Kennedy Canyon trail junction. Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your Backpacking Guide to the High Sierras Kennedy Lake.
Leavitt Lake, Koenig Lake, and Latopie Lake.
Kennedy Canyon
Trail Junction
2.38 miles South of Sonora Pass we view Leavitt Lake, Koenig Lake, and Latopie Lake from the gap beside Peak 11000.
Kennedy Lake

 

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Backpacking
Latopie Lake
to
Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction

Accessing
Kennedy Canyon--Kennedy Lake--Big Sam & Emigrant Basin--Sonora Pass

Hiking
The Pacific Crest Trail
from Sonora Pass
to Tuolumne Meadows

 

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Trail Guide
INDEX

Highway
108

to
Highway
120

Trail
NORTH
PCT

Sonora Pass
to
Latopie Lake

Trail
SOUTH
PCT

Kennedy Canyon
to
West West Walker Bridge

Trail
SOUTH
to
TYT

Kennedy Canyon
to
Grizzly
Meadow

Trail
WEST
to
TYT

Kennedy
Lake

15 min
Maps

South
to
TYT

Big Sam
into
Emigrant



PCT
Leavitt
Peak

30 min
Maps

Sonora
Pass

to
Bensen
Lake


Sonora
Pass
Region

TOPO
MAP
INDEX


SONORA
PASS

Sonora
Pass
to
Tuolumne
Meadows


PCT
MILES

AND
ELEVATIONS

RESUPPLY

North
Kennedy Meadows

South
Tuolumne Meadows

National Forest
PERMITS

Toiyabe
&

Stanislaus

Sonora
Pass Weather

 

High
Sierra
Weather

all maps index

A DRAFT-EDITION TRAIL GUIDE PAGE

View South
Latopie Lake

Latopie Lake on East flank of Leavitt Peak.
Leavitt, Koenig, and Latopie Lakes from Left to Right. Note Tower Peak in furthest distance.

Above
Leavitt, Koenig, and Latopie Lakes

Where We At

Passing South
through
The North Gap
Hiking 2.38 mostly-climbing miles South from Sonora Pass Trailhead on the Pacific Crest Trail finally brings us to the 10800 foot elevation high point of its route across Leavitt Massif passing through what I call the "North Gap." Above we are standing in the Northern of two gaps the PCT route crosses. These gaps bracket the uppermost reach of the Leavitt Lake basin.
The Leavitt Basin is wedged into the East and Northeastern flank of the Leavitt Peak Massif, reaching up to drain the East Flank of Leavitt Peak itself into Leavitt Creek, which drains this basin and most of Leavitt's Northeast Flank. From our position in the North Gap pictured above we are overlooking Leavitt, Koenig, and Latopie Lakes nestled in at the top of this basin under the encircling Sierra Crestline. The Sierra Crestline wraps around the top of the basin like the encircling arms of Mother Nature.

The dirt road to Leavitt Lake, also known as the Tungsten Road (see the forum & more info below), runs South off Highway 108 about 3.2 miles East of Sonora Pass.

Our view above is looking to our Southeast across the top of this high basin on the Southeast Flank of Leavitt Peak. The run of peaks we see above the lakes is the Sierra Crestline represented by the Southeastern ridgeline of the Leavitt Massif. We'll shortly be hiking Southeast along its far flank after passing through the South Gap onto the South Flank of the Leavitt Massif.
The most distant lake on the furthest upper-left of the image is Leavitt Lake, located at the end of the Leavitt Lake Road coming up from Highway 108. We can see the down-mountain end of Koenig Lake between Latopie Lake on the far Right and Leavitt Lake on the far Left edges of the image.

The Southern Gap bringing us onto the South Flank of the Leavitt Massif lays 2.11 miles South of our current position in the North Gap along the route of the PCT. These next miles cross the highest reach of Leavitt Creek's Watershed reaching up through Leavitt Basin up the East Flank of the Leavitt Massif to Leavitt Peak itself.

Our PCT route South passes under the East Flank of Leavitt Peak as we hike between the North and South Gaps. Though we pass under Leavitt Peak between the gaps, we do not access Leavitt Peak directly. The "standard" route to the top of Leavitt Peak passes through the South Gap, then turns Northwest, to the Southbound hiker's Right, immediatly after passing through the South Gap following the line of the Southeastern ridge arm up to the top of Leavitt Peak.

Southbound hikers on the PCT turn Left, to hike Southeast along the top of the South Flank of the Leavitt Massif until we overlook the low gap in the Sierra Crestline dividing our position on the South Flank of the Leavitt Massif from the North Flank of Big Sam rising on the far South side of this upcoming low gap in the Crestline.

Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction
We descend to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction located in that gap. The Kennedy Canyon junction offers us a trail East, the PCT running East down Kennedy Canyon. It offers us a trail West, running down past Kennedy lake to intersect with the TYT just above Kennedy Meadows Pack Station. To the South we find the Tungsten Road leading over Big Sam to where it joins the TYT in Grizzly Meadow under Grizzly Peak. And, we just hiked South to this junction over Leavitt Peak from Sonora Pass.

Let's take a look at the position of the upcoming Kennedy Canyon trail junction in relation to our hiking options down the Sierra Crest and/or its Eastern and Western Flanks.

High Emigrant Wilderness
Schematic Trail Hiking Map

Miles and Elevations
BACKPACKING EMIGRANT WILDERNESS

Page Below
North Gap
Above
Latopie Lake

to the

Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction

Backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail
Miles & Elevations

Latopie Lake
SOUTH
Local
North Gap to South Gap
(via Latopie Lake)

1.92 miles.

 

North Gap to South Gap
(via PCT route)

2.11 miles.

 

North Gap
elevation
10,800 feet.

Latopie Lake
elevation
10,400 feet.

South Gap
elevation
10,780 feet.


North Gap
SOUTH
to
Kennedy Canyon trail junction
5.59 miles.
 

Kennedy Canyon
Trail Junction
9680 feet.


Sonora Pass
SOUTH

to

Kennedy Canyon trail junction
7.97 miles.
  Kennedy Canyon
Trail Junction
9680 feet.

Check out the Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction

Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows
PCT ROUTE
Miles and Elevations
.

High points along PCT
North Gap to Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction

Hiking through the North Gap
overlooking
Latopie Lake
(image above)
10,800 feet.
Hiking through the South Gap
onto the
South Flank of Leavitt Peak
(below)
10,780 feet.

Leavitt Lake
Current Weather Conditions

Below
Our View North

We inspect the route approaching the North Gap from the North on the previous guide page. Below we are looking Sonora Peak rising to the North of Sonora Pass along the Sierra Crestline. That's the view of our Southbound route we hiked into Sonora Pass.

These views to our North of Sonora Peak rising to the North of Sonora Pass begin opening up behind us as we climb higher up and further South onto the Leavitt Massif, until we finally get our last & best view North (below) of Sonora Peak while passing South through the North Gap into the Leavitt drainage, and onto the Southeast flank of this massif, finally under Leavitt Peak itself.
Below is our last look North at the Sonora Pass area before hiking through
The North Gap.


Last View North across Sonora Pass
at

Sonora Peak

featuring
Sonora Gap
Sonora Peak to our North as we hike South through the Gap overlooking Latopie Lake.

NORTH
Last Views of Sonora Peak, Pass, and Gap
Above we are taking our last look North at Sonora Peak. This view almost covers the totality of our PCT route through the Sonora Gap, and the majority of its subsequent traverse across the width of the South Flank of Sonora Peak before we begin our descent for Sonora Pass.

Above is our last view North of Sonora Peak and Pass before turning around to hike South through the North Gap on the Leavitt Massif. Before we leave them behind we might want to review the views we got of the
Leavitt Massif from Sonora Gap.
I believe we can just barely make out the location of the North Gap on Leavitt Massif from the
Sonora Gap on Sonora Peak.

Water-Water-Watersheds
Our view above is looking North across the drainage of Sardine Creek centered on Sonora Pass. We are passing into the drainage of Leavitt Creek when we turn around and hike through the North Gap.

North Gap
Hiking South into the Leavitt Creek Watershed
This "North Gap" is carved through the spur of ridgeline running East off Peak 11260. Peak 11260 is the next peak North of Leavitt along the Sierra Crestline. (check out Peak 11260 on the previous guide page to our North, and scroll down)

The crestline of this ridge running East off 11260 marks-out the Northern extent of the Leavitt Lake Basin watershed feeding Leavitt Creek under the Southeast Flank of Leavitt Peak. That's what the upper image above is looking into. We pass South through the "North Gap" on this ridgeline at a point about a mile and a half East of Leavitt Peak's highpoint along the main Sierra Crestline.

Check out another perspective of the slash of the North Gap cut through the
Eastern Spur of ridge in this image shot from below Leavitt Lake.

South Gap
The width of the upper section of the Leavitt Lake basin where the PCT crosses it runs a tad more than two miles South from our current position in the North Gap to the South Gap. The Southern reach of the Leavitt Lake basin below us is the crestline above the North flank of the massive ridgearm running off the Leavitt Massif to our Southeast. The South Gap cuts through this ridgeline, but 2.52 miles West of where its arms wrap around the shores of Leavitt Lake.
Our 2.52 mile traverse down the South Flank of Leavitt from the South Gap brings us to the junction marking where the Tungsten Road has climbed up and over the North flank of that ridgearm wrapping around Leavitt Lake to join us on the South Flank of the Leavitt Massif.

This is the same Southeastern-running ridge arm wrapping around behind and above all three of the lakes in the image above, but our route on the PCT passes through the South Gap to traverse its South flank. We are going to cross the uppermost width of Leavitt Lake's basin between the North and South Gaps to get ourselves out onto the South-facing flank of that ridgearm that makes up the Southern extent of the Leavitt Creek drainage.

North Gap to South Gap
The Southbound PCT from the North Gap first tracks West towards the Crest before turning South to the South Gap, once it gets high enough up Leavitt Peak's East Flank drainage. Once we hike West enough get up above and around Latopie Lake's shelf the PCT begins bending South leading us up to and through the unique "South Gap" carved through Leavitt's Southeastern-running ridgeline.

Hiking through the South Gap out onto the South Flank of Leavitt Peak puts us onto a Southeastern traverse not just across the South Flank of Leavitt, but traversing through a run of panoramic views of everything to our South. We're going to keep our eyes open to identify our upcoming route and check out our other options for future backpacking trips, too.

Master Sculptor
The "South Gap," and all the surround terrain are unique because the forces that shaped it were unique. Our path through the South Gap wanders between great piles and unusual configurations of smashed rock-talus-deposited, pushed up and around, all shaped and positioned by fierce forces of cold long ago dispelled (below), and likely not to be seen on this planet again for a very, very long time, if ever.

This type of terrain is no longer "crafted" here...

It feels to me like we are breaking the Master Sculptor of Life's
most sublime, creative, and powerfull tools.

That would be the Weather.

Leavitt Creek
The 10780 foot elevation of the South Gap makes it our second-highest point backpacking across the Leavitt Massif, next to the 10800 feet of the North Gap. All the runoff flowing between these two ridges radiating East and Southeast from Leavitt Peak's East Flank runs Northeast down into the Leavitt Basin, its lakes, and Leavitt Creek.

Tungesten Road
NORTHBOUND
The rough dirt trak of the Tungsten Road descends along Leavitt Creek Northeast from its upper end at Leavitt Lake down to its start point descending steeply to a steep hairpin turn along Highway 108. This steep descending-radius turn on Highway 108 is located near the confluence of Sardine and Leavitt Creeks. This turn represents where Highway 108 turns from following Sardine Creek down the East Flank to following Leavitt Creek.
The Tungsten Road's start point along Highway 108 is located 3.2 miles down the East Flank from Sonora Pass to this turn/confluence point. The Tungsten Road is open up to Leavitt Lake if the green gate is open, and you can get your rig up and back down its length.

In other words, this road is,
"Use at Your Own Risk."

Approaching
North Gap
Our Southbound hike on the PCT approaching the North Gap has gotten us here by deflecting East over to and then off the East Flank of the Sierra Crestline to line itself up for the climb South through the North Gap into the top-corner of the basin overlooking Latopie Lake.

After passing through the North Gap our PCT route turns West, Right, edging its way back towards Leavitt Peak along base of this Eastern spur of ridge just off the main Sierra Crestline. All the runoff below us runs Southeast down into the basin below, where it all turns Northeast on its way to forming Leavitt Creek.

All these lakes and the liquid products of this whole drainage between the gaps flows Northeast down-mountain into the fold along the Eastern flank of the Sierra that Leavitt Creek, the Tungsten Road, and finally even Highway 108 all follow Northeast down-mountain to Leavitt Meadow. The East side of this map below clearly lays out the mixture of complexity and simplicity out of which this East Flank terrain is interwoven:

Sonora Pass to Dorothy Lake Pass
USGS 15 min backpacking map

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Leavitt Creek
and the
West Walker River
Leavitt Creek's Watershed drains a slice of the East Flank of the Sierra extending South from Sonora Pass to the Southeastern edge of the East Flank of Leavitt Peak. Next along our hike South we enter the Watershed of the West West Walker River. The West West Walker watershed stretches from Kennedy Canyon below the Southeast Flank of the Leavitt Massif down to Cascade Creek running down from Dorothy Lake Pass. The drainages of Sardine and Leavitt Creek's drainages pale in comparison to those of the West and West West Walker Rivers.

The West Walker is the mother river which all these subsidairy creeks and the West West Walker all feed. The West Walker River drains a long section of the East Sierra Flank which continues along the East Flank of the Sierra long after draining everything from Tower Peak down to the river's junction with Highway 395.

The West Walker River drains the East Flank of Emigrant Wilderness and the whole East-flank watershed wrapping around Yosemite's Northwestern boundary South to where the Yosemite and Hoover Wilderness Areas touch. South of Kennedy Canyon the drainage of the West Walker bends up and Southeast as it wraps itself around the East Flank of the whole Northernmost boundary of Yosemite.

From our position on Leavitt Peak the West West Walker runs along the the base of its Eastern Flank reaching up its deep canyon to the Southeast, draining Leavitt's East and South Flanks, including the North wall above Kennedy Canyon, down the East Flanks of the Sierra to Cascade Creek.
The West Walker directly drains everything Southeast from Dorothy Lake Pass to Tower Peak. From the near the top of the West Walker River's Canyon we break off to climb into Kirkwood Creek's hanging canyon.
The West Walker and its watershed bend South and eventually Southwest climbing to its
highest point and its source in Tower Lake.

The trail up into Kirkwood Creek's hanging canyon continues climbing Southeast in a pocket of terrain along the East Flank of the Sierra Crest up to where it reaches the point where the boundaries of the Hoover and Yosemite Wilderness intersect above Twin Lakes and Kerrick Canyon.
Here we find our attentions are generally split between turning Southwest into Yosemite's stunning Kerrick Canyon, or Southeast to the Hoover Wilderness Trailhead at Twin Lakes. The answer depends on if we are at the middle or end of our trip.

The Runs
of
Sardine Creek
Leavitt Creek
and
The

West West Walker River
all feeding
the

West Walker River
Wedged Between
the
Emigrant, Hoover, and Yosemite Wilderness Areas

Sonora Pass Region Hiking Map
USGS 30 min backpacking map
North Yosemite Backcountry
Backpacking Map

The Eastern edge of this map details most of the upper West Walker River:
Sonora Pass to Dorothy Lake Pass
USGS 15 min backpacking map

top of page


Sardine and Leavitt Creeks drain slices of the East Flank,
the West West Walker drains a nice segment,
while the West Walker River subsumes them all draining a mighty section of the East Sierra Flank.

Leavitt Creek is subsumed by the West Walker River in Leavitt Meadow.
Though Leavitt Creek is a "minor" drainage, it presents an amazing sight during Winter when the full length of its upper fall down into Leavitt Meadow is frozen solid.

Ironically, these rivers and creeks run through the type of terrain capable of beating the shit out of us most thoroughly while at the same time relaxing and recharging us most deeply.

East Flank
Below
Leavitt Peak, Lake, and Basin
along
Its Fold in the Terrain
The Tungsten Road terminates at Highway 108, also where Leavitt Creek subsumes Sardine Creek and both Highway 108 and the enlarged Leavitt Creek continue down this fold in the East Flank until Leavitt Creek too is subsumed by a greater force, in this case the West Walker River crossing Leavitt Meadow.

