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
Emigrant Meadow and Middle Emigrant Lakes from Big Sam.
Highland Lakes
Emigrant Meadow Lake in Emigrant Meadow and Middle Emigrant Lake beyond, looking South from the top of Big Sam.
Ebbetts Pass

 

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Backpacking
SOUTH from the Kennedy Canyon junction
over

Big Sam across Emigrant Basin
to
Grizzly Meadow

Backpacking Emigrant Wilderness

Hiking
A Unique Route Between the Pacific Crest and Tahoe to Yosemite Trails across
Emigrant Wilderness

 

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Guide INDEX Highway 108
to
Highway 120

NORTH PCT
Latopie Lake
to
Kennedy Canyon

NORTH TYT
Brown Bear Pass

SOUTH TYT
Grizzly Peak junction
to
PCT in Jack Main Canyon

SOUTH PCT Kennedy Canyon
to
Jack Main Canyon
7.5 Topo MAP Emigrant Basin 30 min MAP Sonora Pass
to
Bensen Lake
PCT to TYT MILES AND ELEVATIONS TOPO MAP INDEX SONORA PASS Resupply North Kennedy Meadows. South Tuolumne Meadows National Forest Toiyabe
&
Stanislaus

ALL Weather

Sonora Pass Weather

all maps index

Backpacking over Big Sam
around
Emigrant Meadow

to the

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
in
Grizzly Meadow

The
Beauties
of the
High Emigrant Basin

This page describes hiking the 6.17 mile segment of the Tungsten Road over the rounded 10800 foot crest of Big Sam tying the Pacific Crest Trail at the 9680 foot Kennedy Canyon trail junction to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail crossing the 9480 foot trail junction in Grizzly Meadow under Grizzly Peak.
Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Trail Schematic

Kennedy Canyon trail junction.
Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction

Check it out on the small and large scale maps below.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps
Sonora Pass Region Hiking Map
USGS 30 min backpacking map

Here's a PDF of the Forest Service Emigrant Wilderness Map:

Emigrant Wilderness National Forest PDF Map
USDA Forest Service Map
All Paper and Online Maps

The page below describes the Tungsten Road trail South from the Pacific Crest Trail at the Kennedy Canyon trail junction. At the Kennedy Canyon trail junction we could have turned our backpacking trip around to any of the Highway 108 trailheads, or continued South on the PCT.
Hiking further South from Kennedy Canyon over Big Sam is an extension of the length of local loops, if we are not hiking the Tungsten Road Route as a Sierra Crestline alternative route to the East flank route of the PCT and the West flank route of the TYT across Emigrant Wilderness while hiking South on the long trails to Tuolumne Meadows.

Our next opportunity to turn a loop back around to the Highway 108 trailheads will come 6.17 miles to our South at the trail junction with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail in Grizzly Meadow under Grizzly Peak, where we end of this segment of trail guide on the bottom of this page.

We have the mileage South from the various Highway 108 Trailheads to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction and on down to the Grizzly Peak trail junction below. We also have the miles of the Pacific Crest and Tahoe to Yosemite Trail routes South from Highway 108 and on South down to Tuolumne Meadows:

Miles and Elevations
East Flank Crestline West Flank
Sonora Pass
to
Tuolumne Meadows

PCT Miles and Elevations
PCT at Kennedy Canyon
to

TYT at Grizzly Peak
to
Jack Main Canyon

PCT to TYT Miles and Elevations
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station
to
Jack Main Canyon

TYT Miles and Elevations

Here's a nifty little miles map from the Stanislaus National Forest:
Emigrant Wilderness Mileage PDF Map
USDS Forest Service Map

This section of trail South over Big Sam adds a spoke to the hub of trails radiating out from the High Emigrant Basin trail junction located in Grizzly Meadow under Grizzly Peak. The trail junction under Grizzly Peak could be an important junction for medium and long distance backpackers crafting loops around, or hiking from trailhead to trailhead across Emigrant Wilderness.

I made this trail schematic to demonstrate potential Emigrant Wilderness backpacking routes and loops:
Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Trail Schematic

I've got to include more detail and improve the scale, but it gives some idea about our hiking options around the high elevation elements of the Emigrant Wilderness.

From this hub of trails under Grizzly Peak we have Sonora Pass trailhead to our North on the Sierra Crest, Leavitt Meadow to our Northeast down the East flank, and Kennedy Meadows to our Northwest on the West flank, all along Highway 108. We have the same situation at Grizzly Peak trail junction as we do here at the Kennedy Canyon trail junction, trails in all four directions, but from 6.17 miles further South of Sonora Pass.

Hiking further South can make all our local Emigrant Wilderness backpacking loops longer.

Hiking South to Grizzly Meadow extends our trailhead to trailhead trips starting and ending along Highway 108 from around 20 miles turning around through the Kennedy Canyon trail junction to around 30 miles turning around through the Grizzly Peak trail junction.
Our next turnaround points South of the Grizzly Peak trail junction are hiking West from Summit Meadow below Bond Pass and North out the top of Jack Main Canyon beyond.

At Summit Meadow we can turn Southwest through the top of Horse Meadow or via the unmaintained trail around Snow Lake over Peak 10040 (Northeast of Peak 9906) down to the bottom of Horse Meadow past Bigelow Lake. From there we can follow a fine trail Northwest to return to the TYT via Mosquito Pass to the top of Lunch Meadow along Summit Creek.

Continuing South over Bond Pass into the top of Jack Main Canyon we can loop back around to the North on the PCT through Dorothy Lake Pass towards the West West Walker Bridge on the Northbound PCT.

Check out the Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking Schematic for an outline of potential backpacking loops around the Emigrant Wilderness, and the more detailed Sonora Pass Region Map:

Sonora Pass Region Hiking Map
USGS 30 min backpacking map

If we are not bending a backpacking loop around Emigrant Wilderness, then continuing our hike South into the top of Jack Main Canyon in Yosemite we are looking at Hetch Hetchy, Twin Lakes (in the Hoover, not the Twin Lakes in Emigrant), or at our next resupply point on our way South to Mount Whitney at Tuolumne Meadows as potential destinations for backpacking trips hiking South through Bond Pass into the top of Jack Main Canyon in the Yosemite Backcountry.

Clicking the red dots on the topo map of this route will bring you to those various positions along our hike South.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps
Jack Main Canyon to Kerrick Canyon
USGS 15 min hiking map

It's up to you. Backpacking High Emigrant Wilderness is a splendid experience however you approach it, and climbing over Big Sam would be a joy even if the beauties of Emigrant Basin were not on the other side.

But they Are. Let's scroll down this page to check them out in detail.

Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction
is

Crestline Northbound
7.97
miles
On the PCT from Sonora Pass Trailhead on Highway 108

Crestline Southbound
6.17
miles
Over Big Sam to Grizzly Peak trail junction
(on the page below)

West Flank
11.06
miles
Down Kennedy Creek to TYT to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station

East Flank
4.66
miles
Southbound PCT down Kennedy Canyon to West West Walker Bridge

East Flank
15.24
miles
PCT South to West West Walker then Northeast to Leavitt Meadow Trailhead along Highway 108 on the East flank of the Sierra.

Southbound
64.1
miles
North of Tuolumne Meadows via Grizzly Meadow to Jack Main Canyon.

Hiking
6.17 miles
South over Big Sam
into the
High Emigrant Basin:

Grizzly Peak Trail Junction

PCT to TYT
Crestline Route

14.14 miles to Grizzly Peak trail junction
South from the Sonora Pass Trailhead on Highway 108

TYT
West Flank

13.83 miles to Grizzly Peak trail junction on
TYT Southeast from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station Trailhead off Highway 108

TYT across PCT
East Flank

14.42 miles
Emigrant Pass/Grizzly Peak to Leavitt Meadow Trailhead on Highway 108

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps
Sonora Pass Region Hiking Map
USGS 30 min backpacking map

Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Trail Schematic
Emigrant Wildernss MILES Schematic
National Forest Service

PCT
Miles and Elevations
Sonora Pass
to
Tuolumne Meadows
TUNGSTEN ROAD
Miles and Elevations
Kennedy Canyon
to
Grizzly Peak
TYT
Miles and Elevations
Kennedy Meadows
to
PCT in
Jack Main Canyon

Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacker Resources
and
Hiker Information

Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking Trail Information

Over
Big Sam

INFORMATION

Start
Kennedy Canyon
Trail Junction

Big Sam and Surrounding Terrain

 

Kennedy Canyon

 

Shortcut to Kennedy Creek

 

Road up flank of Big Sam

 

Kennedy Creek

Kennedy Creek Valley

 

Shortcut from Kennedy Creek

Kennedy Creek Headwaters

 

Long view over Kennedy Lake

Kennedy Lake

 

Bugs

 

Big Sam Basin

 

Butterfly

Flowers

 

Kennedy Canyon
from
Big Sam

 

PCT on South Leavitt

 

Jumping Spider

Sonora Pass
North Yosemite Backcountry

Weather and Road Information

These are the closest ground stations, point and regional forecasts to Jack Main Canyon

Check out the ground reporting stations for real-time snow and temp data.

