Sonora Pass   Map North Ebbetts Pass to Sonora Pass This Map Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake Map South Bensen Lake to Virginia Canyon Stanislaus NF, Emigrant Wilderness Toiyabe National Forest Yosemite National Park Guide Tahoe to Whitney

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and Elevations
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Backpacking Emigrant Wilderness

Miles & Elevations

The Pacific Crest Trail

Sonora Pass
to
Tuolumne Meadows
Yosemite
73.71 miles

Backpacking Miles

Along the Edge of the Emigrant Wilderness into the Yosemite Backcountry

Backpacking South on the Pacific Crest Trail route from Sonora Pass hikes us along the far Eastern edge of the Emigrant Wilderness. The Wilderness Boundary follows the Sierra Crest line dividing the Stanislaus National Forest on the West flank from the Toiyabe National Forest on the East. We bounce between the two as we wind our way through the sea of mountaintops composing the Leavitt Massif.

Descending the South flank of Leavitt Peak the Pacific Crest Trail turns East into Kennedy Canyon and solidly into the Toiyabe National Forest for the remainder of the hike into Yosemite National Park via Dorothy Lake Pass.

Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake backpacking Map Detailed Northbound Sonora Pass Hiking Map
Detailed Southbound Sonora Pass Hiking Map Southbound Tahoe to Yosemite Trail Miles and Elevations

All distances measured are South from Sonora Pass

Location                         Elevation          Mileage

Start: Sonora Pass              9643                    0

Below is the mileage for the "locals" shortcut up the ridge arm descending down to Sonora Pass off the North-Northwestern end of the Leavitt Massif. The shortcut route intersects with the Pacific Crest Trail where the PCT finally reaches the Northwestern ridge arm.
The shortcut route is also the Winter route up to the top of the Leavitt massif, and our hike up to Leavitt Peak. See the map for route details.

Shortcut Route

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Sonora Pass                         9643                     0

                                              +837                       .8

PCT/Shortcut Junction      10,480                      .8

If we take the shortcut route, we must subtract 1 mile from all the subsequent mileages listed below for the PCT route South to Tuolumne Meadows.

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The PCT Route up Leavitt

Rather than heading straight up the Northwestern ridge arm of the Leavitt massif, as the shortcut route above does, the Pacific Crest Trail takes a more circuitous route up the Leavitt Massif.

The PCT turns Southeast from Sonora Pass to cross a relatively flat zone across the base of the North flank of the Leavitt Massif, to where the trail climbs a low ridge arm to gain access to the trail's long East-West traverse of the North flank of the Leavitt Massif. This traverse is along a long well-graded, well-maintained trail between the mountain's Northeastern and Northwestern shoulders.

Southbound hikers will climb this traverse from East to West. Check out the Trail Guide for a close look at our hiking options on the North side of Leavitt Peak.

At the far Western end of the PCT's traverse up the North flank, the PCT and shortcut trail link up, and the PCT turns directly South to work its way up to and around the Western flank of Peak 10,480, which sits atop the North Flank of the Leavitt Massif. Once we get up there Leavitt Peak itself will finally come into view.

Pacific Crest Trail Route

Distances are measured from Sonora Pass

PCT/Shortcut Junction         10,480                  1.81

                                                  +320                     .57

As we can see, the shortcut South up from Sonora Pass saves us one mile. But we will have to do a small bit of climbing with our packs on. I have taken this shortcut during all four seasons. Crampons and Ice axe are required during Winter, and expert skills are necessary in Summer if you are carrying a very heavy pack.

The Gap above Latopie Lake  10,800                 2.38

                                                    -20                       .28

Latopie Lake trail Junction      10,780                  2.66

The Latopie Lake Loop

Below: 2.38 miles South of Sonora Pass we climb towards a gap along a spur of Leavitt's crest-line running East and West. Great views to the North-Northeast and South-Southeast open up from this gap. At our feet to the South we see Latopie Lake nestled in a few hundred yards below the line of the trail.

The mileage and elevations below reflect the route down from the unmarked Latopie Lake Junction to Latopie Lake, and then back to the PCT via a cross-country hike South of Latopie Lake.

This is marked as the "Latopie Loop" on the 30 minute backpacking map.