End of the Line
Further down the valley the Eastern Sierra formally ends where Highway 108 meets a greater highway, being Highway 395 running North and South along the length of the East Flank of the Sierra. The East end of Highway 108 is a remote intersection along the Highway 395 corridor running North and South through the series of High Elevation Valleys running along the base of the Sierra's Eastern Flank between the towns of Walker and Bridgeport.

The West Walker River continues North alonside Highway 395 through a narrow canyon that fills with its flood waters every couple of decades or so. The North end of this canyon opens about 13 miles South of the 395/108 junction into the South end of Antelope Valley at the town of Walker. The West Walker works its way to the North end of Antelope Valley where it finally flows into Topaz Lake. Highway 395 tracks around the Western perimeter of Antelope Valley before entering Nevada climbing out the valley's shallow North end.

ROAD MAP

Back to Leavitt Peak
Simplicity
and Complexity
Despite the complexity of the surrounding terrain, the "North Gap" marks our passage into the simply beautiful Southeastern Flank of Leavitt Peak's unique watershed. A Southeastern flank drainage ending about forty miles to our Northeast in Lake Topaz...

That's an awesome watershed, and we are exploring some of its highest complexities.

Maps--Miles--Elevations
Sonora Pass to Dorothy Lake Pass
USGS 15 min backpacking map
Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows
Miles and Elevations

The North Gap
Let's Get Situated
"Just the Facts"
Passing South through this North Gap we see Latopie Lake down to our Right, situated on its tiny shelf wedged into the Southeastern flank of Leavitt Peak as pictured above. The low summit of Leavitt Peak is about 769 feet of elevation above and a mile and a half to our West out of the Right edge of the image above.

Leavitt Peak is non-descript, so we are uncertain about identification, for a second.

Latopie Lake sits about 400 feet of elevation below us, a short downhill half mile. 800 feet further down in elevation at about three miles to our Southeast we can see Leavitt Lake nestled in-between sheer ridge arms descending off the North Flank of Leavitt's Southeastern ridge arm.

That's Leavitt Lake peeking out from the upper-Left corner of the image above.

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HIKING SOUTH
Gap to Gap
PCT Route
For Southbound hikers the first gap, this Northern gap, is 2.38 miles South of Sonora Pass, located between Peaks 11260 and 11000 along a short spur of ridge extending East off the Sierra Crest. Hiking South through the gap we step into sweet views overlooking Latopie Lake and the Leavitt Lake Basin running out below us.

A Little Wonderland
2.11
miles South of the North Gap the route of the PCT passes through the South Gap onto the South flank of Leavitt Peak's Southeastern-running ridgearm. That's the extent of our engagement with Latopie Lake, and the rest of the lakes situated within their own terrain-complex nestled into this basin on the Southeastern flank under Leavitt Peak itself. We only deal with them between these two gaps.

Route of the PCT
The route of the Pacific Crest Trail does not intersect with Latopie Lake, it overlooks it. The PCT loops around and above this fine little lake. Most PCT hikers bypass Latopie Lake because it's a half mile distant, and four hundred feet of elevation below the Pacific Crest Trail's route. For some reason I really enjoy Latopie Lake, so I tend to deflect off the main line of the PCT to visit and stay awhile when hiking this segment of trail.

I Like Latopie Lake.

Gap to Gap
Including Latopie Lake
Since Latopie Lake is situated between the same two gaps bracketing this Southeast Flank of the Leavitt Massif I wondered if I could find an acceptable alternative route between the gaps that included Latopie Lake along its line. I did, and it is described below.

We have two potential routes between the Northern and Southern gaps bracketing this basin. One is a self-directed route off the PCT to and past Latopie Lake, returning to the PCT by hiking up through the valley South of Latopie. The other is the standard route of the PCT. As of 2016 the PCT is the easier of these two routes.

Over the next couple of miles our hike South will either go around Latopie Lake on the PCT or visit Latopie followed-up by hiking a little cross country route South from Latopie Lake to rejoin the Southbound PCT where it passes through the Southern gap onto the South flank of Leavitt Peak. I've lightly dotted-in this little alt-route on our map:

Sonora Pass to Dorothy Lake Pass
MAP

USGS 15 min backpacking map

Beyond the Gaps
HIKING SOUTH
onto
the
South Flank
of
Leavitt Peak

Crossing the Leavitt Basin and passing through the South Gap out onto the South Flank of Leavitt Peak we begin traversing South (Southeast by the compass) for 2.52 miles until we come to the first of two trail junctions in quick succession.
The first junction is where we meet the Tungsten Road coming South over the ridge from Leavitt Lake. Our Southbound PCT turns Right with the Tungsten Road, both of which now track South descending gently for maybe a hundred yards down to the second trail junction along our now combined PCT-Tungsten Road trail.

This second junction divides the hiking trail from the route of the Tungsten Road, designates this switchbacking segment of the road as sufficient for being, "horse trail," descending the next .96 of a mile down the steep South Flank of Leavitt Peak in a neat set of switchbacks.
The PCT's "foot trail" traverses straight across the South flank down a deteriorating trail surface smearing down the mountainside to where it rejoins the Tungsten Road ("the Horse Trail") at the bottom of its last switchback down the steep section.

Trail and Road rejoin for the final steps gently descending off the South flank of Leavitt Massif to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction.

Thus ends this page of the trail guide 5.59 miles South,
and 1120 feet below its start point at
The North Gap above Latopie Lake.

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Latopie Lake Access
Latopie Lake is found as we're backpacking South on the Pacific Crest Trail over Leavitt Peak from Sonora Pass. Latopie Lake can also be accessed through much shorter trails climbing up from Leavitt Lake.

Leavitt Lake is accessed by four-wheel drive vehicles when the Tungsten Road (Forum) up from Highway 108 is passable, as described above and on the Forum..

More on the
Tungsten Road
below.
ROAD MAP

Emigrant Wilderness
PCT
Backpacking
Maps and Miles
Sonora Pass to Dorothy Lake Pass
USGS 15 min backpacking map

Sonora Pass Region Hiking Map
USGS 30 min backpacking map


Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows
Miles and Elevations



Video Trail
Tahoe to Whitney
You Tube Channel
Playlist I
Sonora Pass
to
Dorothy Lake Pass

Nine Videos

Video for this segment of trail:
Latopie Lake to the Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction



Resupply
Local Resources & Backpacker Resupply
near Sonora Pass on Highway 108:
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station
9 miles West of Sonora Pass.
Great food, supplies, drink.

Backpacker's
Index
of
Backcountry Information


This Page
Trail Guide Index
Latopie Lake
to
Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction

Where we Are
Latopie Lake

 

 

 

The Trail Ahead

 

 

 

Video
Latopie Lake
to
Kennedy Canyon

 

 

 

Lay of the Land

 

 

 

Alt-Routes
Long and Short distance hiking
options from Kennedy Canyon trail junction

 

 

 

Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking Loop Schematic Map

 

 

 

Leavitt Lake
in
Basin

 

 

 

The
Tungsten Road

 

 

 

Two Routes
South
from
Latopie Lake

 

 

Off the Trail

 

 

Shortcut on
South Shore
of
Latopie Lake:

Mushrooms

Mountain Lion Track

Rock Sculpture Garden

 

 

Back on the Trail

 

 

PCT
through
South Gap
to
South Flank of Leavitt Massif

 

 

 

BACKPACKING
Emigrant Wilderness

Emigrant Wilderness
&
North
Yosemite Backcountry

 

 

Weather and Road
Information

 

Emigrant Wilderness Weather Forecast

NWS
Sonora Pass
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

Emigrant Wilderness

Deadman Creek
Near Sonora Pass
reporting station

Sonora Pass
reporting station

Leavitt Lake
reporting station

Leavitt Meadow
reporting station

Lower Relief Valley

Horse Meadow
Reporting Station

South
of our
Position

Tenaya Lake

Tuolumne Meadows

Tioga Pass-DM

Tioga Entry Station

Southeast

Slide Mountain

All
Ground Reporting Stations
MesoWest
N California

Mesowest
S California

Calif Snotel
Human Measured Stations
Wilma Lake Relief Reservoir
Road Conditions
Caltrans Hwy 108 Caltrans Hwy 120

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

Kennedy Lake
far below

 

 

 

South Flank
of
Leavitt Massif

 

 

 

Dry Campsite
on
South Flank
of Leavitt Massif

 

 

 

Buck
on South Flank of Leavitt Massif

 

 

 

Kennedy Creek
below lake:
Down to the TYT

 

 

 

Trail Junction
North Trail Junction PCT-Tungsten Road
from Leavitt Lake

 

 

 

Trail Junction
South
PCT-Tungsten Road

Junction:
Horse and foot trails divide

 

 

 

Big View
Upcoming Terrain and
Trail Options

 

 

 

Video
Kennedy Canyon
Trail Junction

Hiking Options

 

 

 

PCT East down Kennedy Canyon

 

 

 

Trail Junction
Kennedy Canyon
Trail Junction

 

 

 

The Trail Ahead

> Forum <

This trail guide is made to be a source of information for, and subsequently updated by Emigrant Wilderness backpackers and backpackers exploring the West and West West Walker Rivers in the Toiyabe National Forest through the comments and forum links on each trail guide page.

These link to forums and comments sections for the
specific areas covered by each guide page.

Registered Members can post up stand alone posts about their adventures and experiences along this segment of the trail decorated with images, maps and videos in the Trails Forum for this Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows Pass section of the Trail Guide.

Any hiker or prospective backpacker can add updates, questions, comments, and additional information through the comments links. Hikers can also reference the supplemental information in the forums through these links.

Our Goal is Clear
Tahoe to Whitney is creating a vortex of backpacker experience and knowledge for our personal improvement. Our goal is to collect and organize contributions about engaging and understanding Natural Experience while making this information available and useful to evolve ourselves to and through
Our Next Step.

I put this forward with wishes that each of your steps advances your
fitness, clarity, and understanding.

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

comments forum

WELCOME TO TAHOE TO WHITNEY


View
EAST

DOWN
Kennedy Canyon
approaching the
Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction
Backpacking Around the Heart of Emigrant Wilderness

Looking down Kennedy Canyon from the PCT on South flank of Leavitt Peak.

View East of Southbound PCT route down Kennedy Canyon

PAGE INDEX

Key Trail Junction
Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction

Options Ahead

Hiking the 5.31 miles South from Latopie Lake on the Pacific Crest Trail described on the page below we come to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction. At this trail junction we have a choice between a three directions on our lucky compass of backpacking opportunities. Each of our potential routes forward are represented by a trail guide page hiking that particular compass point.

We can hike East down Kennedy Canyon along the Pacific Crest Trail, as in the image above, South over Big Sam to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail at Grizzly Peak in Emigrant Basin, or West past Kennedy Lake continuing down the West Flank of the Sierra to the TYT just a short distance above Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

See the Schematic Map for how this position at the upcoming Kennedy Canyon trail junction situates us
perfectly between three distinct routes we can hike South along three routes down this section of the Sierra Crestline. Our main concern hiking South from Latopie Lake is which of these three routes we are continuing South on when we reach the junction.

That would depend on what we've seen in the past and what we want to see in our immediate future.

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How Good
is
Backpacking Emigrant Wilderness?

Backpacking Emigrant Wilderness is soooo good that we have taken the time and effort to stitch together the maps covering this area to better study it. Our goal is to understand the logic of this amazing terrain and how each of our upcoming route options reflect and can be used to best explore an aspect of that logic and engage the unique beauties expressing the unique history of life in each part of Emigrant Wilderness.

Emigrant Wilderness has many characters, many dimensions of experience.

Though we will attempt to choose the best route suiting our desires and expectations, we will also try to get the most, "bang for our buck." We do this by understanding the overall context of as much of what we are, and what we are not seeing, as possible. Alas, we will inevitably come to the conclusion that we cannot possibly see but slices of the complex, multi-level and multi-dimensional beauty of Emigrant Wilderness along any one backpacking trip.

Emigrant Wilderness is bigger than any one person, or any single backpacking trip.

Getting some context on Emigrant Wilderness requires, no, it demands a series of backpacking trips specifically designed not just for understanding, but for deeply exploring and enjoying as much of the diversity of unique terrain and experience Emigrant Wilderness contains, for as long as possible.

This fact, along with the alternative route options to our North and South demands we walk from Tahoe to Whitney many times so we can really explore the range of this range's aspects.

That's how good backpacking Emigrant Wilderness is.

It demands more.

The
Keys to the Kingdom

The four-direction Kennedy Canyon trail junction is one of the keys to unlocking the logic of the beauty of the various aspects of Emigrant Wilderness. You are the other. How we approach both our trip planning and personal preparation determines our character and that of our trip.
(Tahoe to Whitney Backpacking Preparation)

The Image Above
Our current position in the image above is hiking South off the South Flank of Leavitt Peak looking East down Kennedy Canyon near the position labeled as, "Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction," on this detailed backpacking map. I think this position is badass.
The Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction is located on a low point in the Sierra Crestline between
mountains rising to our North and South with valleys descending East and West.

 

Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction
Hiking Options
NORTH--SOUTH--EAST--WEST

The trails to our South (guide page) and West (guide page) both connect our position on the PCT with two different points along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail's route crossing Emigrant Wilderness. The Southbound Pacific Crest Trail turns East down Kennedy Canyon, while Sonora Pass is 7.97 miles North along the Northbound PCT, the route we hiked South to Kennedy Canyon.

These two trails leading South and West to the TYT not only open up route options for us long distance backpackers, but make a variety of medium and long distance backpacking routes around the top of the Emigrant Wilderness possible for local, shorter-distance backpacking trips when we come back.

My philosophy is is, "Let's explore them all." Eventually, with the maturity of time over space!
Lots of Space. Lots of Time. Give yourself the time and space to explore Emigrant Wilderness.

Expanding the Sphere
Exploring Emigrant Wildernss requires some study, planning, training, and lots of hiking time to craft our progression of Emigrant Wilderness backpacking trips into an expanding sphere of both internal and external knowledge and undertanding.
Getting to this Kennedy Canyon trail junction is an important step towards understanding this Northern part of Emigrant Wilderness. The variety of our options this four-way trail junction along the Sierra Crestline opens up makes it clear that multiple trips will be required to explore them all, and many more repeat trips to really understand any one of them. One time through is never enough.

One approach is, "The trail I don't hike this trip will be the trail I hike the next."
Hummm...
Another approach is, "I will hike this trail again and again to deep familiarity."

This contradiction between the time it takes to get to know a trail versus the number of trails out there
is a variant of the classic, "Time vs. Speed" contradiction, which is,
"The faster we hike the less we see, but the slower we go the more we know-and must carry."

The weight of understanding is heavy.

A Personal Balance
These brutally beautiful contradictions can only be properly balanced between our true
motivations and capacities.

You can do it all.

MPD
Miles Per Day

It merely requires time, patience, training, and a good plan.

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Take A
Long Perspective
on Brutal Contradictions

My solution is to do it all over the fullness of time. Our basic assumption is our rate of backpacking. At optimum, I am backpacking two weeks a month. At minimum I get two weeks every other month. You've got to determine your rate of exposure and the backpacking exploration plans and progression it will support.

Mine gives me the time to go heavy and slow. To go light and fast. To take the long way and the short. To do it over and over and over again until everything is an old friend, rival, or still to be explored. The trail rolls on for each of us as long as we are capable of putting one foot in front of the other to engage it. Then it rolls on.

Perspectives
As we hike South from Latopie Lake we are going to take advantage of fantastic views from our high perspective passing through the South gap and getting out onto the South Flank of the Leavitt Massif. We can observe all three of our upcoming options. From the South Flank of Leavitt we can inspect these upcoming trail options as we traverse Southeast just below the top of the South flank before losing our overview descending to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction.
Until then we get a series of fantastic overlooks of our upcoming hiking options down the both the East and West flanks of the Sierra as our hike progresses along the South Flank of Leavitt Peak. This is an important segment of trail to identify our upcoming options.
Our first view is down into the Kennedy Lake route descending down the West flank of the Sierra below the South Flank of Leavitt Peak. This is the Western route from the upcoming Kennedy Canyon junction connecting the PCT to the TYT.
As we continue down the South Flank of Leavitt Peak we can next dentify and inspect our potential route climbing South over Big Sam along the Sierra Crestline that could bring us to the next trail junction connecting our current route along the PCT with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail crossing Emigrant Basin at the foot of the South Flank of Big Sam.

Views of our East flank route down Kennedy Canyon open up as we reach the Southeast end of our traverse across the South Flank of Leavitt Peak. We can see all our upcoming Southbound backpacking options as we traverse along the South Flank of Leavitt before descending to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction, if we've got our compass screwed on straight. By "screwed on straight" I mean that we are watching the surrounding terrain carefully and using our map and compass to weave what we are seeing into a context of understanding.