Sonora Pass Weather Forecast

NWS Sonora Pass Forecast

Yosemite Weather Forecast

NWS Yosemite to Kings Canyon Forecast

Regional Forecasts

NWS Regional Forecast: East Sierra

NWS Regional Forecast; Northwest Sierra

All Emigrant Wilderness & N Yosemite Regional Weather Information
All High Sierra Weather Resources

Real Time Ground Reporting Stations

North of Yosemite

Sonora Pass reporting station

Leavitt Lake reporting station

Leavitt Meadow reporting station

Horse Meadow Reporting Station

South of our Position

Tenaya Lake

Tuolumne Meadows

Tioga Entry Station

Northeast

Slide Mountain

All Ground Reporting Stations

MesoWest N Calif Stations

Calif Snotel

Human Measured Stations

Wilma Lake

Road Conditions

Caltrans Hwy 108

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

Emigrant Meadow
and
Middle Emigrant Lake
in
Emigrant Meadow

 

High Emigrant Lake

 

Rock-Flowers-Lakes

 

Big View
of
Emigrant Meadow

 

Purple Flowers & Purple Beetle

 

Big Rock

 

Red Bug Lake

 

High Emigrant Lake Check Dam

North Fork Cherry Creek begins

 

Emigrant Meadow Lake

 

Shortcut to Grizzly Meadow & Lake in Grizzly Meadow

 

Grizzly Peak

 

Grizzly Meadow Campsites

Grizzly Meadow

 

Horse Meadow
trail junction

 

Grizzly Peak
Hub
of Trail Junctions

> Forum <

This trail guide is made to be a source of information for, and subsequently updated by backpackers using it through the comments and forum links on each trail guide page.

Anyone can post up comments, but only registered Members can post up stand alone posts about this segment of the trail. Commentators cannot post images, but members can post images, maps and even embed videos in the Trails Forum for the Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows Pass section of the Trail Guide.

Post up your cool stuff. Show us more!

Learn-Teach-Share

Add updates, questions, comments, and additional information about trips you make using the trail over Big Sam from the PCT at Kennedy Canyon to the TYT at Grizzly Peak through the comments links. Check out this supplemental information through the forum links.

Register, and add a page about each of your favorite trips through the Emigrant Wilderness in the Emigrant Wilderness Forum.

Check out the Tahoe to Whitney .org Backpacking Trails and Topics forums

Lakg the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

comments

Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction

Kennedy Canyon trail junction.
Kennedy Canyon trail junction at the top of Kennedy Canyon on the Pacific Crest Trail.
A KEY FOUR-WAY TRAIL JUNCTION
 

North
PCT
to
Sonora Pass
7.97 miles
GUIDE NORTH
Latopie Lake
to
Kennedy Canyon

 
Southbound
PCT
East to West West Walker Bridge
4.66 miles
GUIDE SOUTH
Kennedy Canyon
to
Dorothy Lake Pass

(below)
Kennedy Canyon
Trail Junction
West
to
TYT
8.39 miles
GUIDE WEST
Kennedy Lake and Creek
to
TYT on Summit Creek
  South
to
TYT
Big Sam to Grizzly Peak junction
6.17 miles
GUIDE SOUTH
Kennedy Canyon
to
Grizzly Peak
(below)
 

Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction

Hiking Options

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

First Turning Point South of Sonora Pass

We have hiked 7.97 miles over Leavitt Peak South from Sonora Pass to this trail junction. This junction sits in a special place between major mountains to the North and South and two beautiful valleys East and West.

This junction can be our turning point towards any of the three trailheads to our North along Highway 108 in proximity to Sonora Pass. We can hike from here to the West down Kennedy Creek to hike the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail down Kennedy Meadows, to the North along the PCT route back to Sonora Pass, or East down Kennedy Canyon to Leavitt Meadow to our Northeast.

Second Turning Point South of Sonora Pass

Hiking South from our position here at the head of Kennedy Canyon over Big Sam to Grizzly Peak brings us the next step South of Highway 108 trailheads. In Grizzly Peak Meadow we will link up with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail's route to the Northwest down to Kennedy Meadows, along with the Emigrant Pass Trail Northeast down to the Pacific Crest Trail bridge over the West Walker River, on the way to Leavitt Meadow. We can turn East or West to those trailheads from our position here at the Kennedy Canyon trail junction, but not from as far out from our Highway 108 trailheads.

If you think like I do, you will use this ladder of various length turnaround trailheads to craft various lengths of backpacking trips using various spokes from the hub of trails in Grizzly Meadow circling back to your original trailhead, or hiking across the Emigrant Wilderness from one trailhead to another.

I discuss more about longer loop-trip backpacking trip options South from Highway 108 as we hike further South down the trail over Big Sam into Emigrant Meadow and at the trail junction under Grizzly Peak in Grizzly Meadow.

Let's take a look at this trail junction and our hiking options from the vantage point on the top of the Southeastern End of the Leavitt Massif.

Big Picture of the Surrounding Terrain

Looking Southwest at our Upcoming Route South to and over Big Sam from the South end of the Leavitt Massif

Kennedy Canyon junction with Big Sam in background.

The Kennedy Canyon trail junction is located on the thinly forested flat between the two valleys descending Left and right from the middle of the image. We are standing on the Southeast edge of the Leavitt Massif looking South.

Big Sam is the highest peak along the ridge on the far Right side of the image, set back a bit by the great basin on its Northeast flank. It's low rounded peak is not as impressive as the peaks it shares crestline with, but its 10,825 foot height exceeds the rest.

We can see the Tungsten Road switchbacking down the Southern flank of the Leavitt Massif in the foreground. Our position hiking South from the Southeast corner of the Leavitt Massif will bring us down those switchbacks to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction below. The Tungsten Road continues South through the trail junction across the forested flat between the valleys descending East and West, continuing South to cross Big Sam to enter into the Emigrant Wilderness and the Emigrant Basin on the other side of the mountain.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps
Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake
USGS 30 min backpacking map

On the far side of the flat below us the Tungsten Road cuts Right across the facing mountains. South of the flat the Tungsten Road gradually ascends from Left to Right along a roadbed consisting of a narrow ledge cut into the massive skree flank of the facing mountain. On the Right side of the image we see the wide-open basin off the Northeast flank of Big Sam.

Again, Big Sam is the highest hump on the ridgeline in the distant Right of the image above. Let's get a closer look at the upcoming flat and our route along the mountain flank beyond.

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Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction between Kennedy Canyon to the East and Kennedy Creek to the West

Southbound view approaching the base of the Switchbacks on the South side of Leavitt Peak

Closer look at the Tungsten Road past the upcoming trail junction approaching Big Sam.

Above: A closer look at the Tungsten Road both at our feet and past the upcoming trail junction.

Kennedy Canyon drops off to the Left, the East, while Kennedy Lake sits in the valley descending to the Right, or West. Past the flat we see the Tungsten Road cutting a faint line traversing across the flank below the facing peaks. The East edge of Big Sam's basin is visible opening up on the Right side of the image above, but Big Sam sits out of sight just off the Right edge of the image, making up the West side of the basin.

Note the faint line of the Tungsten Road traversing along the steep lower flank of the distant snow-spattered peaks facing us. That section of the Tungsten Road is bending a horseshoe shaped route around the headwaters of Kennedy Creek, out of sight below. Also note how the pattern of snow on those mountains facing us is consistent between the two images above, though they were taken about ten years apart.

The map indicates these small patches of snow are glacial remnants.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

Look past the top of the big tree in the middle-Right of the image to spot the Tungsten Road's route across this steep flank. The Tungsten Road passes Right and Left through the top of that tree on the mountain. To the Right the Tungsten Road enters the basin off the Northeast flank of Big Sam.


That section of the Tungsten Road across that mountain's flank links the Kennedy Canyon trail junction to Big Sam. But we are going to take the faint shortcut trail just past the Kennedy Canyon trail junction to bypass the long horseshoe bend the Tungsten Road makes around the headwaters of Kennedy Creek.