In the past I preferred the Latopie Loop to the Pacific Crest Trail through here due to the poor trail quality of the PCT as it crossed a massive ridge of very sharp unstable talus above Latopie Lake. And, I've spent many first nights of trips at Latopie Lake. In recent years the Stanislaus National Forest has broken up this old nasty scree-trail section of the Pacific Crest Trail that loops around and above Latopie Lake into a very nicely bedded trail.

That's a lot of hard work with sledgehammers, and my thanks go out to the trail crews who did the hard work to break up all of this high altitude skree into a well-packed gravel walkway easing our way through this beautiful, but difficult, landscape.

In any case, if we decide to have lunch or camp at Latopie Lake we don't have to backtrack back up to the PCT the same way we came down to it. Continuing a bit down and a bit South a short distance past Latopie Lake brings us to a hanging valley that we can work our way Southwest into for a short cross country route back up to the Pacific Crest Trail. We rejoin the PCT at the top of this hanging valley where the PCT passes onto the South Flank of Leavitt Peak through the gap dividing the Leavitt Lake basin from the Kennedy Lake valley.

See the map for specifics on the Latopie Lake Loop. It's a nice little walk.

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Latopie Lake Loop

(1.64 miles total from leaving to rejoining the Pacific Crest Trail)

Distances are measured from Sonora Pass

Latopie Lake trail Junction   10,780                  2.66

                                               -380                        .41

Al Camp by Latopie Lake       10,400                 3.07

                                                    +240                 1.23

Back to the PCT at the gap above Kennedy Lake                                                  10,640                 4.3

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The Pacific Crest Trail Route

The following entries are measured from Sonora Pass following the PCT route, with no shortcut or Latopie Lake Loop.

Latopie Lake trail Junction       10,780                 2.66

                                             -140                 1.83

Gap above Kennedy Lake         10,640                  4.49
Hikers to the top of Leavitt Peak turn Right here, while hikers Southbound on the PCT follow the trail Left to Kennedy Canyon.

Taking the Latopie Loop route takes .19 of a mile off of the Pacific Crest Trail route.

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Sonora Pass area options

RECAP

We have two trail options for "shortcuts" heading South between Sonora Pass to the Gap overlooking Leavitt Lake's basin to our Northeast, and down at the valley to our Southwest cradling Kennedy Lake.

The first shortcut is the "locals" shortcut from Sonora Pass straight up the Mountain's Northwestern ridge-arm reaching down to Sonora Pass. This route shortcuts the Pacific Crest Trail route by 1.01 miles.

The second is the Latopie Lake Loop. Comparing the Latopie Lake Loop with the Pacific Crest Trail's track around Latopie Lake indicates that taking the the Latopie Lake loop is shorter than following Pacific Crest Trail route by nearly 1.2 miles. Though shorter than the PCT route, the advantage of the Latopie Loop is that it brings us first to the beauty of Latopie Lake, then through very desolate terrain to reconnect with the PCT.

The distance from Sonora Pass to the Gap on the Pacific Crest Trail above Kennedy Lake, with no shortcut or Latopie Lake Loop is 4.49 miles.

The distance from Sonora Pass to that same Gap on the Pacific Crest Trail taking both the shortcut and the Latopie Lake Loop is 3.29 miles

Continuing South on the Pacific Crest Trail

mileages are measured from Sonora Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail route

Gap above Kennedy Lake       10,640               4.49

                                              -40               2.05

Tungsten Road                         10,600               6.54

                                              -75                 .47

Horse Trail Junction at top       10,525              7.01

                                             -845                .96

Kennedy Canyon Junction           9680               7.97

The Kennedy Canyon junction offers us the option of backpacking around the Emigrant Basin on the Pacific Crest Trail or cutting through the Emigrant Basin to enter Yosemite at Bond Pass. Bond Pass lays West of Dorothy Lake Pass. 
See the Kennedy Canyon to Bond Pass Miles and Elevations.
This is a fantastic alternative route to the PCT or TYT, using pieces of each trail, also making the Kennedy Canyon trail junction critical to backpackers planning long loops around the Emigrant Wilderness, as well as the most direct route across the Emigrant Wilderness.

See the Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake 30 minute map.
Also See: North Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking Map.