I suggest having the map in hand, the head on a swivel, and the mind in full observation and analysis mode
hiking down the South Flank of Leavitt Peak.

Backpacking Navigation


Self-Analysis
Our most fundamental job is to identify the upcoming terrain our hiking plan demands we cross, and evaluate these challenges against the status of our
physical, logistical, and navigational resources to determine our chances of success.

How ya feelin', pal?

Your "battery" well-charged? Pack full of food? All Systems Go?
or
RED ALERT?

You tell me...

Mountain Safety Forum

PCT
Kennedy Canyon

The image above gives us a good look almost directly East down Kennedy Canyon as we descend the lowest Southeastern flank of Leavitt Peak approaching the Kennedy Canyon trail junction. The junction is situated at the very top of Kennedy Canyon. We are hiking South along the Pacific Crest Trail, to the Right in the image above, looking East down Kennedy Canyon. We will turn Left at the upcoming trail junction, East by the compass, if we continue to follow the PCT South down Kennedy Canyon.

 

PCT
Beyond Kennedy Canyon
to our
Entrance
into the
Northwestern Yosemite Backcountry
Kennedy Canyon to West West Walker Bridge

(Trail Guide Page)

RIVERS
At the bottom of Kennedy Canyon the West and West West Walker Rivers flow through almost-parallel courses running roughly South to North, Right to Left in the image down Kennedy Canyon. There are two rivers down there, only one of which we will deal with directly. We'll observes the outlines of the canyon the other runs through.
At the bottom of Kennedy Canyon our Southbound PCT route turns Right, pointing us South by the compass and upriver, but still above and not-quite parallel to the West West Walker. Our gentle line of convergence brings us to the West West Walker and the quaint old bridge crossing it a bit short of two miles after we turn South out the bottom of Kennedy Canyon.
The West West Walker is the closest to our line along the PCT of the two rivers down there. Heck, we cross one, the West West Walker on that bridge. At the bridge we find a trail junction accessing a series of trails, one of which runs the short distance further East taking us down into the West Walker's deeper, larger main canyon.
The West West Walker is essentially a "feeder" canyon. Here, the line of the PCT and the West West Walker are both running on a shelf above and West of the West Walker River. The main course of the West West Walker flows Northeast down a fold in the East flank beginning under Emigrant Pass, which is right next to Grizzly Peak and the line of the TYT.
In total, the West West Walker drains a section of the East Sierra Flank from Kennedy Canyon South to the high point South of the dead ponds before descending to Cascade Creek. Cascade Creek tumbles into the West Walker River's Canyon just below where we ford it on the PCT.

RIVERS
One for All

--All for One--
Regardless, the West West Walker is subsumed into the main flow of the West Walker a few miles to our North near Lane and Roosevelt's rapidly silting-in lakes, just before the West Walker makes its final run through a narrow run of amazing ancient canyon displaying remarkable aspects (on sandy trails), down into Leavitt Meadow.

Those lakes, Roosevelt and Lake, are a classic snapshot of two Sierra lakes deep into their fate's along their ongoing transformation into Sierra meadows.
We can easily imagine the forms of the larger lakes a hundred years ago, and even more quickly visualize the meadows that will fill this barbell-chained together dots of open space a hundred years hence. Lane and Roosevelt Lakes gives you an amazing imaginary "time-lapse" view right in front of you.

Well, if you've got an active imagination.

After crossing the West West Walker Bridge the Southbound PCT takes a Right-turn onto a moderately climbing Southeastern line that is going to roughly split the widening distance between the courses of the West Walker River to our East and the West West Walker River to our West. The bearing of our Southbound PCT route splits the growing difference between these two rivers as it finds its way up to our remote entrance into the freeking amazing North Yosemite Backcountry through Dorothy Lake Pass.

Once we get into the North Yosemite Backcountry it's "game on."
We are beginning what I consider the most difficult segment of trail along the Sierra Crestline.
We gonna work, we gonna squeeze joy out of your sweating pores.

This upcoming segment runs at H1 and H2 all the way down to Tuolumne Meadows.

The West Flank
Crossing Dorothy Lake Pass finally puts us PCT hikers squarely onto the West flank of the Sierra, on which we will stay for the remainder of our hike down to Tuolumne Meadows. In fact, our hike through all of Yosemite National Park from Dorothy Lake Pass to our exit out the South end of Yosemite through Donohue Pass will be along the West Flank of the Sierra.

That's s a big change for hikers on the Southbound Pacific Crest Trail route. Southbound PCT hikers have been hiking the East Flank of the Sierra for the last 55.24 miles. We crossed over onto the East flank after hiking South out of the Tahoe Basin and then crossing over onto the East Flank under Elephant Back just South of Carson Pass.

About That Tahoe Basin...
Though the whole Tahoe Basin drains East, and its position is technically located on the East Flank of the Sierra, this unique space nestled in-between the Sierra and Carson Ranges creates a zone of unique climate, maybe creating a unique shelf along the East Flank that holds and substantially extends, maybe widens, a huge area of forested conditions more typical of the West Flank than East.

To understand the unique nature of this configuration we compare the relatively barren terrain we hike into passing over onto the East Flank of the Sierra below Elephant Back with the terrain from Meeks Bay South to Carson Gap, which is also technically on the East Flank.

The climate governing these two sections of the East Sierra are very different. The Lake Tahoe Basin creates a wide zone of non-East flank conditions that preserve dense forests around its Western Shore. Looking East across the Lake instantly at the almost barren Carson Range from the densely forested East Flank of the Sierra above the West Shore of Lake Tahoe makes the contrast between the conditions on the East and West Flanks of the Sierra crystal clear.
Hiking in the Tahoe Basin we can easily see the radical differences in forest density, climate, and the resulting web of life that differentiates conditions on the East and West Flanks of the Sierra Range. We can see these differences by looking at the lush conditions along the East Flank of the Sierra wrapping around the West Shore of Tahoe in visual contrast with our same view East of the thin forests and dry conditions on the Carson Range around the East shore of the Tahoe Basin.
These differences are typical of the differences in climate, terrain, and hiking conditions that differentiate backpacking trips on the PCT from hikes along the TYT. Looking around the Tahoe Basin gives us a view of conditions typical of both flanks of the Sierra all located in one place.

ON the other foot, Tahoe to Yosemite Trail backpackers have been on the actual West Flank since departing the Tahoe Basin, and will remain on the West flank down to Tuolumne Meadows after reuniting with the Pacific Crest Trail in the top of Jack Main Canyon.
Hikers on the TYT climb the Western flank from Kennedy Meadows up to the Sierra Crest to enter Yosemite through Bond Pass. After touching the crestline at Bond Pass TYT hikers rejoin the PCT coming over from the East though Dorothy Lake Pass.

South of their reunification at the top of Jack Main Canyon the TYT and PCT share most of their routes to TM, only excepting the Tilden Lake Loop.

 

Views
North & East
West Walker River and Canyon
Hoover Wilderness

Climbing Southeast to Dorothy Lake Pass gives us some glimpses North and East down into, but mostly across the top of the Canyon of the West Walker River, but after we cross and leave the West West Walker River Bridge behind. The great red wall making up the East Wall of the West Walker's Canyon is most impressive, and its great features offer us convenient landmarks we can use judge our progress.

Red Ridge from North Red Ridge from South

The boundary of the Hoover runs the top of that red ridge. The West Walker runs at its foot.

The West Walker's Canyon reaches up bending itself along the Eastern base of the highest Sierra Crestline to where its headwaters terminate on a high spur of the Sierra Crestline, from which the trail up the West Walker continues to access the Twin Lakes Trailhead in the Hoover Wilderness or Kerrick Canyon in the North Yosemite Backcountry.

The Twin Lakes Trailhead is the start point for the classic Bensen Lake Loop, and an excellent "back door" into the North Yosemite Backcountry.

Although the watersheds of the Walker Rivers along the base of the Eastern Sierra Crestline mark-out the Eastern boundaries of the Emigrant and North Yosemite Wilderness Areas, neither of them are within Wilderness Areas. These regrettable omissions are due to change soon.

PDF road, river & boundary map
Hoover Wilderness

The Walker Rivers are on the short list to be added to the Hoover Wilderness. These two maps below cover this thin strip of Toiyabe National Forest running along the Sierra Crestline North to Leavitt Meadows Trailhead, then South down to just above the Twin Lakes Trailhead, all to be added to the Hoover Wilderness.

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Leavitt Meadow & West West Walker River
Toiyabe National Forest
15 minute Backpacking Map
TWIN LAKES
North Yosemite Backcountry
30 minute Backpacking Map

 

Views
North & West
The East Flank of the Sierra Crestline
Emigrant Wilderness

Once we hike East down through the bottom of Kennedy Canyon our Pacific Crest Trail route turns South and our views West of the Eastern Flank of the Sierra Nevada's amazing interfaces begin to open up.
I am talking about the great boundaries left behind from ancient battles between epic volcanic eruptions attempting to overwhelm and drown the Sierra's ice-sculpted ancient granite terrain. These great battles over millions of years determined which force would define the main geological features of the High Sierra and its Crestline across the High Emigrant Wilderness for the next tens of thousands of years.

Would it be the long, slow process of ancient plutons being gradually being carved into mightly natural sculptures?
or
Would the terrain be dominated by great rusty red and orange volcanic mountains left behind after monumental eruptions?

Thus our views West are dominated by the candystriping of great volcanic-granitic interface zones splashed along the Sierra Crestline and running down and around its Eastern and Western flank canyons. The fine granites of the High Emigrant Wilderness are either half-submerged in volcanic remnants, or half-emerged, depending on how you look at it.

It's beautiful, either way.

The current result is that the battle itself, those ancient eruptions over glaciated granite have brought about such remarkable close encounters and fantastic contrasts of two such different materials and terrains. The remnants of this ancient violence has kicked-up the spectacularity of this section of the Sierra Crest by at least a notch or two over and above the singular experience of either granite or volcanic terrain alone. Splashing all that hot rock over all that cold granite makes for a mighty show, for thousands of years of observer enjoyment.

Until the next phase of "construction" begins...

High Sierra Geology
Information & References

More Options
The route described above is our route if we follow the Southbound PCT through the Kennedy Canyon junction. We have two other distinct route options out of the Kennedy Canyon trail junction. We have a choice between following the PCT East down Kennedy Canyon as pictured and described above, or continuing South over Big Sam to hook up with the Southbound Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route at Grizzly Peak as it crosses Emigrant Basin. Both routes bring us into Yosemite at the top of Jack Main Canyon, though by different routes through different mountain passes, yet we end up in the same place. Those would be the High and Low routes...

West
We also have the less-likely option of turning West to follow the faint but followable unmaintained trail from Kennedy Canyon trail junction down to Kennedy Lake. Below the lake we pick up the maintained trail continuing its descent West for a few miles before it tees-out with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail a couple of miles South of, and just short of a thousand feet above Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

A long distance Southbound backpacker turning West at Kennedy Canyon is highly unlikely. Instead of turning to the TYT here, we would have just hiked our Southbound route on the TYT through Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, if we were intent on hiking the Southbound Tahoe to Yosemite Trail's route across Emigrant Wilderness. But the Kennedy Lake trail option could make good sense for a Northbound PCT hiker.

Alternative
Long Distance Resuppy Route

PCT & Other Long Distance
Northbound Hikers

Hiking West from the Kennedy Canyon trail junction makes sense for Northbound long distance backpackers on the PCT intent on hiking directly into Kennedy Meadows Pack Station to pick up their backpacking resupply. This is much more effective than hiking to Sonora Pass to face the round trip hitch-hike down to Kennedy Meadows and back up to Sonora Pass.

PCT hikers can hike the added 11.06 miles down to, and then hike it back up again from Pack Station back to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction, rather than hitching down and back from Sonora Pass.

The trail West from the PCT at Kennedy Canyon trail junction to the TYT via Kennedy Lake is also perfect for local backpackers stitching bits of the PCT and TYT together into exciting local Emigrant Wilderness backpacking loops.

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Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction

Our hiking options from the trail junction atop Kennedy Canyon on our various maps:

MAP
PCT Southbound
up and down
Kennedy Canyon

Sonora Pass to Dorothy Lake Pass
USGS 15 min backpacking map
MAP
PCT & TYT
Options South
from
Kennedy Canyon


Kennedy Canyon to Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
USGS 15 min hiking map

West to TYT
from
Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction


Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction to Summit Creek
USGS 15 minute backpacking map

Feeling Frisky?
If you're feeling frisky, and can see yourself taking a big fifty mile backpacking tour of the High Emigrant Wilderness by tying the TYT and PCT across Emigrant together into the biggest High Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking Loops possible, then you should inspect the Sonora Pass Region map's overview of the Emigrant Wilderness South of Sonora Pass very carefully. The Sonora Pass Region Map and the basic "schematic" gives us a good idea of our potential backpacking loops around the High Emigrant Wilderness.

These maps lay out the PCT and TYT across Emigrant Wilderness and the trails connecting them.

Sonora Pass Region Hiking Map
USGS 30 min backpacking map
Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Schematic

The maps above lay out potential lines for Emigrant Wilderness backpacking loops big and small.
Our detailed maps will help us figure out the specific segments along our big loop.
(Click the trail routes on the 30 min maps to see the detailed maps.)

 

Local Delights
&
Long Distance Insights


These three "levels" of interconnected trails we encounter as we hike further South across Emigrant Wilderness open up route options for long distance backpackers crossing Emigrant Wilderness as well as folks who are looking for shorter, short, or even very long local backpacking loops around this awe-inspiring wilderness.

Backpacking Emigrant Wilderness
Three Excellent Northern Trailheads
Our route hiking South on the PCT into the High Emigrant Wilderness from Sonora Pass is the highest of the three Southbound access points into this amazing web of backpacking trails across and around the high altitude elements of Emigrant Wilderness. The other two trailheads are through Kennedy Meadows Pack Station on the Western flank and Leavitt Meadows (map) on the East.

Jigger Me a New Route
We long distance backpackers can stitch together a number of unique through-routes across the Emigrant Wilderness using the PCT, the TYT, and various combinations of the two tied logically together through these three trail junctions along the Sierra Crestline crossing Emigrant Wilderness. Local backpackers can apply this same principal of tying together bits of the PCT and TYT to craft grand backpacking loops remaining within Emigrant Wilderness.

The links on the Left side of the link bar across the top of this page above bring us to the guide pages for continuing South on the PCT or South to the TYT, or West to the TYT through the Kennedy Canyon trail junction. These pages open up our alternative backpacking route options across or around the Emigrant Wilderness.

Click-Click
Note that the red dots on all the maps link to the trail guide information for that location while the
black-dotted routes on all the 30 minute maps link to the detailed 7.5 minute maps for that area.

But, before reaching the Kennedy Canyon trail junction we have to hike there from Latopie Lake.
We do that on the page below.
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Video
Latopie Lake to the Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction

5.31 miles in 5:39 minutes

Where the Heck are We?
Exploring our Options hiking South off Leavitt Massif
The video above covers our hike from Latopie Lake South along the Pacific Crest Trail to the Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction. Latopie Lake is trapped on a thin shelf wedged into the Eastern flank of Leavitt Peak a half mile below the Pacific Crest Trail's route.

The Pacific Crest Trail route circles around and above this shelf on the Eastern flank below Leavitt Peak as it makes its way over to the Southern flank of Leavitt Peak across the bottom of a great field of talus and then up and over a lateral moraine below Leavitt Peak over to the South Gap leading onto the South Flank of the Leavitt Massif.
Or, we can hike down to visit Latopie Lake, and craft our own cross-country route beyond to re-reconnect with the PCT before it passes through the South Gap onto the South Flank of Leavitt Massif.

The fine campsite off the East shore of Latopie Lake is 3.07 miles South of Sonora Pass trailhead and 5.31 miles North of the four-way trail junction at the Kennedy Canyon trail junction, if we decide to go down and check out Latopie Lake.

I always do, except when I hike around it about every five years, to check trail up there.

Sonora Pass Region Hiking Map
USGS 30 min backpacking map
Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows
Miles and Elevations

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Hiking Off
the
South Flank of the Leavitt Massif

Latopie Lake
back to the
Pacific Crest Trail

A Cross country Option back to the Southbound PCT

First
The PCT route

Hiking South on the Pacific Crest Trail through the gap above the North Shore of Latopie Lake we can see the steep section of headwall below the flattened summit of Leavitt Peak about a mile and a half to the Southwest of the gap, to our Southbound Right.