Hikers Southbound on the Pacific Crest Trail turn Left at the upcoming Kennedy Canyon trail junction to hike East down Kennedy Canyon. A Right turn West from just a few steps South of the upcoming trail junction brings us down towards Kennedy Creek to either the Shortcut Trail Southwest back up to the Tungsten Road or continues West along Kennedy Creek past Kennedy Lake to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail between Relief Reservoir and Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

But we are continuing our hike South, straight through the upcoming Kennedy Canyon trail junction to hike over Big Sam into the High Emigrant Basin.

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Looking Northeast from the Northeast flank of Big Sam at the faint shortcut trail intersecting with the Tungsten Road at our feet.

Kennedy Canyon running East and West down the Eastern Flank of the Sierra Nevada

Tungsten Road up Big Sam with Kennedy Canyon in background.

View Northeast Down Kennedy Canyon

The Kennedy Canyon trail junction sits on the Left side of the flat above the forest filling Kennedy Canyon. Below our position on Big Sam we can see where the faint shortcut trail intersects with the Tungsten Road at the location of the nearest bit of snow along the road. See the faint trail working its way up to the Tungsten Road from Kennedy Creek far below?

This excellent shortcut trail cuts across Kennedy Creek from the trail junction at the top of Kennedy Canyon to its intersection with the Tungsten Road pictured above and below.

South past the junction of the shortcut trail with the Tungsten Road we can see where the Tungsten Road turns directly South into the basin below the Northeast flank of Big Sam. We are viewing all of this wile climbing up the Northeast Flank of Big Sam.

Map PCT Down Kennedy Canyon
USGS 7.5 min MAP
Sonora Pass Region Hiking Map
USGS 30 min backpacking map

let's get a closer look at where the shortcut ties in with the Tungsten Road and makes its turn into the basin.

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Shortcut Trail coming up from Kennedy Creek

Tungsten Road shortcut up Big Sam.

Shortcut up to the Tungsten Road climbing Big Sam. Kennedy Creek runs through the strand of green at the base of the mountain.

Now that we've reviewed our upcoming route, let's check it out up close.

Map PCT Down Kennedy Canyon
USGS 7.5 min MAP

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Backpacking Emigrant Wilderness

Onward!

Now that we have gained an overall view of the general terrain around our route up Big Sam, let's finish our hike off the South flank of Leavitt Peak by hiking through the Kennedy Canyon trail junction make the turn pictured below down to Kennedy Creek for some water and lunch at the boulder next to the creek along our way over to the shortcut route up to the Tungsten Road over Big Sam.

Shortcut off main trail.

A Faint Trail Junction

The shortcut off the main trail is a bit diffuse hiking South of the Kennedy Canyon trail junction some years. Most years.

The Tungsten Road is the trail bending to our Left while the forested berm climbing the mountain beyond the descending hillside marks the location of the shortcut trail. The shortcut trail climbs up this forested berm before cutting West to intersect with the Tungsten Road.

Map PCT Down Kennedy Canyon
USGS 7.5 min MAP
Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake
USGS 30 min backpacking map

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Big Sam

Heading off main trail down to Kennedy Creek.

Heading off main trail down to Kennedy Creek. We are pointing ourselves towards the berm on the far Left side of the image who's flank is decorated with the long snow patch on its Left side.

We will climb almost straight up a steep trail up that berm to access the shortcut's traverse up and over to the Tungsten Road.

There's some steep hiking up that berm.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

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Shortcut trail up Big Sam

Big Sam shortcut above Kennedy Creek.

We can see our goal, the shortcut trail traversing off the top of the berm on the South side of Kennedy Creek before we can see the creek below. Here we can see how the trail cuts West from the top of the forested berm.

We are currently hiking down towards a positron from where we can see the shortcut trail is rising up from Kennedy Creek to further guide our hike down to the red rock at Kennedy Creek.

Right now we're guessing.

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Tungsten Road Switchbacking up Northeast Face of Big Sam

Tungsten Road up Big Sam.

Beyond the shortcut in the distance we can see traces of our intermediate-distance goal, the Tungsten Road switchbacking its way up the Northeast flank of Big Sam.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

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Down to Kennedy Creek

View East at Headwaters

Kennedy Creek below headwaters.
Kennedy Creek flowing strongly just below its headwaters. The Tungsten Road loops around the mountain flanks above the creek.
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Hunting Robin

Robin along Kennedy Creek.

Robin hopping around picking off bugs at the top of Kennedy Creek.

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Kennedy Creek's Route down the Mountain

Bends downstream from Kennedy Lake.

We can see the bends in the canyon Kennedy Creek flows through downstream from Kennedy Lake.

Relief Reservoir is just a bit Left, West, of the third bend Kennedy Creek makes around descending ridge arms from the end of its straight run down from Kennedy Lake.

The outline of the Dardanelles is visible along the top-Right of the image.

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Break Rock at Kennedy Creek

The only shade around

Kennedy Creek break rock.

I take a break here. This rock is the only bit of shade and backrest around the point near where the shortcut trail cuts up to the Tungsten Road, which is where we get water.

Though there is water flowing across the Tungsten Road as it winds around the valley approaching Big Sam ahead of us I prefer to take a break here, water up and have lunch for an uninterrupted hike up Big Sam.

Our next break will be at the top of Big Sam to enjoy the overarching view of the High Emigrant Meadow.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

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The Shortcut up Big Sam Begins

Shortcut up on South side of Kennedy Creek.

The very beginning of the Shortcut Trail on South side of Kennedy Creek.

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Peak 10423 behind the Tungsten Road

Tungsten Road around Kennedy Creek Headwaters.

Climbing a bit higher on the Shortcut Trail we can see directly into the headwaters bowl of Kennedy Creek.

Note the faint line above the patches of vibrant green. That is the Tungsten Road bending its horseshoe route around Kennedy Creek's Headwaters.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

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Long Views down the Kennedy Creek Valley

Kennedy Lake and its canyon with The Dardanelles in the far distance.

The tail end of Kennedy Lake visible in its canyon with The Dardanelles in the far distance. Leavitt Peak caps the Head of the Right side of the valley, while Big Sam caps the Left, or South side.

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Let's take a closer look

Kennedy Lake with Dardanelles in the far distance.

As we climb up the Shortcut Trail we start getting a series of great views of Kennedy Lake and the great valley that Kennedy Creek flows down to Summit Creek. Beyond this East-West valley below we can even see where this valley terminates into Summit Creek's valley. Summit Creek flows North down the mountain to its point of transformation into the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River at the point where Summit Creek enters Kennedy Meadows.

Note the double pointed volcanic structures of the Dardanelles and the mass of the Dardanelles Cone in the distant background.

Kennedy Lake Backpacking Map

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Closer Look at the Dardanelles in the Distance

Long view down Kennedy Creek.

Long view down Kennedy Creek at The Dardanelles in the far distance.

Let's check out the relationship of the TYT around the Dardanelles with our position climbing up Big Sam.

Carson-Iceberg Backpacking Map

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The Dardanelles in the Distance

The Dardanelles from Big Sam.

The Dardanelles from Big Sam looking across the canyons holding Kennedy and Summit Creeks intersecting in the foreground.

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail's route passes along the other side, the Northwest end of the Dardanelles, and then crosses that ridge around the East side of the Dardanelles formations.

If I am correct we are seeing the mountains along Highway 4 just Southeast of Lake Alpine through the gap on the Left side of Dardanelle Cone. The TYT circles around the Western nose of that distant mass of mountains hiking from Rock Lake to Spicer Meadow Reservoir.

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Kennedy Lake

Kennedy Lake rippling with wind gust.

The full extent of Kennedy Lake, rippling with wind gust, comes into view as we climb higher up Big Sam. A very pleasant series of views of Kennedy Lake, Leavitt Peak, and Kennedy Canyon open up as we ascend.

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Kennedy Canyon Beyond the Tungsten Road

Looking North down the Shortcut Trail at the top of Kennedy Canyon.

Looking Northeast down the Shortcut Trail at the top of Kennedy Canyon. We can see how the weight of the mountain is pushing the Tungsten Road into the Tungsten Trail, and would push that off the mountain if not for the diligent work of trail crew.

The fact is that Everything is Moving.

Map PCT Down Kennedy Canyon
USGS 7.5 min MAP

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Bee on Big Sam

Life on the Trail

As I climbed onto and followed the Tungsten Road along its circular route around the basin East of Big Sam during a 2009 trip between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney I encountered a quick series of living things.

Though this basin appears barren from a distance it is full of life close up. It is not lush, but the terrain is alive.