Camp at Kennedy Creek Ford     9040              9.28

                                              -440                3.35

West West Walker Bridge           8600              12.63

                                               +80                 .19

North Cinco Lake Junction           8680              12.82

                                             +240                1.81

South Cinko Lake Junction 2        8920             14.63

                                             +100                  .72

Cascade Creek to
West Walker Junction
                  9020             15.35

                                             +210                 .95

Lake Harriet                                   9230               16.3

                                              +250                1.18

Dorothy Lake  Pass                        9480               17.48

                                                -86                  .27

Dorothy Lake                                  9394              17.75

                                                -34                  1.2

North Bond Pass Junction                9360             18.95

                                                  00                  .27

South Bond Pass Junction                9360              19.22

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail from Kennedy Meadows
Joins the
Pacific Crest Trail
at the
South Bond Pass Junction

Southbound
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Miles and Elevations

                                              -1200                6.47

North Tilden Lake Junction               8160             25.69

                                                +200               1.75

The Tilden Lake Junction is the Last derivation of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail off of the Pacific Crest Trail route South to Tuolumne Meadows. The Tilden Lake Loop measures 5.36 miles from where it departs Jack Main Canyon and the Pacific Crest Trail South to where it rejoins the PCT for the hike down to Tuolumne Meadows East of Wilmer Lake.

The Pacific Crest Trail route measures 3.55 miles between the Tilden Lake junction in Jack Main Canyon to the Tilden Lake Junction East of Wilmer Lake.

Also see the Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake 30 min map for a big view of this route derivation and the North Yosemite, Jack Main Canyon, and Tilden and Wilmer Lakes Backpacking Map for details.

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Wilmer Lake Junction                          7960             27.44

                                                      00                .3

I beam ford at Wilmer Check Dam        7960             27.74

                                                      00                .29

Camp at far end of Wilmer lake             7960             28.03

                                                   +440               1.21

The South Tilden Lake trail junction            8400             29.24

Trail Guide
TYT Tilden Lake Loop
to Pacific Crest Trail in Jack Main Canyon.
Trail Guide
TYT PCT South over Macomb Ridge towards Tuolumne Meadows.

                                                         -40                  .15

TillTill Valley Junction II                         8360             29.39

                                                        +560                  .81

Gap at the top before Stubblefield         8920             30.2

                                                       -1160                 1.89

Stubblefield ford and camps                   7760             32.09

                                                        +960                 1.22

Gap between Stubblefield and Kerrick Canyons                                                                                                  8720             33.31

                                                          -760                1.36

Kerrick ford and camps                              7960             34.67

                                                            +40                .03

Bear Valley-Pleasant Valley Junction        8000             34.7

                                                           +880               3.77

Seavy-Buckeye Pass Junction                    8880             38.47

                                                           +240                .74

Entering the Seavy Pass Bowl                    9120             39.21

                                                           -120                  .83

Exiting Seavy Pass Bowl                             9000             40.04

                                                           -1280              1.87

Bensen Lake Shortcut                                  7720             41.91

                                                             -120               .29

Bensen Lake Junction                                  7600             42.2

                                                           +1800              3.1

Pleasant & Pate Valley Junction                  9400             45.3

                                                              +40                 .4

Rogers Lake to Pate Valley Junction           9440             45.7
(Figures do not include the 460 foot drop South TYT from this junction and our subsequent 120 foot climb between Pate junction and West shore of Smedberg.)

                                                               -221                1

West Shore of Smedberg Lake                       9219             46.7

                                                                +101                .7

Golden Sand Creek Ford East of Smedberg

                                                                           9320             47.4

                                                                +440                 .8

High Meadow below Bensen Pass                    9760             48.2

                                                                +400                  .7

Bensen Pass                                                     10,160             48.9

                                                                  -370                1.4

1st Wilson Creek Ford                                        9790             50.3

                                                                   -600                  .5

2nd Wilson Creek Ford                                      9190             50.8

                                                                   -270                1

3rd Wilson Creek Ford                                       8920             51.8

                                                                    -440               1.9

Matterhorn Ford                                                  8480             53.7

                                                                       1               .1

Junction to Miller Lake                                        8481             53.8

                                                                    +965              2.5

Miller Lake                                                           9446             56.3

                                                                    +114               1.43

High Point above Spiller Creek                           9560             57.73

                                                                    -800                1.17

Spiller Creek Ford & Camp                                  8760             58.9

                                                                    -200                1.3

Return Creek Ford & Camps                               8560             60.2

                                                                     -80                  .3

McCabe Creek                                                     8480             60.5

                                                                    +640                 .7

McCabe Lake Junction                                        9120             61.2