Leavitt Peak is not very impressive as a mountain peak, but it caps a very impressive massif.

Much closer to us, and just a tiny bit to the West of South, lays Latopie Lake glimmering on its narrow shelf wedged-in to the Southeast Flank under Leavitt Peak. The tiny lake is a few hundred yards below our position standing in the North Gap.

Our Pacific Crest Trail route works its way West along a thin shelf of deterioriting trail along a sheer wall moving towards the nose of the talus field. Just ahead a faint trail breaks off down towards Latopie Lake as our trail continues West along its cliff-side track towards the nose, the bottom end of the huge talus field sloping down the highest Eastern flank below Leavitt Peak.

Looking again to our West at the flat summit of Leavitt Peak we see the Eastern face of Leavitt Peak is composed of a very short length of steep headwall moderating into a long, gently descending field of very rough talus running all the way down to end above the shelf in the mountain holding Latopie Lake.

Closer to us we can see that the far side, the Southern edge of this talus field is pushed up into a low ridge of shattered rock composing a lateral moraine running up to the crestline just a bit to the South of Leavitt peak.

The Pacific Crest Trail works over to the lateral moraine after crossing the nose of the talus field wedged in below Leavitt Peak and above Latopie Lake. Or we can drop down to Latopie Lake, and make our own way to the South Gap from there.

Crossing over to the far South edge of the lateral moraine the Pacific Crest Trail begins turning Southwest up towards the crestline under Leavitt Peak to pass through the gap bringing it out onto the South flank of the Leavitt Massif.

Observing the Alt Route
After crossing the moraine we approach the South Gap and take note that the PCT is passing across the very top of a small hanging valley draining East down into the Leavitt Basin, before we pass through the Southern gap in the crestline over onto the Southern flank of Leavitt Peak's mighty massif. That hanging valley would be where our alternative route comes from Latopie Lake back up to the Southbound PCT. I've marked the rough line of this cross-country route back to the PCT out on this map:

Sonora Pass to Dorothy Lake Pass
USGS 15 min backpacking map

Route
To the Summit of Leavitt Peak

This short but steep headwall making up the East flank under Leavitt Peak itself generally diverts Southbound hikers on the PCT from seeking its summit directly, instead pushing them to follow the PCT South over to and through the South Gap onto the Southern flank where we gain access to the gentle crestline climbing gradually to the summit of Leavitt Peak.
Rather than turning Left to the Southeast after following the PCT onto the South flank, those seeking the summit of Leavitt Peak turn Right, to the Northwest off the PCT, to follow this easy route up the relatively gentle Southeastern ridge arm descending from Leavitt Peak's rounded summit.

Leavitt Peak is like a large gentle wave topping an angry ocean of jagged peaks.
Leavitt is quite calm amid the slow-motion chaos surrounding it.

Easiest Route Climbing Leavitt Peak
The easiest way to reach the summit of Leavitt Peak is to follow the PCT route South from Sonora Pass to the Southern gap described on this page above and below, then turn Right, to our Northwest, from the Southern gap to finish your climb up to the summit of Leavitt Peak.

comments forum

Latopie Lake and the Surrounding Terrain

Latopie Lake is the highest of the three lakes we see in the complex terrain descending off the Southeast flank of Leavitt Peak, all situated to the Southeast below our position in the North gap. Outflow from these little lakes forms into Leavitt Creek flowing Northeastward down the valley to Highway 108, along with the dirt Tungsten Road. The Tungsten Road is a rough dirt track connecting the series of lakes pictured below to Highway 108 on the Eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada.

ROAD MAP

More Below
Tungsten Road

Tungsten Road Forum

Check out the forested valley descending from Leavitt Lake to Highway 108 on the East side of our
topo hiking map.

Looking Southeast from above Latopie Lake on the Pacific Crest Trail the image below includes Koenig and Leavitt Lakes situated in their respective flats in the basin divided by sheer ridge arms running all the way up to the top of this ancient glacier-cut valley. Around each of these lakes we see that the broader, unified basin that runs into a valley below the lakes divides itself into a series of narrow canyons above each lake running up to the Sierra Crestline.

Our Southbound PCT route past Latopie Lake eventually brings us onto the Southern flank of the Leavitt Massif where we will be hiking along the top of the ridgeline guarding the tops of each of these Lake's mini canyons running up to our trail along the South Flank of Leavitt.

Check out
The 7.5 hiking map shows how our route along the South flank passes by the tops of these canyons above Leavitt and Koenig Lakes.

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Southbound across the Leavitt Massif
Southbound
PCT Hikers stepping through the gap in the mountaintops beside Peak 1100 above the North shore of Latopie Lake are suddenly stunned by the magnificent overlook of Latopie Lake, its nearby lakes, and the beautiful complexity of the surrounding terrain of the drainage basin running off the Southeast flank of Leavitt Peak.

Northbound across the Leavitt Massif
Northbound
Hikers reaching the Northern gap at Peak 11000 will have already passed under the flat summit of Leavitt Peak, already crossed the great moraine, and will be traversing up the narrow soft trail climbing to the Northern gap in the ridgeline between Peaks 11260 and 11000 before the view of Latopie and its accompanying lakes below opens up to the Southeast.
Latopie Lake's position nestled into its shelf in the mountain's Eastern flank hides it from Northbound hikers until we are upon it, and have almost hiked past Latopie Lake.

Always Turn Around
Everyone must turn-around and look-around on a regular basis to maintain terrain awareness and context.

South of Latopie Lake

Southbound backpackers hiking the Pacific Crest Trail route around Latopie Lake will stay high up on the PCT above Latopie Lake. The PCT's route across the moraine stays above Latopie Lake and below Leavitt Peak as it makes its way 2.11 miles South from the North to the South gap onto Leavitt's South flank.

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Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction
The four-way Kennedy Canyon trail junction we encounter at the base of the South Flank of Leavitt Peak offers us lots of backpacking trip options for shorter trips back to Highway 108 via either the East and West flanks of the Sierra.

-Two Flanks-
Three Routes In
Three Routes Out

EAST-CENTER-WEST
We can see from the topo hiking maps below that we can bend our route back around to the North down and around through either the East or West flanks of the Sierra from the centrally-located
Kennedy Canyon trail junction.
We can end our shorter and local point-to-point Emigrant Wilderness backpacking trips beginning at Sonora Pass at either Leavitt Meadow on the Eastern flank or Kennedy Meadows on the Western flank.

We can lengthen this trip by hiking further South to Grizzly Peak before turning North to return via either flank of the Sierra to either of these East and West flank trailheads along Highway 108, or even loop our way back to Sonora Pass. The schematic lays out the trail segments and junctions we can use to plan complex loops and trailhead to trailhead backpacking trips around the high elevation portions of the Sierra Crestline that makes up the Eastern limit of Emigrant Wilderness:

Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Schematic Map

I've sketched out the rough miles of each trail segment on the schematic map, and we will measure out the miles of our alternative routes and short-trip options from each trail junction as we encounter them on the trail guide.

West Flank
PCT to TYT
Kennedy Lake
See this Topo Hiking MAP covering the hike West via Kennedy Lake and Kennedy Creek down to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail running North and South along Summit Creek. We'll turn Northwest to hike out through Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

East Flank
PCT South
Kennedy Canyon
See this Topo Hiking MAP covering our potential route East via Kennedy Canyon following the Pacific Crest Trail to the West West Walker. Here local hikers can turn Northeast through three different trail routes to find their way out to Leavitt Meadow along the West Walker River.

There are also a lot of abandoned trails and very interesting runs of low granite formations from the mouth of Kennedy Canyon running East to the West Walker and South down to the bridge over the West West Walker.

To our North
PCT North
Sonora Pass
And finally, check out the map covering the PCT route we used hiking Southbound down to the
Kennedy Canyon trail junction from Sonora Pass.

Four Direction
TRAIL GUIDE PAGES
Below are the Trail Guide pages exploring our North, South, East, and West
backpacking options in Emigrant Wilderness from the Kennedy Canyon trail junction:

North
PCT

Sonora Pass
to
Latopie Lake
South
PCT

Kennedy Canyon
to
Dorothy Lake Pass
South
to
TYT

Big Sam
into
Emigrant

West
to
TYT


Kennedy Lake

 

South
on the
Sierra Crestline
PCT to TYT
via
Big Sam
Big Sam to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail at Grizzly Peak.
Hiking over Big Sam into the High Emigrant Basin puts us at the next level South. At the Grizzly Peak trail junction we will find our next set of hiking options to the four points of the compass from the Sierra Crestline opening up our route selection possibilities to the next level.

NEXT FOUR-WAY CRESTLINE JUNCTION
GRIZZLY PEAK TRAIL JUNCTION

Backpacking Options
from
Grizzly Peak Trail Junction

Griz Peak
TYT South
We can continue South on the TYT over Bond Pass into Yosemite. In the top of Jack Main Canyon local hikers would turn their loops back to the North using the PCT through Dorothy Lake Pass, while long hikers would enjoy their Southbound descent into Jack Main.

Griz Peak
Northeast to PCT
We can turn Northeast from Grizzly Peak through Emigrant Pass for the hike along the West West Walker River down to meet the PCT at its bridge. This unique trail closely explores interesting areas of the granite-volcanic interface. It has a very "cozy" trail-feeling.

Griz Peak
TYT North
Or, we can turn Northwest on the Northbound TYT running all the way to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

Griz Peak
West Trail and Cross-Country
We have trail and cross country options West through Horse Meadow and beyond Snow Lake nearby.

Full West Flank Access
From Grizzly Peak we have the whole Western Flank of the Emigrant Wilderness at our feet.
We can easily run down to Hetch Hetchy, Cherry or Eleanor Lakes, or to Pincrest Lake from
our position at the Grizzly Peak trail junction.

Four Direction
TRAIL GUIDE PAGES
Below are the Trail Guide pages exploring our North, South, East, and West
backpacking options in Emigrant Wilderness from the Grizzly Peak trail junction, our next four-way trail junction along the Sierra Crest to the South of the Kennedy Canyon trail junction:

Grizzly Peak Trail Junction

FORWARD
Southbound PCT

On the page below we're hiking from Latopie Lake on the PCT South to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction finishing our hike over the Southern half of the Leavitt Massif.

We also explore the short cross-country route South of Latopie Lake (rather than the PCT route around the lake) to rejoin the PCT route by hiking up the valley South of Latopie to the Southern gap where the PCT crosses onto the Southern flank of the Leavitt Massif.

We have two routes from the North and South gaps bracketing Latopie Lake. One follows the standard route of the PCT around and above Latopie, while the other hikes from gap to gap off the Pacific Crest Trail via Latopie Lake.

Our third option is to take the little spur trail off the PCT down to and back from Latopie Lake.

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Looking Southeast
from the
Gap above Latopie Lake
on the
Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail Route South around Latopie Lake

Above Tungsten Road
Latopie Lake is .41 of a mile offset from, and 380 feet of elevation below the Pacific Crest Trail route. There is one informal trail in and out from Latopie Lake on the North side of the lake to the PCT.
Faint but followable routes can lead us East down the steep apron around Latopie Lake connecting it to Leavitt and Koenig lakes and the rough dirt track of the Tungsten Road leading Northeast down to Highway 108.

Segment of Bad Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail route tracks above and around Latopie Lake. A faint spur trail leads down to Latopie Lake. This trail is faint because the soils eroding off the cliff here are very loose and move substantially down the steep face with every rain and each year's thaw. The Pacific Crest Trail tracks West clinging to to an unstable bed along this unconsolidated muddy mountainside after passing South thorough the gap next to Peak 11000. This part of the trail is across unstable terrain that is mushy when wet and soft when moist.

This very short section of the PCT circling around the North shore of Latopie Lake from the gap to the beginning of the talus field can be in very bad condition, especially when saturated by the thaw during early Spring. This little section of trail between the gap and the talus erodes away quickly and must be dug out by trail crew on a regular basis. Some years it is very narrow, almost non-existant.

Hiking South on the PCT through the gap we begin traversing West by the compass along the mountain flank on the Southern Flank of Peak 11260 above Latopie Lake. Our Southbound PCT route bends South down onto and across the nose of the great gently descending field of talus below Leavitt Peak to put itself onto the flank of a great lateral moraine of shattered talus, both of which are gently rising up the East flank towards Leavitt Peak and its low-slung summit crestline.

Bottom Line
This huge section of gently rising talus and its accompanying lateral moraine sit directly above the West shore of Latopie Lake. Latopie Lake sits on a small shelf nestled-in below the moraine and talus field, effectively sheltering it from prevailing winds. The Eastern flank steepens sharply just below Latopie Lake's little flat shelf, then runs through rough terrain down to Koenig and Leavitt Lakes at the top of the valley linked to Highway 108 by the Tungsten Road.

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Cross country route South from Latopie Lake to the PCT
If we visit Latopie Lake hiking South along the PCT we do not have to backtrack North to return to the PCT via the spur trail we hiked in. We can hike a cross country route South from Latopie Lake to intercept the PCT just before it reaches the South gap and crosses over to the South flank of Leavitt Peak.

South of Latopie Lake a small hanging canyon runs up to the Southern gap where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses over to the Southern flank of Leavitt Peak. We will hike South from Latopie Lake to put ourselves into, and then up this little canyon to rejoin the PCT right before it passes onto the South flank of Leavitt.

I Like Latopie
My preferred hiking route South across this section is via Latopie Lake. We will depart the PCT route to hike down to Latopie Lake, returning to the PCT by climbing up the little canyon to the South of Latopie Lake. There are two reasons I prefer to visit Latopie Lake rather than hike around it along the PCT route.

Cross Country Fools
First, I almost always spend a night at the campsite on the East side of Latopie Lake in the fine stand of low-growing Whitebark Pines when I hike through here. It's a real sweet place, and I like it there. Second, I hike what has traditionally been, but is no longer a shorter and easier cross-country route around the bad trail conditions that once plagued the Pacific Crest Trail's route across the moraine and talus field under the East Flank of Leavitt Peak.

Though the trail across the talus moraine has been repaired, and significanty upgraded, my little alternate cross country route is still my preferred route, as it is full of much more interesting terrain and things to see than the PCT route. More on this little route option and its evolution over the years below.

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Leavitt Lake, Koenig Lake, and Latopie Lake
From Left to Right, respectively.

View of Complex Drainage Basin
from its North Limit at the Northern Gap

Leavitt, Koenig, and Latopie Lakes.

The East-Southeastern Flank of Leavitt Peak

Above we are looking Southeast while passing South through the gap under Peak 11000 along the Pacific Crest Trail.

This view reveals the complex terrain of the basin below the Southeast flank of Leavitt Peak. Leavitt and Koenig Lakes are at the base of a fan of a series of three sheer, narrow canyons rising up to the Sierra Crestline between each of the lakes.

The series of peaks rising up behind and above Leavitt and Koenig Lakes make up the Northern flank of the Southeastern ridge arm descending from Leavitt Peak, wrapping around this basin and the lakes inside. We will be hiking on the far side of that ridgearm from the South gap until we descend off it along the Tungsten Road down to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction.

Our Southbound PCT route will bring us around all of this on the far side of the ridgeline above Koenig and Leavitt Lakes, hiking along the Southern flank of the Leavitt Massif. Each of the lakes in the image above are drained by streams that join together forming Leavitt Creek.

Latopie Lake is on the far Right. Above Latopie Lake we can see the nose of a huge moraine. The steepness of this great pile of sharp, broken volcanic rock flattens considerably as it runs up the East flank to Leavitt Peak.

We can also see the top of the little canyon opening up directly beyond Latopie Lake. That would be directly above Latopie Lake in the image above. This canyon runs up to the Right, to the Southwest, up to where the PCT runs North-South across the top of this basin, climbing up to where it tracks along just below the ridge arm running Southeast off the summit of Leavitt Peak.

Crossing the the top of the canyon South of Latopie Lake the Southbound PCT passes through the South gap onto the South flank of the Leavitt Massif. Our alternative route through Latopie Lake climbs that canyon to the Southern gap.

In the middle distance we can see the peaks at the top of the sheer, narrow canyons above Leavitt and Koenig lakes. These will be the peaks decorating our route as we hike down the trail along the Southern flank of the Leavitt Massif below, hiking across their South flanks. We are hiking the PCT along their Southern flanks as we look to find our way off of the South end of the Leavitt Massif.