This series of living things works me really hard as nothing except flowers stand still, and even they blow around in the wind. Bugs require that I pursue them with pack on across rock fields if I want to even have a chance of getting a picture. If I take the time to take off my pack the bug is gone.

The flower images generally require a series of deep-knee bends with the pack on to get the shot, especially if I am going to maintain my daily miles to stay on schedule to my next resupply.

This trail guide is written within the very real parameters of long distance backpacking. Every calorie counts, says The Calorie King.

Bee on Big Sam.

Bee scouring the rocky terrain. We are at about 10,200 feet of elevation here on a steep field of scree making up the mountains flank with not a whole lot happening. Then I note this bee really working the terrain. I wonder what he's looking for.

I figure he may be looking for a dead bug he senses in the rock, or hunting for a live one.

Insects Forum

Bee

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Dung Beetle on Big Sam

Dung Beetle on Big Sam.

Dung Beetle on Big Sam.

I had previously noted the very old broken down horse dung deteriorating through the rocky trail on Big Sam as I hiked up. The trail had very small segments that appeared to be lined with straw.

Stepping over one of these spots I noticed this turtle of the beetle world scurrying about his business, or rather scurrying about the remnants of the horse's business.

If you have any bug encounters of note in the High Sierra, any pictures of said encounters, or want to relate thoughts and experiences to your fellow hikers, please by all means post them at these places:

Insects Forum

Dung Beetle

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Spider on Big Sam

Black spider on Big Sam.

This guy was running around when we noticed each other. I approached and he retreated. I stopped and he would come out and look at me.

As long as I did not approach him he was cool with keeping his eyes on me.

Insects Forum

Spider

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

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Shortcut Joins Tungsten Road

Break at the top of the Shortcut at the Tungsten Road.

Break Time at the top of the Shortcut at the Tungsten Road.

Note that the snow aprons have retreated from covering the Tungsten Road. A bit earlier in the season these sheet of stubborn hard slick snow cover the trail route, requiring a hairy traverse along your kicked-in steps.

Map PCT Down Kennedy Canyon
USGS 7.5 min MAP

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Tungsten Road

West West Walker Northeast of Kennedy Canyon

Kennedy Canyon and West Walker beyond from top of Shortcut route.

Kennedy Canyon and canyon of the West West Walker beyond from the top of Shortcut route to the Tungsten Road.

 

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North Bulge of Big Sam

The top of Big Sam.

The North Crest along the top of Big Sam's Crestline. On the Right side of the image we see the beginning of the steep face of the North Flank of Big Sam. The North flank of Big Sam makes up the South side of the top of the valley Kennedy Creek flows West through.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

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Looking into the Basin below the Northeast Flank of Big Sam

Though it appears barren, it is not

Entering the basiin on the Northeast side of Big Sam.

Entering the basin on the Northeast side of Big Sam.

After rejoining the Tungsten Road at the top of the shortcut trail crossing Kennedy Creek the Tungsten Road turns sharply South, making a Left Turn for Southbound backpackers into the throat of this wide basin below the Northeast flank of Big Sam.

We have made that turn, and are looking South up the center of the basin.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps
Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake
USGS 30 min backpacking map

The Tungsten Road circles around the full extent of this basin to gradually gain elevation. Note in this image above where the Tungsten Road turns Left, away from Big Sam up the East side of the basin, which you can see on the far Right side of the image. The East side of the basin is to the Left from the perspective of the image immediately above.

The Tungsten Road is turning Left up ahead of us to use the full width of the basin's perimeter as one long, slow, circular climbing traverse. Climbing to the East side of the basin the Tungsten Road begins bending around the circumference of the basin around to the West, gradually climbing all the while, to position the road at the Western end of the basin under Big Sam.

This grand traverse around the perimeter of the basin situates the Tungsten Road as high as possible along the easiest route possible to a position under Big Sam where it begins a series of switchbacks up the Northeast flank of Big Sam to the crestline just North of the peak.

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Big Sam Butterfly

Butterfly on Big Sam.

Butterfly on Big Sam.

Though hiking through this terrain cannot but impart a deep feeling of almost desert-like desolation, and even isolation, depending upon fellow backpacker traffic, there is a tough, vibrant, and beautiful web of life here, though it may be stretched a bit thin in the extremes these harsh climates entertain.

I've photographs snow fields on the side of Big Sam dotted with red algae growing within, while the surface is dotted with insects who made the flight onto the snow, but not off. These insects will fall into the rock during the thaw and feed the thin web of life here. We will see the signs of Wintertime gopher activity as we climb into the Big Sam basin.

The algae, insects, tough flowers, thin grasses and fat gophers indicate a richness of life contra-indicated by our first glances at this seemingly barren terrain.

Doc Shapiro Says; "Common high-altitude checkerspot."

Backpackers Forum: Insects>Butterflies

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Closeup of the Big Sam Butterfly

Big Sam Butterfly.

Big Sam Butterfly

Thing up here sit still longer than things at lower elevations, giving me a better chance of sharing observations that are passing in nature.

Comments?

See the Bug Forum.

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Web of Creeks Draining Big Sam Basin

Big Sam Creek.

One creek collects all the streams draining the basin and exits on its way to Kennedy Creek alongside the Tungsten Road's entrance to the basin.

Big Sam Creek running down the center of the basin has been here every time I have, despite not being marked on the USGS maps. Southbound hikers turn into the Big Sam basin along this creek running out of the basin.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps
Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake
USGS 30 min backpacking map

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Big Sam Basin Sweet Blue Flowers

Blue Flowers growing on Big Sam.

Blue Flowers growing on Big Sam in the Basin.

Western Blue Flax

Forum: High Sierra Flowers

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Pussypaws in Big Sam Basin

Darker pink pussypaws on Big Sam.

Darker pink pussypaws on Big Sam.

Forum: High Sierra Pussypaws

Forum: High Sierra Flowers

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Terrain Surrounding Big Sam Basin

The Western Flank

Western lower peak on Big Sam.

Peak on Western lower flank of Big Sam above Kennedy Creek far below.

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Mountain Hopper in Big Sam Basin

Mountain hopper on Big Sam.

Mountain hopper on Big Sam.

Forums
High Sierra Grasshoppers

Living Things Forum

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High Altitude Plant Blooming with Vibrant Red Flowers

High altitude Flowers growing all over Big Sam.

High altitude Flowers growing all over Big Sam.

Can you identify this plant?

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The Old Bridge over Big Sam Creek

Remnants of culvert for Tungsten Road.

Remnants of culvert for Tungsten Road. As we follow the route of the Tungsten Road from the Southeast side of Leavitt Peak to where it breaks off of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route in Summit Meadow, we will note the difficulties of maintaining this road along the Sierra Crestline.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

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View North out of Big Sam Basin

The Tungsten Road turns East to begin its long loop around the basin on the East side of Big Sam.

The Tungsten Road turns Eastward to begin its long loop gradually climbing around this big basin on the Northeast flank of Big Sam. Above we are looking North by the compass down the Southbound Tungsten Road, looking at the Southern flank of Leavitt Peak towering above Kennedy Lake. Kennedy Lake sits at the base of the valley between us and Leavitt Peak.

Sonora Pass Region Hiking Map
USGS 30 min backpacking map

Here we are hiking around to the East side of the basin where there are shade producing whitebarks, plenty of water, and some nice semi-exposed campsites.

I really like the color of the rock & the reddish glow of the terrain here.

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Mole Casing

Mole casing.

Mole casing on surface indicates life below. During Winter and Spring gophers pack the soil they've cleaned out of their tunnels into tunnels they dig through the snow.

When Spring Thaw melts the snow the mole casings within are exposed, then gently deposited on the surface as the snow cover diminishes, then disappears.

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Grass Islands in Ocean of Rock

Tufts of struggling grasses hold on next to the creek.

Tufts of struggling grasses hold on next to the creek high up in the center of the basin. We are now hiking West around the basin to where the switchbacks up Big Sam begin.

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High on Big Sam

View Northeast across Kennedy Canyon

Long view Northeast opens up as we climb higher up the Northeast flank of Big Sam.

Once we begin climbing the switchbacks up to the top of Big Sam our increasing altitude opens up a series of long views Northeast opens up Kennedy Canyon for closer inspection.

Below we can see the whole layout of the flat dividing Kennedy Canyon on the East from Kennedy Creek's Western flow. On the bottom we can see the Shortcut Route up from Kennedy Creek intersecting with the Tungsten Road.