                                                                     -440               3.3

Big Rock                                                                8680             64.5

                                                                       00                   .2

Cutting out of the Meadow to Cold Canyon

                                                                               8680             64.7

                                                                      -760                3.5

Glen Aulin Junction                                                7920             68.2

                                                                       +40                  .2

McGee Lake Junction                                             7960             68.4

                                                                      +200                 .3

Tuolumne Falls                                                        8160             68.7

                                                                       +440                 .6

Bridge                                                                      8600            69.3

                                                                         +40               2.5

Young Lakes Junction                                             8640            71.8

                                                                          -40                .4

Stables Junction                                                       8600           72.2

                                                                             00               .75

Wilderness Boundary
Parsons Lodge-Soda Springs
                                   8600           72.95

                                                                            -25                .17

Bridge towards Visitor Center                                   8575           73.12

                                                                           +00                 00

Trail Y @ Bridge, toward Store                                  8575          73.12

                                                                            +16               .59

Tuolumne Store & Post Office                                     8591         73.71

Miles and Elevations Index
Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney
North
PCT Miles and Elevations page

Ebbetts Pass to Sonora Pass

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North: Ebbetts Pass to Sonora Pass    TYT Northwest: Bond Pass to Kennedy Meadows   TYT-PCT-JMT South: TM to Muir Ranch

Note: The Ups and Downs of the Pacific Crest Trail between Sonora Pass and Tuolumne Meadows. And every other High Sierra Trail...

This trail guide, like the High Sierras, divides itself into ups and downs. Your miles are generally done either going up to the top of the mountain, or you are coming down from the mountaintop into the valley that separates you from the next mountaintop. This means that the mileages and elevations between the peaks and the valleys is going to be important in determining how many miles you can reasonably expect to cover that day. This will be instrumental in planning where you are going to camp every night, and ultimately this information will determine how many days it will take you to cover a given distance. This in turn establishes your proper food load.

There are 73.8 miles between Sonora Pass and Tuolumne Meadows along the Pacific Crest Trail. The Sonora Pass is 1043 feet higher than the Tuolumne Meadows. But this gross elevation figure does not do justice to the constant ups and downs that virtually all Sierra trails present to their visitors. This segment of the trails between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney is certainly no exception.

The terrain between Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows offers a fine range classic long distance high altitude travel options. From Sonora Pass you cover the great barren mass of the Leavitt Massif. Coming off the South side of Leavitt, you can either follow the Pacific Crest Trail down East, then South through the forests leading back up to granite-bound lakes below Dorothy Lake Pass,  or you can continue hiking South to climb over Big Sam into the pink hued granites of the Emigrant Basin.

Humm. Options-Options.

Both routes lead to the head of Jack Main Canyon in Yosemite's Northwest backcountry. Once they join again below Bond Pass in Jack Main Canyon the Pacific Crest and Tahoe to Yosemite trails will only part for one more short section before tracking together into Tuolumne Meadows. This exception is where the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail loops around Tilden Lake, while the Pacific Crest Trail traces its route around Wilmer Lake. The Trails rejoin again just Southeast above Wilmer Lake.

The terrain between Jack Main Canyon to Tuolumne Meadows is lovingly described as Yosemite's Washboard. The reason for the name comes from the near proximity of high altitude ridge to the next high altitude ridge. When you descend from the top of one 9500 foot ridge you can bounce a rock off the next 9500 foot ridge that you will shortly be climbing. This section contains the closest set of mountain ridges you will be challenged by between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney. There is no long walk between mountain passes within this section. This section will have you climbing and descending at the highest frequency of the whole trip, until you reach Virginia Canyon.

From Virginia Canyon you have one low rise before you begin the long, mostly gentle, drop down to the unique culture and stunning beauty that characterizes all of Yosemite's High Sierra Camps, and especially Glen Aulin.

Remember this important rule: Every descent route holds many mini-ascents, and every ascent has many mini-descents within its route. Your mileage will very rarely just go up, or just go down. You are going endlessly up and down.

 

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Section: SONORA PASS to TUOLUMNE MEADOWS
Segment: SONORA PASS TO TUOLUMNE MEADOWS MILES AND ELEVATIONS

PCT North: Ebbetts Pass to Sonora Pass   TYT Northwest: Bond Pass to Kennedy Meadows   TYT-PCT-JMT South: TM to Muir Ranch

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