 

Southbound PCT
Two Options South from Latopie Lake

If we do decide to hike down to visit Latopie Lake we have two options for continuing our Southbound hike from there. The first requires hiking back up the way we hiked down to Latopie Lake, to and from our present position on the PCT trail junction above the North Shore. Our second option is to hike a cross country route South from Latopie Lake rejoining the PCT at the Southern gap over to the Southern flank of Leavitt Peak via the canyon we see behind Latopie Lake.

To rejoin the PCT hiking cross-country South from Latopie Lake we hike down off the South side of the flat holding Latopie Lake to a smaller flat below. This smaller flat is situated just Left of the patch of snow below and to the Left of the far end of Latopie Lake in the picture above.

From that dot of snow we hike to our Right around and onto the Southern facing flank of the little hanging canyon South of Latopie Lake. From there we hike West, to the right, traversing up into and across this nifty little canyon to eventually find our way up to the PCT where it passes through the gap in the ridgeline over to the South flank of Leavitt Peak.

From our position here overlooking Latopie Lake the Southbound Pacific Crest Trail tracks to our Right, West, to get off this steep flank and onto the nose of the huge talus field under the East side of Leavitt Peak. From there the PCT works its way across the talus field over to the lateral moraine piled up on the South side of the talus field.

Check out the topo hiking map I've marked with both routes.
Also note the map shows those patches of snow are glacial remnants.

Sonora Pass to Kennedy Canyon
USGS 15 min backpacking map

Hiking through the gap onto the South flank of the Leavitt Massif turns our Pacific Crest Trail Southeast for the traverse down to where the Tungsten Road comes over from Leavitt Lake. This marks our point on the South flank where we begin our final descent off Leavitt down to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction.
The PCT and the Tungsten Road travel together down to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction. From the Kennedy Canyon trail junction the PCT departs the Sierra Crest Route turning East down Kennedy Canyon. The Tungsten Road continues South over Big Sam to follow the Sierra Crestline across the heart of the Emigrant Wilderness to where it picks up the route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

The Tungsten Road and Tahoe to Yosemite Trail share route to the trail junction breaking off to Snow Lake.

End of the Line
The Tungsten Road turns Southwest down Horse Canyon entering Summit Meadow, but a branch of the road continues with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail Southeast to the junction in the middle of Summit Meadow. The Tungsten Road turns to end at Snow Lake where the TYT exits Summit Meadow climbing to its Bond Pass entrance into Yosemite, where it finally rejoins the PCT at the top of Jack Main Canyon. The PCT and TYT routes parted company at Carson Gap exiting the Tahoe Basin way up in the North Sierra.

Snow Lake is nestled under the ridge dividing Yosemite National Park from the Emigrant Wilderness just a few hundred yards South of Bond Pass. Climbing South over Bond Pass we find the TYT-PCT trail junction at the top of Jack Main Canyon. The Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trails rejoin in the top of Jack Main Canyon for most of their remaining 54.49 tough miles hiking South to Tuolumne Meadows.

Premium Alternative Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking Routes
Note that the route South from the Kennedy Canyon trail junction over Big Sam to the TYT at Grizzly Peak is an excellent alternative to the Pacific Crest Trail's route for hikers on the trail to Tuolumne Meadows. This alternative route from the Kennedy Canyon trail junction to Bond Pass follows the Sierra Crestline rather than going around it, as with the PCT. It is also a more direct route than either the PCT or TYT.

We can tie both routes to the top of Jack Main Canyon from the Kennedy Canyon trail junction into a nice circle accessible from the Leavitt Meadow, Sonora Pass, or Kennedy Meadows Trailheads.

Turn that Loop Home
Those hikers not planning on continuing South to Tuolumne Meadows (or even Hetch Hetchy) can pursue some very interesting routes by passing through Bond Pass and turn North hiking through Dorothy Lake Pass. We also have the option of turning North from Grizzly Peak or Southwest from Summit Meadow to begin hiking back to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, looping back to Sonora Pass, or punching out to end the backpacking trip around Emigrant Wilderness through Leavitt Meadow.

We have many options for backpacking across and around the High Elevation areas of Emigrant Wilderness.

Map Study
Check out the maps below for context and to generate backpacking trip ideas. Click on the red dots along the marked trail routes for trail guide pages, black dots for more detailed maps (on the 30 minute maps) and click the arrows along the edges of the maps linking to the next maps in that direction.

Sonora Pass to Kennedy Canyon
USGS 15 min backpacking map
Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake
USGS 30 min backpacking map

Sonora Pass Region Hiking Map
USGS 30 min backpacking map

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Fourth
Loop Supplement

Though I've focused mostly on building the PCT and TYT guides across Emigrant Wilderness along with the Tungsten Road that splits them, there is another, a fourth level of trail that roughly parallels the PCT and TYT across the High Emigrant Basin.

This line of trail is lower that our other three. It begins at Mosquito Pass on the TYT and moves Southeast via Emigrant Lake, Maxwell Lake, and Snow Lake below Bond Pass. This line allows a fourth alternative route to backpack into or out of the High Altitude Heart of the Emigrant Wilderness.

I've put together a supplemental page that lays out our options along this line. I'll follow up and break it down into guide pages after I push the standard routes covered by the guide to completion through the Whitney Portal.

Snow Lake
Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking Supplement

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The Southeast Flank of Leavitt Peak
viewed from
Leavitt Lake
during a
Clear Winter day
Another View of our Position

Leavitt Massif during Wintertime.

Another Perspective
Leavitt Peak from the East during Winter

Leavitt Peak is the little bump on the furthest distant ridgeline on the Left.

featuring
The Gap above Latopie Lake

Looking Northwest up at the Northern gap above Latopie Lake. This image was taken about 3/4 of a mile North of Leavitt Lake, looking Northwest at the Southeastern flank of Leavitt Peak.

The Pacific Crest Trail passes North-South through the Northern gap, which is the lowest gap along the sheer Sierra crestline in the center of the image above. This Northern gap allows passage through the wall of this spur of ridge branching East off the main Sierra Crestline. The sheer crestline above wraps around and towers above the North shore of Latopie Lake.

The pointy peak at center-Left in the image above is Peak 11260 along the Sierra Crestline. The Northern gap is the second and lowest gap to its Right, to the East of Peak 11260. The next very short little peak to the Right of the Northern gap is Peak 11000.

Latopie Lake is located on the very flat forested shelf in the mountainside down and to the Left below the Northern Gap. Check out the map below to precisely locate all of these features.

Sonora Pass to Kennedy Canyon
USGS 15 min backpacking map

The low, flat, insignificant looking summit of Leavitt Peak is visible on the far Left side of the image above, a bit to the Right of, and poking out from behind the interceding ridge arm descending in the middle-distance.

The image above was taken after hiking South over the Leavitt Massif through the Northern gap through the mountain terrain pictured above after hiking to Leavitt Lake from Sonora Pass. I first tried this trip in Dec or Jan of 2007, but various problems drove me back to civilization from Sonora Pass. A couple of months later, in Feb or March, I tried the trip again and managed to get to Sonora Pass from the East, up and over Leavitt Peak, and down to Leavitt Lake. It was a real adventure, especially as high Winter temps seriously softened the snow pack, making travel difficult even going downhill, and downright scary on steep terrain.

From the position of the image above I hiked Northeast down-mountain roughly following the route of the Tungsten Road down to its intersection with the snow-covered route of Highway 108. Highway 108 brought me down past the frozen Leavitt Falls (splendid!) into Leavitt Meadow to the snowgate a bit West of the Marine Base. From the Marine Base I was able to catch a ride the rest of the way out of the mountains. Oh-Rah!

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Mountain Marines
Mountain Marines in the High Sierra Winter.

Above: I meet the best Americans running around the cold High Sierra East of Sonora Pass each Winter. The captain in his snow-cat thingy pulling a cart full of mountain trainer sergeants... Hell'O Good Dudes... For more on this trip and Marines in the Mountains, see
"East Carson and Leavitt Peak: A Frk'n Great Four Season Trip."

Current Conditions
Leavitt Lake

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The Cross Country Route

As I mentioned on the previous trail guide page to the North, the Pacific Crest Trail hiking South from Latopie Lake to the Southern gap over to the South flank of the Leavitt Massif is now in fine condition as of 2006 or so...

It was in poor condition prior to its substantial repair.

What follows below describes the cross country route South from the South side of Latopie Lake turning Southwest up the little hanging valley laying to the South of Latopie Lake.

We rejoin the Pacific Crest Trail route passing through the Southern gap over to the South flank of the Leavitt Massif.


The Cross Country Route
Hiking South from Latopie Lake cross country.

On the Flat South of Latopie Lake
South of Latopie Lake we are standing on the little flat below the lake ready to step off bending our route Right, Southwest onto the South facing flank of this little valley in front of us. From there we find the best way we can find the terrain up the valley to the PCT.

The first section is a traverse that is a bit difficult, but the terrain flattens considerably as we hike further up into the valley and begin bending our route towards the flatter terrain at its center. Once we have ended our traverse down the South flank of the valley we find that most of the remaining distance up to rejoin the PCT is a fairly gentle grade on firmly-packed surfaces.

Down to Leavitt Lake and the Tungsten Road?
We also have the option of hiking East down the mountain from Latopie Lake out to Leavitt Lake as part of a local loop. We may have stashed a four-wheeler at Leavitt Lake, or we can hike Northeast down the Tungsten Road to Highway 108, and hitch-hike our way back to "civilization."

I have found most of the local folks out there to be very cool.

During Winter I've hiked up the snow covered Highway 108 from the snow gate West of the Marine Base up to Sonora Pass, South over Leavitt Peak to Latopie Lake, then down and back out through Leavitt Lake down to Highway 108 along the (snow covered) Tungsten Road, then East back to the snowgate near the Marine Base.

That's a hell of a fun Winter trip!

Sonora Pass to Kennedy Canyon
USGS 15 min backpacking map
Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake
USGS 30 min backpacking map

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Unique Things
in the
Valley South of Latopie Lake

Unusual fungus.

Unique and tough fungus. Mountain Mushrooms at 10400 feet of elevation. Wow.

Fungus Forum

This entry: Identify it!

Fresh Cat Tracks

Mountain Lion track.

Bobcat track, most likely. Maybe a lion. A day old judging by the previous day's winds. Lots of little critters up here, and a few larger ones chasing them around, apparently.

I keep my eyes open, travel quietly, and I've only encountered cats up here a few time in a few decades. They are very observant and very elusive.

Here, Kitty-Kitty...

Sonora Pass to Kennedy Canyon
USGS 15 min backpacking map

Forum
High Sierra Lions and Lynx

Comments
This cat forum entry.

Why are cats prowling up here, especially when there are easier ways to cross over the crestline between forested valleys?

The answer is a half-mile South of these cat tracks and/or scattered throughout the high forests of whitebark and fields of talus. A half-mile South from these cat tracks I encountered a great buck leisurely grazing along the Southern Flank of Leavitt Peak at above 10400 feet of elevation. The buck may have an edge. I never see hunters up here, and I look, only to find the highest of the deer hunters below these heights. This Buck came up high to avoid the hunters. But it appears that the natural predators, including this cat, are hunting the Sierra Crestline itself.

It should be fruitful hunting for high altitude cats with or without the high altitude bucks. The fields of talus surrounding us house many small mammals.

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Fine rock sculpture garden in upper valley

Rock Garden with color, shape, and life in this not so barren moonscape.

This little valley features a sculpture garden.

A little Rock Sculpture Garden displaying color, shape, and life in this moonscape that is not as barren as it first appears. Note the flattish terrain. Once we get off the traverse and enter the center of the valley we soon climb up to an almost flat area.

Unique Features
Latopie Lake to South Gap
This flat area in the center of this little valley has a lot of cool features. First, parts of this flat area are composed of seriously compressed areas. In sections of the upper valley we can see how the weight of ancient glaciers pressed everything flat, though this flat is tilted slightly down-mountain. Parts of the surface of the terrain have been flattened and cut into a perfectly flat "parquet floor." Others appear to be composed of broken rock pressed into a perfectly flat surface. Sections of the terrain at our feet look like a confusing jumble of rocks were perfectly fit together by a master craftsman who's skills are far beyond those of humans.

Second, the rock garden features pictured above. I don't frkn know. Maybe they are occasionals, once bigger chunks of volcanic terrain carried down by the ancient glaciers and deposited here, then subsequently eroded into their unique shapes over thousands of years of erosion. Otherwise, the erratic shapes of these rock formation reaching skyward are totally out of place in this valley of smooth glacially carved terrain.

Maybe these out of place rocks were shot here out of a volcanic cannon... those volcanos do blast rock quite some distance, sometimes. This might be a little piece of Disaster Peak sitting on Leavitt's Southeast Flank.

In any case, I find the combination of the sharp shapes and ruddy red colors of these very irregular natural rock sculptures well highlighted by the delightful growth of plant and lichen, and their contrast with our uniform surroundins of glacially compressed, cut, and rounded gray terrain to be both relaxing and stimulating at the same time.

Third, there is a big old human-build rock circle up here. It's located in the upper part of the flat section of this little valley, on the South side of the upper flat. This circle is about 30 feet in diameter, made up of medium sized rocks separated by about two and a half feet along the circumference of the circle, with a rock positioned in the center of the circle.

This rock circle may very well be very old, or it may only be a century old. I think the first time I encountered it was in the mid-1990s, so I know it's older than 17. It might be pre-Western. If you want to find the rock circle stay on the South side of the upper flat as you hike through. I probably have pictures of this unique rock circle somewhere, but I have not found them yet.

In any case, the cross country venture hiking up and across this isolated little valley to the South of Latopie Lake is a nifty little cross country hike.

Though it is now harder than the PCT route through this segment of terrain "between the gaps," this little cross country route imparts a timeless feeling of inextricable and powerful ancient forces incrementally moving space through time, even now.

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Approaching the top of the Valley and the PCT
The Southern Gap

PCT coming South between Leavitt Peak and Latopie Lake.

As we reach the top of our little valley it opens up into the wide basin where the top of the great glacier that cut this mountain and its valleys began its downward flow.

In the image above we have ascended past the flat across the center of the valley and are hiking up onto the North-facing flank of our little valley to join the Southbound PCT. The PCT is running North-South below the crestline under the East flank of Leavitt Peak above us to where it passes onto the Southern flank of the Leavitt Massif through the highest gap. That gap is obscured behind the middle peak to the Left above us. The gap itself is hidden behind that peak, while the ridgeline ascending behind it rises up to Leavitt Peak out of the Right edge of the image.

We can't see the line of the Pacific Crest Trail yet, but it's up there.

The ridge running off the top-Right side of the image above is the gently ascending ridgeline up to the summit of Leavitt Peak. That would be the route up to Leavitt Peak for you peak baggers. The North-South line of the PCT route runs along the base of that ridgeline.

From our current position we've got to continue climbing up to the PCT, then turn Left to follow it South through the gap onto Leavitt Peak's South flank.

Leavitt Peak is about three-quarters of a mile up the gradually ascending ridgeline, off to the Right out of the frame of the image above. Our position is below and Southeast of Leavitt Peak, and just below the PCT route.

Looking up at the PCT route

About a half mile to our North, off the Right side of the image above, is where the PCT route comes off of the big lateral moraine under the East Flank of Leavitt Peak onto the more solid trail under the the Southeastern flank of Leavitt Peak above our valley. This is where Leavitt Peak's Southeastern ridge arm begins its long descent.

In the image above we're almost there, there being rejoining the PCT... maybe 400 yards.

The gap where the PCT transitions between the East and South flanks of Leavitt Peak is also the point those folks climbing Leavitt Peak turn Right-Northwest- for their final climb up the ridge arm to the top of Leavitt Peak.

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The PCT through the South Gap
over to the
Southern Flank of Leavitt Peak

Approaching the Gap and the Pacific Crest Trail.

Approaching the Gap in the ridgeline between the Eastern and Southern flanks of Leavitt Peak along the Pacific Crest Trail.
Once we pass over the upcoming crest we enter and wind our way through a strange zone of smashed talus pushed up in great piles.

Sonora Pass to Kennedy Canyon
USGS 15 min backpacking map
Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake
USGS 30 min backpacking map

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Pacific Crest Trail through the Southern Gap
onto
Leavitt Peak's South Flank

Crossing over to the South flank of Leavitt Peak.

Crossing over to the South flank of Leavitt Peak we can now see into the high heart of the Emigrant Wilderness across the intervening valley holding Kennedy Lake and Creek.