Though we cannot see them in the image above, we can imagine the unified Tungsten Road & Pacific Crest Trail routes descending off Leavitt Peak from the middle of the Left side of the image. The PCT turns Left, East down Kennedy Canyon from the Kennedy Canyon trail junction, located on the Left side of the flat.

Our Tungsten Road route disengages from the PCT at this trail junction continuing South around the headwaters of Kennedy Creek. The headwaters of Kennedy Creek are out of sight in the image above, though we can see Kennedy Creek running up to the top of its headwaters canyon in the middle-Right of the image.

Map PCT Down Kennedy Canyon
USGS 7.5 min MAP
Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake
USGS 30 min backpacking map
Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

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High on Big Sam

View North at Pacific Crest Trail on the South Flank of Leavitt Peak

Looking North back at our PCT route across valley holding Kennedy Creek. We are looking at the PCT coming to the End of, then descending the South flank of Leavitt Peak

From our elevated position on these switchbacks climbing up the Northeast flank of Big Sam we can look North to see the Pacific Crest Trail along the South flank of the Leavitt Massif where the PCT intersects with the Tungsten Road coming over the mountain from Leavitt Lake. That's what that big triangle of trail in the picture on the Left below depicts.

The PCT route splits to hike up or down the Tungsten Road from the left-hand corner of the triangle in the image at Left below. Southbound backpackers hiking up, to the Left, are following the Tungsten Road North over the mountain to Leavitt Lake. Hiking Right, down, keeps us on the Southbound Pacific Crest Trail.

Go there: Tungsten Road junction with PCT on Leavitt Peak Massif

Northbound PCT Hikers hit the lower corner of the triangle and take a Left to hike Northwest along the South flank of Leavitt Peak towards Sonora Pass. Northbound hikers taking a Right are hiking towards Leavitt Lake.

Tungsten Road and Pacific Crest Trail on Leavitt Peak. Horse trail on Leavitt Massif.

Above: The Tungsten Road coming over the mountain from Leavitt Lake is the upper right corner of the image.

The Southbound PCT route comes down from the Left side to join the Tungsten Road in the lower corner of the triangle.

From that junction in the lower corner of the triangle above the PCT route continues South along the ridge arm below the triangle of trail. The next image to the Right shows the PCT-Tungsten Road descending off Leavitt Peak..

Sonora Pass to Big Sam Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

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On the upper-Right of the image above we can see the Left corner of the PCT-Tungsten Road trail junction triangle. This is where the upper trail heads North on the Tungsten Road to Leavitt Lake, while the lower trail continues South on the PCT.

On the lower flank we can see where the main track of the PCT splits into the "horse trail" and PCT foot path routes down.

We can also see where the horse and foot trails rejoin into one route on the corner the lowest switchback.

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View East-Southeast

Looking over the rim of the Big Sam Basin

Yosemite to the Southeast.

Hoover Wilderness Peaks to the Southeast over the shoulder of Big Sam. We're looking across the NE section of Emigrant Wilderness, across the West West Walker River Watershed into the mountains dividing the Hoover Wilderness from the North Yosemite Backcountry.

Peak 11280 in Hoover Wilderness on the Left with the tip of Hanna Peak peeking out from behind. The silhouette of Hunwell Peak rises on the distant Right of the image above.

The Pacific Crest Trail route runs North and South between us and the mountains. You can inspect the PCT route through there on the Kennedy Canyon to Dorothy Lake Pass trail guide page.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

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Beautiful Waxy Yellow Flower

Blooming flower at high elevation on Big Sam.

I found vibrant life at the very top of Big Sam's 10, 825 feet of elevation. These suckers well contrasted the the burnt red color and textures of the hard shattered, sharp talus of the terrain up here.

Identify this flower

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Another View Southeast

At the top of Big Sam.

Yosemite Backcountry in the distant Southeast. Approaching the top of Big Sam.

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High Sierra Spider

Spider high up at the top of Big Sam.
Almost up to the top of Big Sam I noticed a chip on a granite boulder was moving. It was not a chip of granite boulder, but a Spider designed to look like part of its granite background, very high up at the top of Big Sam.

 

Hey spider.
Hey spider. Note the eye checking us out.

 

Spider departing.

Spider departing. Note the backward-looking eyes.

Comments?

Spider Forum

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View from the Top of Big Sam

Emigrant Meadow and Middle Emigrant Lakes from Big Sam.

Well, not quite the top. The switchbacks up the Northwest flank of Big Sam bring us to the crestline ridge a bit to the North of the crest where our trail drops over to the Southwest flank of Big Sam.

As we hike South towards the crest of Big Sam after reaching the top of the switchbacks we come to a position where we get a view to the Southwest around the bulk of the Northwest flank of Big Sam.

Emigrant Meadow and Middle Emigrant Lakes from Big Sam. 2009.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

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View Southwest into the Heart of the Emigrant Wilderness, Backpacking the High Emigrant Meadow

Middle and Emigrant Meadow Lakes from the top of Big Sam.

Taken years ago during 2003 or 3.

To the Right of the Lake in the foreground sits Brown Bear Pass guarding the route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail Northwest down to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

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Hiking Down the Southwest Flank of Big Sam

The High Emigrant Meadow or Basin from Big Sam.

The High Emigrant Meadow section of Emigrant Basin from Big Sam. This is the most scenic and majestic way to view and enter the High Emigrant Basin.

The TYT passes from Bond Pass just out of the Right side (Northwest) of the image around the green apron on this side of Emigrant Meadow Lake on its way to climb the low ridge to the Southeast (Left side of the image) dividing Emigrant from Grizzly Meadow.
Our trail South over Big Sam Meets the TYT in Grizzly Meadow under Grizzly Peak.

This route into "The Emigrant Basin" gives us a great "Bird's Eye View" view of the terrain before leading us into it.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps
Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake
USGS 30 min backpacking map

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Red Bug Lake
Little Lake Northeast
of Emigrant Lake

High Emigrant Lake appears as we descend the Southwest side of Big Sam into the Emigrant Meadow.

One of the little lakes nestled into the terrain to the Northeast of High Emigrant Lake appears as we descend the Southwest side of Big Sam into the Emigrant Meadow.

Behind the Lake we see a channel in the terrain carrying a major tributary of the West West Walker River down from its headwaters in Grizzly Meadow. Past the channel in the terrain we can see the base of Grizzly Peak and bits of Grizzly Meadow around its base.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

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Emigrant Meadow with Emigrant Meadow Lake and Middle Emigrant Lake behind

emigrant meadow

As we drop down the Southwest flank of Big Sam great views of the Emigrant Basin open up below.

We see Emigrant Meadow Lake in Emigrant Meadow with Middle Emigrant Lake behind. Emigrant Lake is further down the canyon beyond Middle Emigrant Lake.
Brown Bear Pass is out of the frame on the Right side of the image, the Northwest.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps
Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake
USGS 30 min backpacking map

Note the trail connecting the TYT

The green aprons around the lakes, along with the early date on the calendar both warn us that we are dropping down into a zone of dense mosquitoes.

Backpacker Mosquito Information

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Great Granite Formation in Emigrant Meadow

Granite dome in High Emigrant Meadow.

The granites here are intrinsically appealing, somehow accessing a frequency of physical engagement and understanding not used within civilization.

The rock gods can see you, even if you cannot see them.

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South Flank of Big Sam Flowering

Garden growing on the South flank of Big Sam.

High Altitude Wild Flowers blooming on the South flank of Big Sam.

Big Sam looks barren from a distance, but it is not, especially during Spring.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

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Emigrant Meadow Rock Formations

Emigrant Meadow Lake.

Emigrant Meadow Lake.

Emigrant Meadow stretches out to the Northwest, to the Right towards Brown Bear Pass, but our view is obscured by the interceeding mountainside.

The TYT passes by the visible shoreline tucked up along the granite formations we can see in the lower-Left corner of the image.

The route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail comes South through Brown Bear Pass, crosses Emigrant Meadow to pass around the North shore of Emigrant Meadow Lake to climb the low ridge dividing Emigrant Meadow on its Northwest side from Grizzly Meadow on its Southeast side.

Our trail over Big Sam will meet with the TYT at the trail junction under Grizzly Peak on the East end of Grizzly Meadow, just a bit South of Emigrant Pass.

Our route off Big Sam will climb onto that low ridge from the North, while the TYT will cross it from West to East further down the ridgeline than our route.

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Emigrant Meadow
from the
South Flank of Big Sam

Lakes in High Emigrant Meadow.

View Southwest off Big Sam

Relationship of the Lakes in Emigrant Meadow to the Lakes near Emigrant Meadow. Emigrant Meadow wraps around the lake on the far Right of the image, being Emigrant Meadow Lake.

