This map above has a lot of features. That's why you can click the black-dotted route for detailed 7.5 maps of each part of the trail, and the red dots for trail guide information about that location.
Southbound backpackers on the Pacific Crest Trail exit the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness just North of the Sonora Pass, and enter the Emigrant Wilderness by walking across to the South side of Highway 108.
Click the Carson-Iceberg Label on the map above to see the Carson Iceberg Wilderness topo hiking map to the North of Highway 108.
The Sonora Pass Shortcut
From the trailhead we have two immediate options: Straight up the shortcut along the descending Northwestern ridgearm off the Leavitt Massif above Sonora Pass, or winding around the big traverse up the North flank of the Leavitt Massif along the regular PCT route.
Latopie Lake Loop
3 miles South of the trailhead we come through the fine mountain gap overlooking Latopie Lake. Shortly thereafter an unmarked trail junction leads down to fine campsites in the dwarf Whitebark Pines nestled along the narrow apron bounding the little lake's Eastern shore.
Rather than rejoining the Pacific Crest Trail by climbing back up the way we came down to Latopie Lake, we can wind our way around the mountain shoulder bounding Latopie Lake to the South, into a gentle drainage leading us back up through an ancient valley of glacially broken and compressed rocks to the PCT at the gap overlooking Kennedy Lake.
Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction
After descending off the South flank of the Leavitt Massif we come to low point between Leavitt Peak and Big Sam (running North-South) which is also the high point between the back-to-back Canyons running East and West off the Sierra Crest.
The canyon dropping off the West flanks contains Kennedy Lake and Kennedy Creek flowing to the West, while the Southbound PCT turns East down Kennedy Canyon.
This is our first four-way trail junction along the Sierra Crestline. It's located 8 miles South of Sonora Pass.
Here the Pacific Crest Trail turns East down Kennedy Canyon. Though this drainage is a beautiful route that will take us down to, and then back up the West West Walker River into the Cascade Creek drainage up to our entrance into Yosemite National Park through Dorthy Lake Pass (all this section of the East Flank drains into the West Walker and exits the mountains via Leavitt Meadow below), this is not my preferred route.
Tungsten Road to Grizzly Peak
The Pacific Crest Trail turns East down Kennedy Canyon off of the Sierra Crest. I prefer to stay on the Sierra Crest so I almost always continue straight South past the Left turn down Kennedy Canyon continuing South to climb the massive hulk of Big Sam to enter the High Emigrant Basin.
In the middle of Emigrant Basin we encounter the second four-way trail junction along the Sierra Crest at Grizzly Peak, this one being 14.14 miles South of Sonora Pass.
End of the Tungsten Road
This route follows the old Tungsten Road across the High Emigrant Basin through our junction with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail at Grizzly Peak South to Summit Meadow.
Summit Meadow sits
just below the North flank of Bond Pass, through which the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route enters Yosemite National Park. Bond Pass is just a bit to the South of the Pacific Crest Trail's entrance into Yosemite through Dorthy Lake Pass.
The PCT route and the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail reunite at the top of Jack Main Canyon just below Dorothy Lake.
PCT & TYT
South to Tuolumne Meadows
We have now entered the very well trodden and super maintained trails of Yosemite National Park, independent of which route we chose to get here. The pink and golden granites framed by red volcanic mountains in the High Emigrant Basin now give way to the massive gray granites that Yosemite is justly famous for.
Entering Jack Main Canyon brings us downriver through forest and meadow along Falls Creek, all bound within the grandure of Jack Main Canyon's magnificant glacial cut granite. Oh, and the mountains along the Northwest wall of Jack Main's upper canyon are of an intriguing mixture of minerals... tungsten?
Besides my Emigrant Basin shortcut to the TYT at Grizzly Peak off the Pacific Crest Trail's route around the heart of the Emigrant Wilderness on the PCT's way through its West Walker River and the Dorthy Lake Pass entry into Yosemite.
I reccomend that we explore all of our route options South of Highway 108 over a number of long PCT & TYT trips across the Emigrant Wilderness, complimented by long backpacking loop trips into the Emigrant Wilderness and its adjacent slot of the Toiyabe National Forest (the West Walker Watershed) for its own sake.
There are many short and medium length backpacking options through this beautiful area that can begin at the Emigrant Wilderness trailheads at Kennedy Meadow Pack Station and Sonora Pass, not to mention the Leavitt Meadow Trailhead on the East Flank.
We can use these trailheads and trails to craft fantastic loops threading through the Toiyabe NF, the Emigrant Wilderness, and then turn back to our starting trailhead by threading through Bond and Dorothy Lake Pass in the Northwest corner of the Yosemite National Park.