Note the rough nature of the talus piled up to the Left of the trail in comparison to the smoothness of the trail. This should clue us into the difference in effort required to cross rough talus or hiking smooth trails.

It's a big difference.

Stanislaus Trails has spent a lot of time breaking up this section of trail over Leavitt Massif during the last decade, between 2004 and 2014. This is a very improved segment of trail. All those small smashed up talus rocks making up the trail route took lots of sledge work. Lots and lots.

Thanks trail crew!

The valley to our South holding Kennedy Lake and Creek opens up below us as we pass onto the South flank of Leavitt Peak.

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View South from the South Gap
Kennedy Lake and Kennedy Creek

Kennedy Lake below the South Flank of Leavitt Peak.

Kennedy Lake and Creek
A few more steps South through the Southern gap and Kennedy Lake appears far below us along the base of the South Flank of Leavitt Peak in a nifty little valley running roughly East-West.

At the top of this West flank canyon only a low spot along the Sierra Crest between Leavitt Peak and Big Sam divides it from Kennedy Canyon dropping down the East flank of the Sierra. These two back to back canyons descending off each flank of the Sierra Crest opens up our route options at the upcoming Kennedy Canyon trail junction situated on the Sierra Crestline between them.

Let's take a look down the valley holding Kennedy Lake and at our position up here on the South Flank of Leavitt Peak from a position climbing Big Sam.

Kennedy Lake Local Backpacking Options
Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking Distances

The East-West trail running up and down the floor of this valley below us connects our upcoming Kennedy Canyon trail junction along the PCT with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail at a point a couple of miles below Relief Reservoir and a couple of miles above Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

The trail down there via Kennedy lake connecting the PCT and TYT gives us some very interesting medium-distance backpacking trip options beginning at Sonora Pass and exiting the Wilderness through the Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

The Specifics

The upcoming Kennedy Canyon trail junction is 3.48 miles South from our present position in the Southern gap overlooking Kennedy Lake.

Kennedy Lake is 3.05 miles West down faint unmaintained trail from the Kennedy Canyon trail junction.

From Kennedy Lake 5.34 miles of well-maintained trail continues West down to the junction with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

A 2.67 mile hike North from the Kennedy Lake-Tahoe to Yosemite Trail junction finishes off this Sonora Pass to Kennedy Meadows backpacking trip across the Northwestern edge of Emigrant Wilderness.

Adding the 4.49 miles of distance from the Sonora Pass trailhead to our current location in the Southern gap, a trip from Sonora Pass to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station measures out at 19.03 miles. At our current position in the Southern Gap we have finished climbing (except for a few undulations along the South flank of Leavitt ahead) and it is all down-mountain hiking to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station from this point forward.

Sonora Pass
to
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station
19.03 miles

The "Eastern" version of this hike would take us East down Kennedy Canyon from the upcoming Kennedy Canyon trail junction to bend Northeast along the West West Walker River to end our trip through Leavitt Meadow.

Hiking Maps and Guide Pages
Backpacking
Sonora Pass
to
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station
Kennedy Lake
Topo Map

PCT to TYT
Link
Kennedy Lake
Trail Guide
PCT to TYT
Link

Want More of the Same?

We can lengthen our Sonora Pass to Kennedy Meadows backpacking trip. Instead of turning West toward Kennedy Lake we continue South on the Tungsten Road climbing over Big Sam to Grizzly Peak. At Grizzly Peak we intersect with, and turn North on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail for the hike to finish our Emigrant Wilderness backpacking trip by hiking down to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station from a position about ten miles further South into the heart of the Emigrant Wilderness than turning back through via Kennedy Lake.

Eastern
Mirror-Image Trips
We can form "Eastern" versions of these Western trips by hiking East down Kennedy Canyon to hike out to Highway 108 on the East flank of the Sierra through Leavitt Meadow. We can lengthen our Eastern routes by hiking down to Grizzly Peak before turning Northeast through Emigrant Pass and down to the West West Walker River on our way to Leavitt Meadow or back to Sonora Pass.

The schematic of Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking immediately below
reveals the symetry of our potential East-West backpacking routes as we hike further across Emigrant Wilderness.

Hint: The deeper we get, the better the backpacking trip.

South Over Big Sam
Tungsten Road over Big Sam Topo Map
Grizzly Meadow and Peak
Grizzly Peak Trail Junction Trail Guide
TYT junction in Grizzly Meadow

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Emigrant Wilderness
Schematic
Backpacking Maps

The Basic
Main Routes Map
Emigrant Wilderness backpacking loops.

The miles figures cover the spans between black dots.

A Plethora of Local Backpacking Trips
This schematic trail maps are designed to reveal the increasing number of local backpacking loops, "lollypop" loops, and local trailhead to trailhead hiking trips we can create hiking South out of the Highway 108 corridor using the PCT and TYT across High Emigrant Wilderness.

The further we hike South from our selected Highway 108 Trailhead the more trail options we open up as we access the Kennedy Canyon and Grizzly Peak trail junctions along the Sierra Crest. These crestline trail junctions allow us to begin bending a route back towards our starting trailhead, or the trailhead we selected as our final destination.

The role of these two Sierra Crest trail junctions in creating interesting Emigrant Wilderness backpacking trips/loops can be finally complimented by threading our local route (in either direction) through Dorothy Lake and Bond Passes, effectively using them as our furthest "turnaround" point for long trips out of, and back into, the Highway 108 corridor.

NEW, IMPROVED...
I've improved our Emigrant Wilderness Schematic Map below. The map below is an improvement on the map above, yet both are still crude generalizations intended to show the potential inter-connectivity of these three parallel routes across the top of Emigrant Wilderness, rather than being complete or to scale.

These two topo trail maps linked to below are the maps corresponding to the schematic trail map.

EMIGRANT WILDERNESS
TOPO TRAIL MAPS

Siera Crest
&
East Flank
Siera Crest
&
West Flank
Sonora Pass and Leavitt Meadow
Highway 108 Trailheads
to

Jack Main Canyon
High Sierra Backpacking Trail Map
Kennedy Canyon and Sonora Pass
Highway 108 Trailheads
to
Lunch Meadow and Big Sam
High Sierra Backpacking Trail Map

HIGH
EMIGRANT WILDERNESS SCHEMATIC TRAIL MAP

Schematic trail map of TYT and PCT across Emigrant Wilderness, and the trails connecting them.
NEW
Schematic trail map of TYT and PCT across Emigrant Wilderness, and the trails connecting them.

Linking the roughly parallel PCT and TYT trails on the Sierra's East and West flanks across the Crest makes a whole lot of cool backpacking trips in the highest elevation areas of Emigrant Wilderness possible.

Not only is this place worth exploring, it has the trails necessary to explore it. And, once we reach "high points" along these trails we find extensive scrambling and cross country backpacking terrain beckons.

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View Southeast down the South Flank of the Leavitt Massif

 

Turning Left through the Southern Gap we begin hiking Southeast down the Southeastern ridgearm extending from Leavitt Peak.

Below we are looking at the Southeastern ridge arm extending itself Southeast down from the summit of Leavitt Peak undulating with its series of mini-peaks.

These peaks are also the tops of the ridgearms bracketing Leavitt and Bigelow Lakes that we observed hiking through the North gap above Latopie Lake into the Leavitt Lake Basin. These are the peaks located along top-Right of this image above.)

Leavitt and Bigelow Lakes lay a few hundred feet down at the bases of these Sierra Crestline Peaks.

We will get views to the Northeast through the gaps between these upcoming peaks.

 
  Looking South down the South flank of Leavitt Massif.  

Looking Southeast down the Pacific Crest Trail along the South flank of Leavitt Massif. The peaks along this crestline divide the canyons running down to Koenig and Leavitt Lakes below their Northeast flanks. Between each peak a narrow canyon opens up between their descending ridgearms.

Our upcoming intersection with the Tungsten Road coming over this crestline from Leavitt Lake is a bit further down the ridgeline than we can see from our vantage point here.

Out of sight of the image above, to our Right, we can see that this Southern flank of Leavitt Peak makes up the North side of the great valley holding Kennedy Lake and Creek. Check out Kennedy Lake and the South flank of the Leavitt Massif from Big Sam.

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Looking Northwest back at the gap we hiked through

Looking North at the gap between the South and East flanks of Leavite Peak.

Looking North at the gap between the South and East flanks of Leavitt Peak.

Leavitt Peak ascends behind the gap.

Rather than turning Southeast as we have on the Southbound PCT, hikers up to the summit of Leavitt Peak will turn Right coming South through this gap to hike Northwest up the descending Southeastern ridge arm of Leavitt Peak to attain the summit.

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Early Spring Bloom on South Flank of Leavitt

Flowers above Kennedy Lake on the South flank of Leavitt Peak.

Looking Southwest off the South Flank of Leavitt Peak

Spring Flowers blooming above Kennedy Lake on the South flank of Leavitt Peak. Late 1990s. We are looking South by Southwest across Kennedy Canyon into the Summit Creek valley, over on the other side of the middle-distant ridge.

Summit Creek over yonder is how the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail runs up to the High Emigrant Basin.

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Little Lake in the Little Hanging Canyon
Below the
Southeast Flank of Leavitt Massif
and Above
Kennedy Lake

Lake in hanging canyon below South side of Leavitt Massif and Kennedy Lake.

As we continue South along the South flank of the Leavitt Massif we see that Kennedy Lake's canyon, which was below us to our South when we hiked through the Southern gap onto the South flank, is being supplanted by a hanging canyon, a cleft in the canyon wall holding a little lake. Kennedy Lake and the bottom of the real canyon are now blocked from our view by this hanging canyon.

The canyon holding Kennedy Lake is bending up to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction on the far side of the mountain rising behind this little hanging canyon. The creek running out of the Right side of the lake above runs down to feed into Kennedy Creek above Kennedy Lake.

Sonora Pass to Kennedy Canyon
USGS 15 min backpacking map

Our Pacific Crest Trail route will bend South around the head of this hanging canyon (a short distance to the Left, to our Southeast in this image) to where our PCT route intersects with the Tungsten Road coming over the mountain from Leavitt Lake. We'll still be far above this stranded little lake.

I've seen folks down there by this little lake only a couple of times over the decades, but I have seen folks down there. The creek draining this little lake flows West down to Kennedy Creek just above Kennedy Lake.
I'd say it's easier to climb up to the PCT at the Kennedy Canyon trail junction following Kennedy Creek up from Kennedy Lake, rather than trying to reach the PCT via this hanging canyon and its little Lake.

Hanging Canyons?

Hanging Canyon: A canyon who's floor has a higher elevation than the canyon it is merging into. Hanging canyons can produce excellent waterfall and cascade displays, as we will and have seen. Especially if we follow the John Muir Trail route down to Yosemite Valley from Tuolumne Meadows.

Hanging canyons can be stunningly beautiful during Spring Thaw. Especially where a series of hanging canyons feed a basin, such as can be seen looking into the Ionian Basin (South of Muir Pass) during Springtime.

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Nice Flat for camping

Campsite situated on flat along South flank of Leavitt Massif.

Sweet Primitive Campsite
There is one suitable spot for camping along the South Flank of Leavitt Peak. This spot sits below the trail. It consists of a small flat surrounded and somewhat sheltered by a low grove of Whitebark pines growing as bushes. There are a couple of tent flats nestled into the Whitebark underbrush.

This campsite is situated a bit closer to the upcoming trail junction with the Tungsten Road than the trail's gap onto the South flank of Leavitt.

There is no water here unless there is snow to melt. There is a volcanic ledge above the trail to the Northeast that sometimes shades a line of snow late into the Summer season. It protected snow in the past, but will not do so into the future.

I don't recommend this spot as a regular camping site. I have only used it when I was running behind and hiked into darkness during early Spring. The reason I stay here, rather than continuing the short hike down to Kennedy Canyon, is the availability of snow to melt for water.

This spot is the most protected position on the Southern Flank. It is mostly a Winter and Spring campsite.

I learned why blu-gaz does not work well at high elevation here that very cold Spring evening long ago. Unless you keep the cartridge inside your coat, with your water...

Backpacking Stove Tech Backpacking Gear Forum
Stoves

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Wildlife up High
Buck on the South Flank of Leavitt Peak

Buck grazing along on South Flank of the Leavitt Massif.

Buck grazing along on South Flank of the Leavitt Massif. July 30 2009.

Living Things
Forum

Topic
Deer in the Sierra

High Elevation Buck above 10400 feet

Stopping for a nibble.

Stopping for a nibble.

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Trotting Away from Me

Then trotting away from the interfering backpacker.

Then trotting confidently and proudly away from the interfering backpacker. See-Ya!

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Kennedy Creek

Kennedy Creek high up.

Kennedy Creek through sweet meadow below Kennedy Lake. The East-West trail along Kennedy Creek runs West down to join the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail a couple of miles South of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

The trail running East down there above Kennedy Lake hooks up with the Pacific Crest Trail at the Kennedy Canyon trail junction, whle the trail running West tees-out with the TYT just a ways above Kennedy Meadows. That puts Kennedy Lake, and maybe even the Kennedy Canyon trail junction along the Sierra Crest within the range of aggressive, fit, and prepped day hikers out of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

PCT to TYT
via
Kennedy Lake
Trail Guide Page
Kennedy Lake
Map
PCT to TYT Link

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Backpackers' Forum

Kennedy Lake is also a favorite destination for short distance backpackers out of the Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

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Pacific Crest Trail
Meets and Joins
the
Tungsten Road
for a
short distance

PCT-TUNGSTEN ROAD
TRAIL JUNCTION

Northern Leavitt Lake Junction Same sign-other side
Junction of the Tungsten Road from Leavitt Peak with Pacific Crest Trail. Trail junction from Leavitt Lake at Pacific Crest Trail.

Junction of the Tungsten Road from Highway 108 past Leavitt Lake with the Pacific Crest Trail high on the Southeast flank of Leavitt Peak.

The sign and arrow are pointing the way North on the PCT towards Latopie Lake.

From this trail junction the Southbound hiker begins descending off the South flank of Leavitt Peak down to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction.

Sonora Pass to Kennedy Canyon
USGS 15 min backpacking map

Trail junction from Leavitt Lake at the
Pacific Crest Trail.

The top caption and arrow are pointing Right, to the Northeast to Leavitt Lake along the Northbound Tungsten Road.

The lower arrow points Left, Southbound on the Pacific Crest Trail towards Kennedy Canyon.

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Tungsten Road

Highway 108 to Snow Lake

This rough old road road was built to supply WWII wartime tungsten needs. We must have needed tungsten badly to justify the significant work required to keep this road open.

The Tungsten Road climbs steeply up rough terrain susceptible to damaging Spring Thaw flows along Leavitt Creek off of Highway 108 a few miles East of Sonora Pass.

The road climbs through the Leavitt Lakes basin and up and over the Sierra Crest to intersect with our PCT route down to the strand of flat holding the Kennedy Canyon trail junction.
The Tungsten Road continues South up and over the massive bulk of Big Sam into the High Emigrant Basin while the PCT turns East down Kennedy Canyon.

Entering the High Emigrant Basin the Tungsten Road joins the TYT at Grizzly Peak and both proceed together South to Summit Meadow where the Road ends at the old tungsten mine behind Snow Lake and we continue South on the TYT over Bond Pass into the very Northwestern corner of the North Yosemite Backcountry.

This map shows the whole route of the Tungsten Road:

Sonora Pass Region Hiking Map
USGS 30 min backpacking map

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The Tungsten Road
Tungsten Road Forum

This trail guide is centered on the long distance trails along the crest of the Sierra Nevada. The Tungsten Road is not a long distance trail, but shares segments of its length with both the PCT and TYT along the Sierra Crestline. The Tungsten Road connects the PCT and TYT. It's not unique because it connects the PCT and TYT, which is very important, but in how it connects them.

Before we get into that, here's various resources about the Tungsten Road I've collected:

Mineral Resources of the Emigrant Basin Primitive Area,
California, (USGS, Tooker, Morris, Fillow, and Oliver, 1970).

Location and Role
ROAD MAP
HIGHWAY 108
Access to Tungsten Road
Tungsten Road
Hwy 108 to PCT: Road and Trail Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

Tungsten Road
PCT
to TYT and South to Snow Lake Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

Most of the trails connecting the PCT and TYT that we've seen cross the Sierra Crest. This is not how the Tungsten Road connects the PCT and TYT.
The Tungsten Road continues South down the Sierra Crestline from where the PCT turns East down Kennedy Canyon. The Tungsten Road connects with the TYT where it regains the Sierra Crest in Emigrant Basin. The Tungsten Road maintains a route along the Sierra Crest Line where both the PCT and TYT deflect off and around the Sierra Crestline.