Emigrant Meadow runs Northwest, to the Right in the image above, from Emigrant Meadow Lake to the base of Brown Bear Pass.
Check out this view of the same terrain above, but from the TYT coming through Brown Bear Pass:

Emigrant Meadow from Brown Bear Pass

Above we see High Emigrant Lake on the Left, little Red Bug Lake center-Right, Emigrant Meadow Lake in Right foreground, and Middle Emigrant Lake in Right background, behind Emigrant Meadow Lake.

Emigrant Meadow Lake is the only lake actually in Emigrant Meadow.

Notice the low rise behind High Emigrant Lake running diagonally across the middle of the image. Note that this low ridge is split between volcanic terrain closer to us and granite terrain on its Southern end, divided by an abrupt interface.

This granite-volcanic interface runs Northwest through the center of Brown Bear Pass. This interface runs Northwest through Brown Bear Pass to divide the canyon Summit Creek runs all the way down to Relief Reservoir between Granite terrain to the South and volcanic terrain on its North side.

The interface continues East over the Sierra Crest down the East flank. We can best examine it on the East flank by hiking Northeast through Emigrant Pass on the trail down to the PCT at the West West Walker River Bridge.
I even have an imaginative name for this unique route tracing out this unique granite-volcanic interface: The Interface Route. Imaganitive, eh?

Our trail South over Big Sam takes us past the Right (Southwest) shore of High Emigrant Lake and its check dam approaching the traverse up onto the volcanic portion of that low volcanic ridge. We hike up to the interface with granite terrain, where we cross over it into Grizzly Meadow on the far side of that low ridge.

Our shortcut down to the little unnamed lake West of Grizzly Meadow breaks off to the South at the top of the low rise beyond the granite-volcanic interface as we approach Emigrant Pass. I even marked the shortcut on the Emigrant Wilderness Basin backpacking map below-Left.

I've always liked camping at the little lake West of Grizzly Peak.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps
Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake
USGS 30 min backpacking map

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Purple High Sierra Daises

Dasies on Big Sam.

High Sierra Daises

Tentative Identification: Erigeron pygmaeus - Alpine daisy

High Sierra Flower Forum

purple flower comments

Brilliant Purple High Sierra Beetle

High altitude very purple beetle Emigrant Wilderness.

Wow. The colors of this guy caught my eye off-guard. What colors! I was happy to see it, but thinking, "what the heck is this?"

I've never been short of black beetles in the Sierra, but this was kind of out of the normal color range I expect to see up here. This bugger looks much more tropical than alpine.

Well, is the world "upside down" or what?

Field Notes
Fast moving florescent purple beetle. This guy was fast and relentless in movement. It was real hard to keep up with him, let alone get out front of his hyperactive approach. Yet I could not resist a big chase.

Just look at those brilliant colors.

I've traced it down-maybe-to some kind of Stag Beetle.

Comments?

High Sierra Beetles Forum

Natural World
Identification Links

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Down to Emigrant Meadow Level

Great rock on West side of Emigrant Meadow Lake.

Looking across the meadowlands above Emigrant Meadow Lake at the pinkish glow of the granite in Emigrant Wilderness adding another dimension to its unique experiences.

We're coming off the volcanic flank of Big Sam towering above the North end of this "flattish" shelf of terrain wedged in along the Sierra Crestline down to Bond Pass.

Below Big Sam and Bond Pass we see Emigrant Meadow Lake with granite mountains wrapping around its South shore, around to the Southwest to where the stark interface between granite terrain to the South and volcanic to the North runs straight through Brown Bear Pass.

As we hike further down we'll see that this North end of the Emigrant Basin is slashed in half by the interface line running through the terrain dividing its volcanic Northern half from its granite Southern end.
A series of granite canyons to rival the terrain in Yosemite running off the Southwestern edge of the Emigrant Basin from Emigrant Meadow seen above, from Grizzly Meadow just a bit to our South, and off the Southern edge of Summit Meadow below Bond Pass.

Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

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High Emigrant Lake

Note the low rise is now looking more substantial as we approach it

High Emigrant Lake, Emigrant Wilderness.

High Emigrant Lake, Emigrant Wilderness.

We can see the base of Grizzly Peak beyond the low rise we are going to begin traversing up past High Emigrant Lake.

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Emigrant Meadow Lake and Middle Emigrant Lake

Emigrant Meadow Lake with Middle Emigrant Lake behind.

Emigrant Meadow Lake on the near-Right with Middle Emigrant Lake behind it. Red Bug Lake on Left of image.

Blackbird and then Emigrant Lakes lay just a ways down the canyon behind Middle Emigrant Lake. At Emigrant Lake we meet the trail coming over Mosquito Pass from the TYT above Lunch Meadow.

This trail continues Southeast as well, offering an alternative route just a bit down the West flank below the TYT along the Western Crestline. The Sonora Pass Regional hiking map below shows the route from Mosquito Pass to Horse Meadow and Snow Lake approaching Bond Pass.

Sonora Pass Region Hiking Map
USGS 30 min backpacking map
Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake
USGS 30 min backpacking map

Emigrant Wilderness National Forest Map PDF
USDA Forest Service Map

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Descending South side of Big Sam

North Fork of Cherry Creek

North Cherry Creek on Big Sam flowing into Emigrant Meadow.

As we hike South off the crest of Big Sam we see that the South Flank of Big Sam is the headwater, the main Source of North Cherry Creek.

Map

Justifiably so, as Big Sam is the dominant feature above Emigrant Meadow. Below us we see that North Cherry Creek into High Emigrant Lake then through Emigrant Meadow ties together the string of lakes across the meadows like living blue pearls on a living blue string.

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North Cherry Creek flowing off the South side of Big Sam into Emigrant Lake

North Cherry Creek forms the terrain down to Emigrant Lake.

Let's look deeply into the Surrounding Terrain

Note the low granite feature in the distance rising out of the ocean of volcanic material making up the substrate of the meadow. I should say "the mixed substrate" of the meadow.

We can see by the interface lines drawn on the surrounding terrain where the lava that once poured over this terrain stopped, and that subsequently the erosion off of this deposited volcanic terrain began flowing when the hot material stopped. Thus much of the nearby low granite terrain not covered by ancient hot volcanic flows was later covered by volcanic material eroding off the remnants of these dead flows.

Now we can see that erosion is scouring the lighter and weaker volcanic material from the granite it encases, and the seasonal action of snow and thaw is moving this eroded material slowly down the mountain.

It is as if a high tide of volcanic material is slowing being drained from around the underlying granite, exposing it after being entombed for thousands of years.

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Red Bug Lake

Unamed Lake in High Emigrant Meadow.

Green Meadows, Blue Lakes, Pink Rocks.

Map

Granite formations Decorate Meadow above High Emigrant Lake

Emigrant Meadow granite in grass and flowers.
Granite, grass, and flowers decorate meadow terrain above and to the North of High Emigrant Lake.

Great Granite Bulb

Great Granite Rock in High Emigrant Basin.
As we hike off the South flank of Big Sam into the meadow terrain above the North shore of High Emigrant Lake we are surrounded by delightful granite formations rising, no, erupting out of the floor of this great high altitude basin.
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Sprinkles along shore of High Emigrant Lake

Light rain on High Emigrant Lake.

Watching the daily progression of the clouds and skies for indications of thunderstorms is wise mountain practice.

Even if the thunderheads threatening dangerous lightening do not form, we may get some late afternoon rain to refresh our hike.

Map

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Rock decorates shoreline of High Emigrant Lake

Granite formation into High Emigrant Lake.

Sweet granite formations wade into the South Shore of High Emigrant Lake.

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High Emigrant Lake Check Dam

High Emigrant Lake Check Dam.

High Emigrant Lake Check Dam. It is a big one.

High Sierra Check Dams

Map

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One of many Tadpoles below High Emigrant Lake Check Dam

Tadpole in pool below dam.

During July of 2009 there was a massive population of Tadpoles below the High Emigrant Lake check dam.

This is one of the little buggers.

Tell us what you know and think:

Frog Forum>Tadpole

North Cherry Creek flowing Southwest out of High Emigrant Lake

North Cherry Creek flowing out of High Emigrant Wilderness.

The North fork of Cherry Creek begins in the confines of this grand High Sierra basin around High Emigrant and Emigrant Meadow Lakes. Here North Cherry Creek flows Southwest past the check dam creating High Emigrant Lake.

Map

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Fine Granite South of High Emigrant Lake

Fine example of High Emigrant Meadow granite.