This map is not to scale. It is designed to layout the main connecting trails, not the terrain features...
Check out the Sonora Pass Region Trails in context of the schematic above.
Short Routes in this area
The main trailheads along the Highway 108 corridor are att Kennedy Meadows Pack Station on the Western Flank, Sonora Pass along the Sierra Crestline, and Leavitt Lake and Leavitt Meadow on the Eastern Flank.
From Highway 108 on the West flank or the Sierra Crest we can hike to Tuolumne on the Classic PCT or TYT Routes. 75 to 84 miles, respectively. Or we can turn loops through the Kennedy Canyon or Grizzly Peak trail junctions from any of these three Highway 108 Trailheads decorating the Sierra Crest and its East and West flanks.
Our options are endless
One time I hiked up to Grizzly Peak, then bushwacked down to Highway 108 at Pinecrest Lake across the Emigrant Wilderness. Once you explore the trails and become comfortable with the terrain you can start developing cross country routes around the Wilderness.
We have what appears to be endless trip options hiking South from the Sonora Pass corridor.
There is an infinity of natural beauty to explore within these constrained wilderness boundaries.
The Last Tahoe to Yosemite route option
Our last Tahoe to Yosemite trail option comes at the Tilden Lake junction in Jack Main Canyon, where the Tahoe to Yosemite route loops off from the Pacific Crest Trail route to hike around Tilden Lake rather than the PCT's route around Wilmer Lake.
Jack Main Canyon to Stubblefield Canyon Map
USGS 15 min topo backpacking map
The Tilden Lake junction offers us a choice: Take the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail around Tilden Lake, and miss Wilmer Lake, or take the Pacific Crest Trail and miss Tilden Lake. Independent of which route you take, both routes rejoin at the first junction South of both lakes.
The End or a New Beginning?
At Tuolumne Meadows we have the option of ending our Tahoe to Yosemite Trail hike by switching to either the JMT heading South down Lyell Canyon, or following the JMT route 'backwards" down into Yosemite Valley. Or we can just end our Tahoe to Yosemite Backpacking trip here, independent of hiking down on the PCT or the TYT.
Into the Central Sierra Nevada Trails
I generally pick up the Southbound John Muir Trail to continue towards Mount Whitney. I have always avoided hiking down to the Valley from Tuolumne. Too many people down there. But in recent years I've been taking the backwards JMT down to Yosemite Valley. I rejoin the Southbound JMT in Lyell Canyon after hiking out of Yosemite Valley following the Merced River past the JMT turn at Little Yosemite Valley. Above Merced Lake we turn out of the Merced River Valley to hike Northeast over Voglesang Pass to rejoin the JMT in Lyell Canyon a couple of miles South of Tuolumne Meadows.
The Best of All Worlds
The trail section(s) described above gives Pacific Crest Trailers the option of taking in more of the Emigrant Wilderness and Yosemite National Park than if we just stayed on one "named" trail or another.
We are replacing the Kennedy Canyon to Dorothy Lake Pass segment of the PCT through the Toiyabe National Forest with a hike over Big Sam to intersect with the TYT to cross the High Emigrant Wilderness to enter Yosemite through Bond Pass.
Tahoe to Yosemite Hikers come up from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station through Brown Bear Pass into the beauties of the High Emigrant Basin, a wonderful place. My custom PCT route variation continues straight over Big Sam into the High Emigrant Basin, rather than following the PCT around The High Emigrant Basin, or the Tahoe to Yosemite up from Kennedy Meadows.
Northbound PCT Option:
Hike into Kennedy Meadows Pack Station to pick up your Resupply
Northbound PCT hikers are in the "catbird" seat, so to speak.
The Northbound PCT hiker can cross the heart of the Emigrant Wilderness rather than hike around it if they choose to walk in to pick up their resupply at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station rather than hitch-hiking there from Sonora Pass. Here's how you do it:
Turn Northwest to hike through Bond Pass rather than continuing South out of Yosemite through Dorothy Lake Pass at the top of Jack Main Canyon.
Continue NW past the Snow Lake and the Horse Meadow trail junctions in Summit Meadow to the Grizzly Peak trail junction at the Southwest base of Grizzly Peak. Here you intersect with the TYT, which turns Northwest to hike through Brown Bear Pass down Summit Creek to Kennedy Meadows.
This is a fantastic alternative route that brings you through the heart of the terrain here, which is otherwise hidden to the masses of passing PCTers, THANK GOD!
You should check it out...
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