The route following Tungsten Road South from Kennedy Canyon trail junction to Grizzly Peak is the only route along the Sierra Crestline across Emigrant Wilderness. The PCT deflects around the Crest to the East, the TYT to the West, but the Tungsten Road links these two trails with its crestline route.

The Tungsten Road makes it possible to run a route all the way across Emigrant Wilderness along the Sierra Crestline, which neither the Pacific Crest nor the Tahoe to Yosemite routes can do on their own.

Tungsten Road
Relationship with PCT and TYT
PCT
6.54 miles out of Sonora Pass hikers on the Southbound Pacific Crest Trail intersect with the Tungsten Road on the Southeastern-most corner of the Leavitt Peak Massif. Our Southbound PCT immediately descends 1.43 miles from that junction off the Southeast corner of Leavitt Peak Massif down to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction.
From the Kennedy Canyon trail junction the Southbound PCT turns East down Kennedy Canyon while our Tungsten Road route continues South along the Sierra Crest Line over Big Sam into the High Emigrant Basin.

TYT
Hikers on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail intersect with the Tungsten Road 13.83 miles South of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station in Grizzly Meadow. This is due to the Western flank route-bias of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. This Western route of the TYT forces it further down the Western flank, which pushes it up and down the great canyons sweeping off the Western flank of the Sierra. Quite magnificent scenes...

The PCT stays up on the Sierra Crest, its route biased to the East flank. Also magnificent, but of a different character.

TYT Climbs to Sierra Crest, Again...
We've hiked up and down the great canyons of the Western Sierra flank backpacking South to this point on the TYT, and this pattern does not change one bit as we enter Emigrant Wilderness. TYT hikers begin the great climb up to Brown Bear and Bond Passes from 6400 feet hiking through Kennedy Meadows Pack Station's Trailhead.

The Tungsten Road Keeps the Crest
The Tungsten Road, on the other hand, begins for our backpacking purposes high up on the East flank of the Sierra at Leavitt Lake's 9557 feet of elevation. It crosses over the 10720 foot Sierra Crest behind Leavitt Lake to join the PCT route down to 9680 feet crossing the neck of Sierra Crest where the Kennedy Canyon trail junction is situated before climbing the 10825 foot Big Sam to intersect with the TYT at 9580 feet at the Grizzly Peak trail junction.
The TYT has tracked Southeast up into Emigrant Basin through Brown Bear Pass to intersect with the Southbound route of Tungsten Road where it comes off the South flank of Big Sam and down to the trail junction under Grizzly Peak.

The TYT and Tungsten Road share the trail for 1.35 miles South from the Grizzly Peak trail junction until we reach the first trail junction in the Northwest corner of Summit Meadow. Here a branch of the Tungsten Road peels off to our Southwest, the Southbound hiker's Right, down into the steep upper canyon of East Cherry Creek flowing down to Horse Meadow.
This Western segment of the Tungsten Road served the Cherry Creek Mine in the 1950s.
Continuing South on the TYT for a few feet into Summit Meadow we can see the trail junction in the middle of Summit Meadow where the other branch of the Tungsten Road turns Right for its last mile to the remnants of the Montezuma Mine above the beautiful shores of Snow Lake. Our TYT route bends Left through this junction, its target being Bond Pass into the Northwestern corner of Yosemite.

Southbound hikers on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail continue hiking Southeast, Left through the Summit Meadow junction for the short .86 of a mile climb to the Yosemite boundary running across Bond Pass.

Tungsten Road Comments

Orientation, Truck Distance and Trail Distance
Though the Tungsten Road starts on the East flank of the Sierra "3.2 miles East of Sonora Pass" along Highway 108, the vast majority of the hiking miles of the Tungsten Road are on the West flank of the Sierra Crest.

Start of the Tungsten Road
"3.2 miles East of Sonora Pass"
A green snowgate offset from a typically steep and deep corkscrew turn down the paved rollercoaster ride that is Highway 108 down the East flank of the Sierra marks the beginning of the semi-maintained dirt road known as the "Tungsten Road" up to Leavitt Lake.

Four Season Fun
Most folks starting a backpacking trip out of Leavitt Lake drive four-wheelers out to the end of the drivable road, which is at Leavitt Lake. As do hunters in October, and fishermen all Summer long. I see snowmobiles out there up to Leavitt Lake during Wintertime. Most everyone will offer rides up if they see you humping it in climbing along the road. I've had snowmobilers offer me rides up a few times during Wintertime, but I always politely refuse. I'm out to hike it.

The snowmobilers are funny. They want to be social, but there has been a long war against snowmobilers on pristine National Forest and Wilderness lands. They see me, and they don't venture over until I wave, or wave back. Then they offer rides up the mountain... which I refuse, as I mentioned above.

I'd like to see strict rules about mufflers. Screw the noise, but I would not outright ban snowmobilers. I'd balance their use to maintain pristine, quiet zones for folks like us, and regulate them to kill the damn noise and pollution, but I'm for maintaining reasonable, but limited snowmobile access.

Access
I have driven into Leavitt Lake, but driving is not typical for me. More typically I'll drop off Leavitt Peak down through Leavitt Lake's valley to the Highway 108 corridor during Winter snow trips. During Summertime I generally pick up the Tungsten Road while hiking South along the PCT out of Sonora Pass as described on this guide, or at Grizzly Peak while hiking South along the TYT, along the course of long-distance backpacking trips.

For most folks who hike the Tungsten Road out of its trailhead at Leavitt Lake this means that the hiking miles do not begin at the start of the Tungsten Road along Highway 108, but at Leavitt Lake where truck access ends and trail begins.
For long distance hikers the Tungsten Road does not begin until we intersect with it along our particular route across the Emigrant Wilderness, but both major routes do. Both the TYT and the PCT share a bit of their routes with the Tungsten Road, but on different ends of the Emigrant Wilderness.
The Tungsten Road shares a bit of its route with the PCT on its North end and a bit with the TYT at its South end. In the middle, between the TYT and PCT, the Tungsten Road connects the PCT at top of Kennedy Canyon with the TYT crossing Grizzly Meadow by staying up on the Sierra Crest Line.

This crestline connection also makes it a handy trail to put together local loops and alternative routes to the classic routes of the PCT and TYT.

Historical Significance
The history of Tungsten Road is emblematic of how we both see and use the Sierra Nevada. The changing usage of this amazing place over the last century and a half is a mirror on the American experience.

Historical Information
There is little contemporary information about the history of Tungsten Road from Highway 108 out to Snow Lake on the far Southeastern corner of Emigrant Wilderness. Over the decades I have picked up bits of information here and there that led me to believe it was a WW II road maintained at high expense to supplement Tungsten supplies during Wartime.

The best source of information about the Tungsten Road I have found so far is the

Mineral Resources of the Emigrant Basin Primitive Area,
California, (USGS, Tooker, Morris, Fillow, and Oliver, 1970).

If you have information post it up below.

Tungsten Road Comments

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Emigrant Basin, and the Emigrant Wilderness generally, is the complex and unique geology that makes this place so beautiful. Though commissioned as an economic study, this mineral resources survey linked to above presents a comprehensive geological history explaining the beauty of Emigrant Wilderness in scientific terms. This just makes this place more beautiful!

The geology of the Sierra is what sparked the Gold Rush and subsequent Silver Boom, and it has drawn in prospectors with each evolution of mineral use in technology, as the survey points out.

The introduction to the survey of the Emigrant Basin Primitive Area states that;

" No known published reports describe the mineral deposits of the Emigrant Basin primitive
area, although it was doubtlessly well prospected during the last 115 years. Prospectors
must have explored the area during the gold rush of 1849, and more recently, during the
periods of accelerated mineral exploration attendant on World Wars I and II and during
the uranium boom of the early 1950's
.
"

The Montezuma Mine at Snow Lake was claimed in 1942 as one of a series of claims around Bigelow Peak, the peak above Snow and Bigelow Lakes. The survey states that Montezuma Mine was worked by mules which carried 12 tons of ore out during 1951. P.58.

Another mine was also located down East Cherry Creek, aptly named the Cherry Creek Mine, or the Whittle Claim, which was established in 1954 and 1955. The Cherry Creek Mine was serviced by the branch of the Tungsten Road splitting off to the Northwest down East Cherry Creek from the current location of the trail junction on the North edge of Summit Meadow leading down to Horse Meadow. The top of Horse Meadow was the top of the Cherry Creek mining claim.

It appears that the Tungsten Road was built sometime subsequent to the development of the Montezuma Mine in the early 1940s.

On page 54 the Survey describes Tungsten Road in use during 1970:

" (Tungsten Road is) ...a restricted-access road branching from State Highway 108
at Leavitt Creek about 3.2 miles east of Sonora Pass. This narrow road has several
steep grades and many switchbacks and crosses the summit at an elevation of 9,700
feet; for these reasons it can be negotiated only by vehicles with a short wheel base and
four-wheel drive. The road follows the Mono-Tuolumne County boundary in a southerly
direction to Emigrant Meadow and past Grizzly Peak to Summit Meadow, the headwaters
of Cherry Creek. In Summit Meadow the road forks; the left fork leads to the Montezuma
mine near Snow Lake, a distance of about 1 mile, and the right fork leads in a southwesterly
direction along the East Fork of Cherry Creek for about 3.7 miles to the Cherry Creek mine
where the road ends.
"

This description is wrong in one respect. Both of the major climbs the Tungsten Road makes exceed 10,000 feet in elevation. There is no point along the nearby line of the Sierra Crest that is less than 10200 feet in elevation.
Both the references above are from Mineral Resources of the Emigrant Basin Primitive Area, published by the USGS in 1970.

Tungsten Road Comments

The first 21 pages of the introduction to the survey are worth reading, especially page 9, as it provides a fascinating view into the complex geological history of this amazing place. It explains the terrain in basic geological terms that the layman backpacker, with a little bit of guide-book help, can understand and use to identify and understand the geological complexity this incredible place displays.

It's like a geological crime scene; the guts of our planet have been ripped out and are spread all around everywhere. It's up to use to understand what it all means.

My basic guide for geological history is The Sierra Club's Naturalist's Guide to the Sierra Nevada, which lightly touches every aspect of the Natural History of the Sierras. Using the Sierra Club's general natural history in conjunction with the specifics of this survey give us a fascinating look at the genesis of Emigrant Wilderness.

Physical Location of Tungsten Road
Leavitt Lake sits on the far Left of the image above. Leavitt Lake is where the drivable section of the dirt Tungsten Road coming up from Highway 108 ends. Though the drivable section of the Tungsten Road ends at Leavitt Lake, remnants of the Tungsten Road can be followed as the trail route South down along the Sierra Crestline to the Montezuma Mine at Snow Lake, and even down Horse Canyon or over to Bigelow Lake to the Cherry Creek Mine, for local hikers on unique routes.

The Tungsten Road South from Leavitt Lake runs up and over the ridgearm behind Leavitt Lake to intersect with the Pacific Crest Trail at 10,600 feet of elevation along the Southeastern flank of that Leavitt Massif ridgearm. From there the PCT and Tungsten Road proceed South descending together to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction. From the trail junction at the top of Kennedy Canyon the PCT turns East down Kennedy Canyon while the Tungsten Road continues South over Big Sam into the heart of the Emigrant Wilderness.

Trail Guide
Trail Linking PCT to TYT
Trail Map
The Whole Length of the Tungsten Road
Big Sam to Grizzly Peak
The Tungsten Road from PCT to TYT
Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake
USGS 30 min backpacking map

Trail Map
Tungsten Road Highway 108 to PCT
Trail Map
Tungsten Road PCT over Big Sam and across Emigrant Basin
Tungsten Road to PCT Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps
Emigrant Wilderness Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 minute topo maps

The Tungsten Road crosses the Sierra Crest on the far upper-Left of the image above, between the cone sticking up from the crestline and the next peak rising to the Right of that. That's 10720 feet of elevation. The Tungsten Road's intersection with the PCT is just over the top of that segment of the crestline.

Check with the Bridgeport Ranger District of the Toiyabe National Forest for the condition of the drivable segment of the Tungsten Road from Highway 108 to Leavitt Lake. They will say "use at your own risk," and "be able to get out of what you get into."

Good Advice!

Tungsten Road Comments

***

Updates
NOTES

June of 2016
Joan's Concerns

(Fall 2011) I have been told by a few hikers that the Toiyabe Forest has closed the Tungsten Road from Highway 108 up to Leavitt Lake to vehicle traffic. Previously the Toiyabe Forest ran a scraper up the road to Leavitt each Spring (more or less) to clean it up for four-wheeler traffic. My information was that the Toiyabe now keeps the gate closed all Summer long.

A call to the Bridgeport Ranger District of the Toiyabe National Forest on Nov 20, 2012 and a brief conversation with Mike has dispelled that rumor. The Tungsten Road from Highway 108 up to Leavitt Lake is open for vehicular traffic during Summer and for snowmobiles during Winter.

As with the many dirt roads into the Sierra maintained by the National Forest, they try to run a scraper through every Spring, but this may or may not happen. The Bridgeport Ranger District does not guarantee that their dirt roads are graded or in good condition.
I have seen the lower section of the Tungsten Road between Highway 108 and Leavitt Lake in very bad shape during Summer. Huge washouts and berms from the Spring Thaw carved through the road.

Give the Bridgeport Ranger District of the Toiyabe National Forest a call for the latest information on road conditions.

Bridgeport Ranger District
760-932-7070
Bridgeport
Ranger District
Fed Website Page
All Toiyabe National Forest Contacts
Tahoe to Whitney
Toiyabe National Forest
Fed Website Page

Kennedy Canyon to Dorothy Lake Pass
USGS 15 min hiking map

Tungsten Road Comments

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Hiking the short distance between these junctions along this strip of ridgline I met
Terripan

Terripan, a ripping cool backpacker out of Mammoth Lakes.

Terripan, a ripping cool backpacker out of Mammoth Lakes. We kicked it at the South junction and enjoyed the view. The top of Big Sam is visible to the Right of Terripan's headband.

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A short distance South from the above junction we come to junction dividing the hiking and horse trails down to the Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction

Second Tungsten Road trail junction.

North to Sonora Pass--South to Yosemite

Second Tungsten Road trail junction. The first was the Tungsten Road intersecting with the PCT.

This second junction is where the Tungsten Road"s switchbacking line down the South flank of Leavitt Peak is designated as a Horse Trail to the Kennedy Canyon junction, while the distinct foot path takes a straight line down the flank to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction.

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Flat between Mountains and Valleys
Looking South at the low point between mountains to the North and South which is also the highpoint between valleys East and West.
This is where the Kennedy Canyon trail junction is located.

This well-situated flat sits between our position on the South end of the Leavitt Peak and Big Sam rising to the South.

Kennedy Canyon descends to the East, and Kennedy Creek runs West down in its valley.

Looking down at the Kennedy Canyon trail junction.

Above: Looking South from the Southern flank of the Leavitt Massif

We are viewing the terrain South of Leavitt Peak from the Southeastern flank of the Leavitt Massif before dropping down to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction.

In the foreground Right of the images above and below we are looking at the same section of the horse trail-Tungsten Road zig-zagging down and off the Southern flank of the Leavitt Massif toward its intersect with the foot trail, but from different directions.
The foot trail and the main trail split company at the top and rejoin at the lowest switchback before reaching the Kennedy Canyon trail junction.

Below we can see that our foot trail option off Leavitt Peak intersects with the end of the lower switchback of the horse trail, which is the Tungsten Road. The image below views the Southeastern descent of the PCT-Tungsten Road off Leavitt Peak from the treeline at top of Kennedy Canyon.

Our Kennedy Canyon perspective makes it clear that the foot trail is a much more direct route off the East flank of Leavitt Peak than the Tungsten Road.

In the middle distance of the image above we can see the flat between Kennedy Canyon to the East and Kennedy Lake to the West where the Kennedy Canyon trail junction is located. The Big Sam Massif rises on the South side of the Kennedy Canyon trail junction. Big Sam itself is the low rounded high point decorated with patches of snow in the distant background Right of the image above.

That's Big Sam!

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Below: Looking North at the Southern Flank of the Leavitt Massif

Tungsten Road-PCT
down the
Southeast Flank of Leavitt Massif
Pacific Crest Trail descends Southwest flak of Leavitt Peak.