Hiking South of the Check Dam on High Emigrant Lake we descend past a remarkable granite formation between our trail and Emigrant Meadow Lake and Emigrant Meadow to our West.

Marked as 9818 on Emigrant Lake Topo Map

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Emigrant Meadow Lake

Emigrant Meadow Lake.

Continuing South we find we are hiking lengthwise on, and traversing up the berm dividing Emigrant Meadow Lake in Emigrant Meadow from Grizzly Peak and Grizzly Meadow, thus our route stays above Emigrant Meadow Lake in Emigrant Meadow.

That's a good thing during the height of the Mosquito season in Spring and early Summer.

Map

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View Northwest across Emigrant Meadow

Brown Bear Pass on Northwest side of High Emigrant Meadow.

As we hike South the full extent of Emigrant Meadow opens up to our Northwest. We can see Brown Bear Pass on the far Northwest corner of High Emigrant Meadow.

We can clearly see the interface line between the granite and volcanic terrain splitting Brown Bear Pass.

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail passes North and South through Brown Bear Pass' high point between the interface of volcanic and granite terrain. Also note Relief Peak rising above the volcanic side of Brown Bear Pass in the distance.

Emigrant Meadow Lake is on the Left side of the image.

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Emigrant Meadow Terrain

We continue to lose a bit of altitude hiking South around the West side of High Emigrant Lake passing by the beautiful massive granite formation decorating this high meadowland in the 3rd picture above, before we begin to climb again. We are now traversing up the volcanic Northern end of the little ridge dividing this high basin into two sides. Let's think about this.

From the top of the South side of Big Sam we looked down to see a strand, a low ridge of terrain running roughly North and South across the Emigrant Basin dividing it between Emigrant Meadow to the Northwest and Grizzly Meadow to the Southeast.

Note that the North side of this little ridge is red volcanic material while its Southern extent is granite. A very well-defined seam running through and around the High Emigrant Basin divides these two terrains just the same way we see the volcanic and granite seam splits Brown Bear Pass, as pictured above, as well as the valley holding Summit Creek, descending towards Kennedy Meadows Pack Station on the other side of the mountain.

Grizzly Meadow sits on the East side of this little ridge, Emigrant Meadow on its West side.

While this little feature looked quite insubstantial from Big Sam its 320 foot rise from the floor of the meadow is quite massive when viewed close up. This is a matter of scale. What looks quite small from a distance is quite massive close up. This ridge cuts off views of the whole Emigrant Basin from any one spot within the basin, but also makes it a "cozy" environment within Emigrant Basin.

We will hike South from High Emigrant Lake up to, then follow the seam between red and white terrain up the top of this ridge to where the trail route button-hooks around a few steps North of the Emigrant Pass Trail junction until we come to the low gap in this low ridge that is Emigrant Pass. A few steps past Emigrant Pass we come to the first of two quick trail junctions. But I rarely get that far.

Shortcut Route

Just before we hike South across Emigrant Pass as we begin to double back with the trail's button-hook movement, we notice the little valley pictured below, off to our Right, down to Grizzly Meadow and its little lake, what I call the East Grizzly Meadow Lake. Well, we can't quite see the lake from the trail, but we see a little valley running down to Southbound hiker's Right, to the South.

As Grizzly Meadow and lake are our destination for tonight's camp, and our route for this trip does not turn Northeast at the Emigrant Pass trail junction to hike down to Cinko Lake and the West Walker River, we will cut off the trail and bypass the Emigrant Pass trail junction to hike South down this little valley to camp near the East Grizzly Meadow Lake.

Map of Shortcut

Otherwise we would walk straight South past the Emigrant Pass trail to take a Right turn at the second trail junction under Grizzly Peak for the short walk West to our campsite by the lake in Grizzly Meadow just a couple of hundred yards West of Grizzly Peak. Instead of looping around my campsite along the trail route I will turn South off the trail to hike straight down through this little valley to my campsite.

The image below shows our shortcut route down this little valley to the Lake below.

Tomorrow I will hike East from the little lake in Grizzly Meadow along the Tahoe to Yosemite route up to the trail junction under Grizzly Peak to turn Right, South, for the relatively short hike along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route over Bond Pass into Yosemite National Park.

Woo-Hoo!

MAP

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Shortcut down to Grizzly Meadow.

Shortcut down to East Grizzly Meadow Lake. Note the lake sitting down there in Grizzly Meadow just beyond the closest trees.

Fine campsites are located in the granite formation shrouded in trees to the Left of the lake.

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Grizzly Peak

Grizzly Peak.

From our position here, hiking down the little valley to East Grizzly Meadow Lake, Emigrant Pass is just out of frame to the Left along the low granite rising between us and Grizzly Peak.

Just after hiking through the very indistinct Emigrant Pass we would have encountered the trail junction Left, to the Northeast to Cinko Lake and the West Walker River on the Left side of the base of Grizzly Peak, if we had stayed on the trail.

A couple of hundred yards South of the Emigrant Pass trail junction the trail intersects with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail's route coming South up from the Northwest out of Kennedy Meadows under Grizzly Peak.

Continuing South from the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail junction under Grizzly Peak brings us to Bond Pass. We can see where this Tungsten Road - Tahoe to Yosemite Trail junction is located looking at the the section of Grizzly Meadow visible at the right foot of Grizzly Peak in the image above.

Map

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Shortcut down to East Grizzly Peak Lake

Fine rock formations in the Emigrant Wilderness.

Fantastic granite formations holding sandy flats and stands of sheltering Whitebark Pine trees offer esthetic calm and excellent accommodations.

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West Grizzly Meadow Lake

Hiking South to the lake in Grizzly Meadow.
Hiking South and getting closer to the lake in Grizzly Meadow and this evening's campsite.
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West Grizzly Meadow Lake

Last steps to my campsite in Grizzly Meadow.

Last steps to my campsite in Grizzly Meadow. The stand of Whitebarks anchors and shelters the flat around it.

Little stands of trees defy the slow flow of erosion, their presence creating resistance that forms sleeping flats for passing backpackers.

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West Grizzly Meadow Lake

Tonight's surroundings.

Tonight's surroundings. Bears cruise through, hawks wheel in the sky above, baby chipmunks play around in the trees, frogs hop about the lake while we watch it all under the changing light show of the setting sun.

The closing of day activities is the prelude for the brilliance of the night sky.

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Grizzly Meadow Campsite

Grizzly Meadow campsite.

Grizzly Meadow campsite. Pad is my seat, whitebark is my backrest, food, water, hot chocolate and stove within easy reach surrounded by beautiful lake, meadow, flowers and animals.

Emigrant Basin Backpacking Map

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Grizzly Meadow Sunset

Grizzly Meadow Sunset, Backpacking Emigrant Wilderness.

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail passes North and South about thirty yards South of our campsite on the North side of the lake in Grizzly Meadow, between our campsite and the Lake.

Tomorrow we will walk down to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail and turn Left, East, (South on the TYT route) for the half mile walk past the unmarked Horse Meadow trail junction to the second trail junction where our Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route turns Right for the hike to Bond Pass.

Below is the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail junction coming up from Kennedy Meadows connecting up first with the unmarked trail junction Southwest down to Horse Meadow, then with the Grizzly Peak trail junction.

At the Grizzly Peak trail junction we meet the trail South from Sonora Pass over Big Sam, the trail down the West West Walker River from Emigrant Pass, and the Southbound TYT towards our Bond Pass entrance into the North Yosemite Backcountry.

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Horse Meadow Trail between Grizzly Peak Lake and the Emigrant Pass-Bond Pass Trail Junction

CCC trail crew moving down to Horse Meadow to set up their camp.

1:20

Backpacking Emigrant Basin Map

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Trail Hub in Emigrant Basin at the Western Base of Grizzly Peak in Grizzly Meadow

  North and East   South West Trail Junction below Grizzly Peak
  Emigrant Pass, Big Sam, Bond Pass or Kennedy Meadows from this trail junction. Trail post marking trail to Bond Pass from Emigrant Meadow. Trail to Brown Bear Pass and Kennedy Meadows from Bond-Emigrant Pass trail junction.

This is the central trail junction for High Altitude Hikers into the Emigrant Wilderness from trailheads all around the compass.

Emigrant Pass is to our East, accessing the West Walker River down to Leavitt Meadow. Leavitt Meadow sits at the base of the Eastern Sierra. Or we can hike up the West Walker into Yosemite through Dorothy Lake Pass.

