Highland Lakes and its car campground are served by a fine dirt road coming Southeast out from Highway 4 just a bit West of Ebbetts Pass. Check out the ROAD MAP.
This road gives us access to a set of trailheads and trails located just West of the route of the PCT and maybe ten miles Northeast of the route of the TYT. These are fine access points for local backpackers to areas near and on the Sierra Crestline which also gives day hikers and car campers excellent access to a remote segment of the Sierra Crest to observe and explore.
Long Distance Hikers
This map depicts where I suggest that you consider merging your Tahoe to Yosemite route with a bit of the Pacific Crest Trail as you hike one or the other across the Carson Iceberg Wilderness.
Or visa-versa. The best route is the best route no matter which direction you hike it. From Highland Lakes the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail is to our South, the Pacific Crest Trail to our Northeast.
The reason for tying the TYT and PCT routes together through Highland Lakes is simple: just a bit further North of Lake Alpine on Highway 4 the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail between Carson Pass through the North Mokelumne River and Summit City Creek is not to be missed, in my opinion. It is a beautiful route. This section also contains a long section of unmaintained trail.
On the other hand, the section of the Pacific Crest Trail through the East Fork of the Carson River from Wolf Creek Pass to Sonora Pass is also especially beautiful. Humm, OK, my question is how can we pull this off? On one hike? A few hikes? Many many backpacking trips...
My simple solution is to stitch these sections together via the Highland Creek trail. The Highland Creek trail parts from the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail just to the Northeast of Spicer Meadow Reservoir at the Jenkins Canyon trail junction. We must understand that we have a menu of route selections backpacking across the length of the Carson Iceberg Wilderness.
This is a little bit of backpacker heaven. So I got a little bit of map here depicting it's heart, or Hub of Trails...
On Down the Trail
Independent of your goal, be it Sonora Pass or Saint Marys Pass on Highway 108, the vast majority of Southbound backpackers are going to pick up a resupply package at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station. After hitching a ride 9 miles West to Kennedy Meadows from Sonora Pass, Southbound backpackers have another vexing choice: either continue South on the Tahoe to Yosemite trail hiking South out of Kennedy Meadows, or catch a ride back up to the Sonora Pass to continue South on the Pacific Crest Trail from there. Easy Money, Honey.
These all look like good options to me...
Your route through the High Sierra Nevada Mountains has many options that only time on trail will clarify. Highland Lakes can be a start point for great hiking loops around the Carson Iceberg Wilderness using both the PCT and TYT routes, or you may just be hiking by, connecting up these two beautiful trails around the Carson Iceberg.
Rather than exclusively following either the Tahoe to Yosemite or the Pacific Crest Trail, Highland Lakes is one of the connectors trails you can use to stitch together custom parts of each trail to craft your own unique route between Tahoe and Whitney.
We will continue to discuss the various trail options as we hike South. If you have any questions or comments, don't hesitate to contact me. I'll have all of these maps, as well as the trail guide pages, linked to a forum where you can soon leave your bits of wisdom about this section.