There are a couple of lengths of the foot trail route coming down the South flank of Leavitt Peak that are degraded, steep, and a bit slippery at the top of the trail.

From the Kennedy Canyon trail junction below we can backpack South, West or East. North is at our back.

Mapping our View
PCT NORTH
PCT North
to
Sonora Pass
West
Kennedy Lake Map
PCT to TYT Link

PCT SOUTH
East by Compass

Kennedy Canyon
to
Dorothy Lake Pass
(also shows the route South
over Big Sam)


Trail Guide
South
to
TYT
Over Big Sam
to
TYT at Grizzly Peak
South
on
PCT
Down Kennedy Canyon
&
up to Dorothy Lake Pass
West
to
TYT
Down to Kennedy Lake
to
TYT above Kennedy Meadows

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Bird's Eye View of Kennedy Canyon trail junction options

We're hiking down the South flank of Leavitt Peak, but we're going to take a second to figure out our route options from up here before losing elevation and our high perspective.

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Heading down to the flat

Last bit of Tungsten Road down to Kennedy Canyon
Trail Junction
Tungsten Road PCT down to Kennedy Canyon trail junction.

Looking South at the Tungsten Road-Pacific Crest Trail down to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction beyond the switchbacks.
The Kennedy Canyon trail junction is located a few hundred yards past the bend in the trail.

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Looking Southeast
across
Kennedy Canyon

Kennedy Canyon running down to the West West Walker River
Kennedy Canyon from the North.

Kennedy Canyon viewed from the North while hiking down to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction from the South flank of Leavitt Peak. The Pacific Crest Trail runs East-West through Kennedy Canyon, turning right through its base to begin climbing for Dorothy Lake Pass.

Kennedy Canyon to Dorothy Lake Pass
USGS 15 min hiking map

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We can see the outline of the Tungsten Road carved along the base of the far mountainside past the flat on its way to climb Big Sam

Last Step South to Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction
Tungsten Road South of the Kennedy Canyon trail junction.

Looking South down the Pacific Crest Tail from our position hiking South down the Tungsten Road off the Southern flank of Leavitt Peak.

A low saddle South of Leavitt Peak separates Leavitt Peak from the Big Sam Massif to the South. Valleys dropping off both the Eastern and Western flanks of the Sierra descend from this flat between Sierra Crestline peaks.

Before us we see the low saddle dividing Kennedy Canyon running down the East flank from Kennedy Lake down the Western flank.
The Pacific Crest Trail turns Left dropping down Kennedy Canyon to the East. To the Right we can see the top of the valley holding Kennedy Lake and Kennedy Creek descending Westward.

South beyond the low saddle we can also see the Tungsten Road South of the Kennedy Canyon trail junction cutting across the base of distant facing mountain on its way to climb over Big Sam.

Big Sam is just out of sight off the Right edge of the image above.

Which way we proceed will depend on our hiking plan.

Emigrant Meadow Map

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Looking East Down Kennedy Canyon at the Southbound Pacific Crest Trail route

East Down Kennedy Canyon
Looking East down Kennedy Canyon.

Looking East down Kennedy Canyon.

Dropping down lower off the South flank of Leavitt we get a view straight down Kennedy Canyon.

This will be our route if we are hiking South on the Pacific Crest Trail. At the bottom of Kennedy Canyon the PCT turns Right to begin its climb up to the Yosemite boundary through the West Walker watershed.

The West and West West Walker Rivers run past the end of Kennedy Canyon.

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Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction

Crucial Trail Junction Backpacking Emigrant Wilderness
Kennedy Canyon trail junction.

Kennedy Canyon trail junction.

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  Backpacking Emigrant Wilderness
FROM
Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction
via these
Trail Guide Pages
 
North
PCT

Sonora Pass
to
Latopie Lake
South
PCT
(East by Compass)

Kennedy Canyon
to
Dorothy Lake Pass
South
to
TYT

Big Sam
into
Emigrant
West
to
TYT

Kennedy Lake
     
Backpacking Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Maps
Sonora Pass
to
Latopie Lake
Central Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Map
PCT to TYT
Kennedy Lake
to
Summit Creek

South
to the
North Yosemite Backcountry

Long Distance
Emigrant Wilderness Backpacker
Options

That's where all this hiking is leading us, by one route or another:
Into the North Yosemite Backcountry.

We are "funneling" into the top of Jack Main Canyon for our final run to
Tuolumne Meadows.

From the Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction we have two basic routes to get into the top of Jack Main Canyon in the furthest Northwestern corner of Yosemite National Park, where the routes of the PCT and TYT join for the remainder of our hike South to Tuolumne Meadows.

PCT
We can hike East (by the compass) down Kennedy Canyon Southbound along the Pacific Crest Trail. This route will turn us South at the bottom of Kennedy Canyon to begin the climb to and through Dorothy Lake Pass into the very top of Jack Main Canyon. We'll enter Yosemite by climbing out of the fine terrain of the watershed of the West Walker River under elusive views of Tower Peak, a very pretty hike indeed.

TYT
ALT-ROUTE
Our other option is to hike South over Big Sam on the Tungsten Road into the High Emigrant Basin and join up with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail in Grizzly Meadow under Grizzly Peak.

From Grizzly Meadow we continue South along the combined Tungsten Road-TYT to where the Tungsten Road turns South and the TYT climbs into Yosemite over Bond Pass just below the top of Jack Main Canyon, just a tad South of Dorothy Lake.

It's All Good
Both of these routes are amazing, not just for the unique beauties each brings us through, but also for the fantastic range of terrains and environments they encompass.
Over the years the beauties in and around the High Emigrant Wilderness have drawn me to stitch together elements of these two fine trails into a variety of long distance routes as I've hiked across the Emigrant Wilderness to points further South.

Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows
PCT Miles and Elevations
Kennedy Canyon to Jack Main Canyon
PCT to TYT Alternative Route
Miles and Elevations

The restrictions of even imaginative route-making on long distance backpacking trips induces us to return to explore Emigrant Wilderness through backpacking loops and trailhead to trailhead hiking arcs unconstrained by the demands of high-mileage long distance backpacking.

Emigrant Wilderness and the adjacent Toiyabe National Forest have more meaningful experience than I have time and energy.

It's
Bottomless
Once you get to know the trails and terrain the deeper patters of its seasonal characters becomes apparent. At that point each visit becomes like a visit between old friends, where each sees the changes within themselves through the changes in the other.
This clarity is possible because Emigrant Wilderness is a timeless window into the beating heart of nature and a mirror reflecting the spirit of all in its space.

I do hit bottom.
Generally after bouncing off the walls a few times on the way down... haha...

Such is the Human Conditon.

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Medium Distance
Emigrant Wilderness Backpacker Options

We can plan many medium distance backpacking loops from the various trailheads along Highway 108 (Sonora Pass, Leavitt Lakes, Leavitt Meadow, Kennedy Meadows) that can pivot on this Kennedy Canyon trail junction between Kennedy Canyon and Kennedy Lake. This low point along the Sierra Crestline allows us to carve out some pretty fine short-to-medium distance trailhead to trailhead routes around and across a Northern slice of the Emigrant Wilderness via the Kennedy Canyon trail junction.

Central Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Map

Some hiking trip options South from the Kennedy Canyon trail junction

West and West West Walker Rivers
Sonora Pass to Leavitt Meadow
Sonora Pass to Leavitt Meadow hikers
begin turning their horseshoe shaped route Eastward from here by dropping down to the bottom of Kennedy Canyon to the West West Walker River bridge.
From the WW Walker Bridge we can either hike East to, and follow the W Walker out of the mountains, or continue South on the PCT, or hike Southwest through Emigrant Pass to join up with the TYT in High Emigrant Basin under Grizzly Peak.

We can see how the configuration of trails and junctions here opens this place up.

More Options
West and West West Walker Rivers
From the bridge over the West West Walker River near the base of Kennedy Canyon we can turn East and Northeast either along the West West Walker, the Chain of Lakes, or hike a bit further East to the trail along the West Walker River.

The West West Walker and its trail along the Chain of Lakes both merge into the West Walker and its trail Northeast to Highway 108 through Leavitt Meadow. Both routes are really pretty!

This area surounding Walker Meadows to the North of the WW Walker Bridge up to the base of Kennedy Canyon and then East to the line of the Chain of Lakes contains a lot of terrain quite adequete for cross-country exploration. There are lots of abandoned trail routes and animal trails that probe most of this delightful little shelf of terrain.

Check this area out on the map below.

Explore this Unique Area
In any case these trails are really pretty, very quiet, and offer us local Emigrant Wilderness backpacking trips exploring this area along the West Walker river at the bottom of Kennedy Canyon that just exudes an aura of unique isolation and mystery.

I really neeed to get out there and explore more along the West West Walker below its bridge... This feeling of unique isolation in there continues down along the trails leading us down and out of the wilderness through Leavitt Meadow along Highway 108 at the base of the East Flank of the Sierra.

Like other Sierra Nevada Trailheads and Trails, this one through Leavitt Meadow up through Chain of Lakes to Walker Meadows and back to Kennedy Canyon can be busy during peak Summer holidays, but nothing like Yosemite or Desolation Wilderness.

Check the far East side of this map for a detailed view of this area:

Sonora Pass to Dorothy Lake Pass
Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking Map

I have not hiked from Leavitt Meadow to the PCT route at the West West Walker bridge for at least ten years. More accurately, I did a series of hikes out of Leavitt Meadow about 17 years ago to check out the West Walker River, the Chain of Lakes, and the trail up to Emigrant Pass along the West West Walker.
If you have information, insight, and more recent experience hiking between Leavitt Meadow up to the PCT at the WW Walker River Bridge, up to the TYT via Emigrant Pass, and how the Chain of Lakes looks, post it up on the Forum or Email me.

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But, as we are already so far in at the West West Walker River Bridge, it would be a shame not to turn South to follow the PCT route up past Lake Harriet, Stella Lake, and through Dorothy Pass Lake. We can get up to observe the great terrain of the Saurian Crest and Tower Peak while climbing up to the Toiyabe-Yosemite boundary along the Southbound PCT in the West Walker River's watershed.

It's very nice, and we can bend a loop back down to the West West Walker bridge over Bond Pass to hike back through Emigrant Pass...

Central Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Map

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Turning West From the Kennedy Canyon trail junction

Sonora Pass to Kennedy Meadows hikers will begin turning their horseshoe shaped route the other way, West from the Kennedy Canyon trail junction, towards Kennedy Meadows Pack Station via Kennedy Lake.

Last Turnaround Point for the Longest Backpacking Loops in Emigrant Wilderness

From Dorothy Lake Pass a short hike South down Jack Main Canyon along the PCT brings us to the trail junction leading Westward up to Bond Pass. This would be our turnaround point if we are circling back to complete a loop back to Sonora Pass, Kennedy Meadows, or Leavitt Meadow.

Once we hike North through Bond Pass our destination determines our trail selection.

The Next Levels South

Another option is to continue South over Big Sam from the Kennedy Canyon trail junction to pick up the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route at Grizzly Peak. From Grizzly Peak we can turn to the Northwest to hike a big arc from Sonora Pass to end our backpacking trip at the Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

As we can see, hiking South from Sonora Pass offers two levels of length for looping hikes. Our Southbound leg follows the Sierra Crest to turn North through one of three levels of trail junctions South of Sonora Pass.

The first level turn-around is through the Kennedy Canyon trail junction. The next level turns around through Grizzly Peak.
The furthest turnaround point is through Bond Pass. This gives us three levels, distances, or diameters of backpacking loops we can hike out of our Highway 108 trailheads.

At the top of Kennedy Canyon and at Grizzly Peak we encounter trails to both the Northwest and the Northeast. The trail Northwest is the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail heading down to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station via Summit Creek. The Northeast trail drops down the Eastern flank of the Sierra towards Leavitt Meadow via the West and West West Walker Rivers.

Once we get to Jack Main Canyon along either the PCT or TYT route we can only loop back towards Highway 108 on the other. Or continue South through the North Yosemite Backcountry to Tuolumne Meadows.

Central Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Map
Jack Main Canyon to Stubblefield Canyon
USGS 15 minute backpacking map

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We've essentially a series of loops of increasing size we can backpack around and through the spectacular beauties and amazingly diverse terrain of the Emigrant Wilderness. Well, as long as we don' t mind dipping into a bit of the Toiyabe National Forest and Yosemite National Park along the outer limits of our bigger backpacking loops.

Sonora Pass

Hiking loops and trailhead to trailhead hiking trips South from Sonora Pass allows us to plan trips that can explore trails along the Sierra crest as well as the Eastern and Western Flanks of the Sierra from the Yosemite boundary to Highway 108.

These are fantastic short-to-long distance backpacking loop and trailhead to trailhead trips around and across the Emigrant Wilderness and Toiyabe National Forest. Stunning trips, really. I recently (July 2012) put together a 90 mile trip beginning and ending at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

Map Words
I hiked the TYT route South to Mosquito Pass, then visited Maxwell Lake on the way through Horse Meadow to Snow Lake. Crossing Bond Pass I picked up the Northbound PCT route to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction, where I continued West back to the TYT via Kennedy Lake. It was a real gas.

Southbound hikers out of Sonora Pass can take either route South from the Kennedy Canyon trail junction (PCT or the Tungsten Road over Big Sam to TYT at Grizzly Peak) and end up in the same place at the top of Jack Main Canyon in Yosemite, though through completely different terrains.

On the trail guide continuing below I've laid out Trail Guide pages hiking all of these route options.

We can spend years exploring the Emigrant Wilderness...

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Emigrant Wilderness backpacking loops.

North PCT: Sonora Pass to Latopie Lake                South PCT: Kennedy Canyon to Dorothy Lake Pass   
South to TYT
:
Big Sam into Emigrant
                    West to TYT: Kennedy Lake

Latopie Lake
to
Kennedy Canyon

Latopie Lake

to the

Kennedy Canyon Trail Junction

The Kennedy Canyon trail junction is just another trail junction for long distance backpackers along the Pacific Crest Trail route South towards Yosemite, yet it is also a critical trail junction for local backpackers hiking long circle routes or trailhead to trailhead trips around or across the Emigrant Wilderness, respectively.

From the Kennedy Canyon trail junction trails emanate in all four directions. North to Sonora Pass along the Northbound Pacific Crest Trail. West to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail a couple of miles South of Kennedy Meadows via Kennedy Lake. South into the heart of the Emigrant Wilderness to join up with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail at Grizzly Peak via Big Sam. East by the compass hiking Southbound on the PCT down Kennedy Canyon.

We can get to the Kennedy Canyon trail junction from all the "nearby" Highway 108 trailheads, being Leavitt Meadow, Sonora Pass, and Kennedy Meadows. Thus we can bend our route through the Kennedy Canyon trail junction to end our hiking trip at any of the other Highway 108 trailheads along the Sierra Crest and both flanks.

Check out the maps, miles and elevations, and trail guide pages linked to below to plan your long distance backpacking trip through Emigrant Wilderness along the Pacific Crest & Tahoe to Yosemite Trails, or shorter backpacking trips hooking these trails up to remain within Emigrant Wilderness.

 

Maps-Miles
&
Guide Pages

MAPS

7.5
Topo Hiking Map

Sonora Pass
to
Dorothy Lake Pass


7.5
Topo Hiking Map

Kennedy Canyon
to
Bond Pass PCT & TYT


30 min
Topo Hiking Maps
Sonora Pass
to
Bensen Lake

Sonora Pass
Region Map



Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows
Miles and Elevations


Trail Guide Pages
North
PCT

Sonora Pass
to
Latopie Lake
South
PCT

Kennedy Canyon
to
Dorothy Lake Pass
South
to
TYT

Big Sam
into
Emigrant
West
to
TYT

Kennedy Lake

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Scroll up to view PCT route North to Latopie Lake from the kennedy Canyon trail junction

This Trail Guide Hikes North to South

If you are hiking South to North then you may want to inspect these pages from the bottom up.

I'm experimenting with linking to the bottom of each Northbound Page to simplify use for Northbound hikers.

What do you think?

Backpacking Trail Guide

PCT
North
Sonora Pass
to
Latopie Lake

PCT
South

Kennedy Canyon
to
Dorothy Lake Pass

Compass and map directions are the best.

Backpacking Trail Guide

South
to
TYT

Big Sam
into
Emigrant
and the
TYT

West
to
TYT
Kennedy Lake

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Forum Section
Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows
Forum Segment
Latopie Lake to Kennedy Canyon
trailhead
Contact
Alex Wierbinski

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