To the North the trail over Big Sam intersects with the PCT between Kennedy Canyon and Lake. From there we can hike South over Leavitt Peak to Sonora Pass.

To the West, back the way we came is the Kennedy Meadows Trailhead.

South to Bond Pass from here brings us into the Yosemite Backcountry. From Bond Pass we can follow the PCT-TYT route South to Tuolumne Meadows, or follow Falls Creek down to Hetch Hetchy.

At this trail junction we pick up the Tungsten Road coming from Highway 108.

This WWII wartime road passes through the Leavitt Lakes basin over the Sierra Crest down to the strand of ridgetop between the Leavitt and Big Sam Massifs to climb Big Sam into the High Emigrant Basin.

From here we will follow this old road to Summit Meadow where it turns to the old mine behind Snow Lake when we hike up to Bond Pass.

Emigrant Pass. Before Emigrant Pass sits the junction NE to the West Walker.

Bond Pass. South to Yosemite

 

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Brown Bear Pass. Northwest to Kennedy Meadows.

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Trail Hub in Emigrant Basin at the Base of Grizzly Peak

A KEY FOUR-WAY TRAIL JUNCTION
 

North
PCT
to
Sonora Pass
14.14 miles
GUIDE NORTH
Kennedy Canyon
to
Grizzly Peak

(page above)

 
Northeast
to
PCT
Emigrant Pass
to
West West Walker Bridge
3.84 miles
GUIDE EAST
Kennedy Canyon
to
Dorothy Lake Pass
Grizzly Peak
Trail Junction
Northwest
TYT
to
Brown Bear Pass
2.91 miles
GUIDE WEST
Brown Bear Pass
to
Bond Pass
  South
TYT
Grizzly Peak
to
Jack Main Canyon
3.08 miles
GUIDE SOUTH
Grizzly Peak
to
Jack Main Canyon
 

Hiking South on the TYT over Bond Pass into Yosemite at the top of Jack Main Canon

The High Emigrant Basin Mini-Map

(Red Dots and Many Labels on the Map are Linked)

Our Position
Where the trails make an "X" shape West of Grizzly Peak

Emigrant Wilderness topo hiking backpacking map.

Trails from Emigrant Pass and Grizzly Meadows radiate out in all directions.

Alright. If you got here, to the trail junction under Grizzly Peak, everything is alright.

Map Information

USGS Emigrant Lake and Tower Peak 7.5 minute topo hiking maps.

40 foot contours

Download these, and topo hiking maps covering your next High Sierra Trail route for free from the USGS

Thinking of how to keep track of your information for planning an Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking trip?

Become a member of Tahoe to Whitney High Sierra Backpacker's Forum!

Become a Member

As a registered member you have your own account page where you can create private pages to store your planning information. We've got miles, elevations, and information embedded in the guide that needs to be complied into plans for our various backpacking trips. Becoming a member gives you an "account" where you can compile and store your trip planning notes.

When done with the trip you can file your own trip reports on the backpacker's forum for that section of the trails forums or for your own private reference. This is possible because members can create both "private" and "public" types of pages that can either be kept for reference or published on the forums.

The "content type" for private notes is "personal backpacking notes." When you select this type of page it is not published in the forums nor across the home page of the forum. It is only accessible by the member who created it.

"Personal backpacking notes" are created with a standard text-editor that allows you to embed links, images, videos, and google maps in your planning page, as well as text. This means that you can link to all the pertinent trail guide, miles and elevations, and map pages necessary to plan out your trip.

Create or open up your own planning pages when you put together information to plan your trips!

We have other content types for general publication in the forums and across the home page of the forum. "Trail Notes," Backpacking Information," and "Backpacking Stories" are types of content that can be published in the various backpacking trails and topics forums and will also be published across the home page.

Becoming a member of Tahoe to Whitney gives us a good place to compile backpacking information as well as allowing us to update and add details to the trail guide through the trails forums linked to each and every trail guide page.

You can collect or construct information for your own use, to update the guide, and to inform our fellow backpackers about conditions and experiences on these long trails along the Sierra Crestline.

Sonora Pass Region Hiking Map
USGS 30 min backpacking map
Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake
USGS 30 min backpacking map

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PCT to TYT
This trail guide page ties together the Pacific Crest Trail at the Kennedy Canyon trail junction to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail in Grizzly Meadow.

This particular trail adds one spoke in the hub of trails radiating out from the High Emigrant Basin of the Emigrant Wilderness.

From this hub of trails we have the Sonora Pass trailhead to our North, Leavitt Meadows to our Northeast, (via West Walker Bridge) and Kennedy Meadows to our Northwest, all along Highway 108.

Hike to the trail junction in Grizzly Meadow from any of these three Northern trailheads. Now we have to decide which trailhead we will hike out of, or if we will return to our starting trail head.

Trail Guide Pages
Northwest
from this Junction to Brown Bear Pass
(North on the TYT)
South
From this junction to Bond Pass
(South on the TYT)

North
from the
Grizzly Peak trail junction over Big Sam to the PCT junction at Kennedy Canyon
Scroll NORTH up this page

Compass and map directions are the best.

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North: Latopie Lake to Kennedy Canyon                   South: Grizzly Peak junction to PCT in Jack Main Canyon

Backpacking Emigrant Wilderness

Big Sam

Connecting the PCT at Kennedy Canyon to the TYT at Grizzly Peak

Now that we've completed this 6.17 mile section of trail to Grizzly Peak we have to decide what to do next.

A big circle route backpacking around the High Elevation section of Emigrant Wilderness is always a good backpacking trip. We can hike either Northwest or Northeast from Grizzly Peak to the bottoms of Kennedy Creek on the West flank or Kennedy Canyon on the East for the hike up to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction between the two. From Kennedy Canyon we can hike North on the PCT to Sonora Pass.

From the bottom of Kennedy Creek we could continue North to end our trip through the Kennedy Meadows Pack Station Trailhead. From the West West Walker Bridge near the bottom of Kennedy Canyon we can exit the trail through Leavitt Meadow Trailhead.

The Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking Schematic is helpful.

We also have a number of options hiking West through Snow Lake or Horse Meadow. From those positions we can hike Northwest to Emigrant Lake and cross Mosquito Pass to rejoin the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail on the North side of Lunch Meadow.

On the other side of the mountain, the Eastern Flank, we can hike South from Grizzly Peak through Bond Pass and turn North to hike into the West Walker River watershed draining the Eastern flank of the Sierra. From Dorothy Lake Pass on the PCT we can hike to any of the Highway 108 trailheads.

Check out the maps, mileage, and trail guide pages then plan and execute your own custom backpacking trip through the beauties of the High Elevation sections of the Emigrant Wilderness.

Extend the Duration

If you want to extend the duration of your High Emigrant Wilderness backpacking trip beyond your carrying capacity, give Matt a call at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

Matt will set up a horsepacker to bring you out a fat resupply halfway through your trip. Just tell them when and where, give them your resupply load, and they will hook you up.

I met this father and his backpacking kids near Blackbird Lake who hiked an extended backpacking trip around the high altitude beauties of Emigrant Wilderness by having Matt's riders ferry out a big resupply.

Topo Hiking Maps

7.5 Map
Emigrant Basin

30 min Map
Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake

Miles and Elevations

Trail Guide South
Grizzly Peak junction to PCT in Jack Main Canyon

Backpacking Trail Guide

PCT North

Latopie Lake
to
Kennedy Canyon

TYT North

Brown Bear Pass

Compass and map directions are the best.

Backpacking Trail Guide

South to TYT

Grizzly Peak junction
to
PCT
in
Jack Main Canyon

Backpacker Forums

Have a great Sierra Nevada trip or story to relate? A fine piece of gear? Or gear that failed?
Post it on
TahoetoWhitney.Org
Anyone can post text comments, questions and trail updates on the forum page for Big Sam to Grizzly Peak. Members can post up their own pages, with pictures, embedded videos, and so on.
Become a Member
Members can also keep "private" notepages in their account for trip planning infor collected from the guide and trip notes collected from the trails.
If you have experiences, comments, questions, or pictures and videos of the Pacific Crest Trail between Sonora Pass and Tuolumne Meadows, post up here:
Forum Section
Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows
Forum Segment
Big Sam Option

Trail Guide North: PCT Latopie Lake to Kennedy Canyon     Trail Guide South: TYT Grizzly Peak junction to PCT in Jack Main Canyon

Trailhead
Contact
Alex Wierbinski

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Frosted Backpack

Backpacking Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney

Your Guide to the High Sierra Crest, including the Tahoe to Yosemite, Pacific Crest, and John Muir Trails

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