Long and Short
Southern Carson Iceberg Wilderness
TYT-PCT Linking Trails
I've focused some attention on the four trails linking the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route with the Pacific Crest Trail route as we've hiked South through the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.
They are, from North to South, the Highland Creek, Arnot Creek, Disaster Creek, and Boulder Lake trails.
This 2.74 mile long trail from the Boulder Lake junction on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail along the Clarks fork of the Stanislaus to the Boulder Lake junction on the Pacific Crest Trail above the East Carson River is the Southernmost and shortest of these four trails.
All of these trails can be used to craft beautiful backpacking loops tying together sections of both the Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trails.
Loops Using Both the PCT and TYT
Start with a Scouting Trip
A good way to explore the Southern Carson Iceberg Wilderness is to hike in through Clarks Fork Trailhead to the campsite at Boulder Creek.
From there we can easily day hike as far as we are comfortable South up the deteriorating TYT route upstream along the Clarks Fork, or we can hike East up to the PCT via Boulder Lake. Both trails are unmaintained beyond a certain point as of 2012, and conditions will change with the seasons over time.
This Southern end of the Carson Iceberg Wilderness offers some nice backpacking loop possibilities.
Exciting Southern Carson Iceberg Backpacking Loops
Hiking South down the TYT out of the last trailhead at the end of the Clarks Fork Road offers limited but interesting backpacking loop options to the South. But South's not our only option. We can hike either Southern or Northern loops out of the South end of the Carson Iceberg Wilderness.
The Southbound Loop
We basically have one possible Southbound loop out of the Clarks Fork Trailhead. We hike South to "thread the needle" by looping through both the Saint Marys and Sonora Pass Trailheads.
We connect the PCT to Sonora Pass with the TYT to Saint Marys Pass through the Boulder Lake Trail.
This high and hard Saint Marys Pass to Sonora Pass loop is 23 miles. We can start it from the Clarks Fork Trailhead at the end of the Clarks Fork Road or from the Saint Marys or Sonora Pass trailheads on Highway 108, depending on which direction we hike it.
Carson Iceberg Wilderness
30 minute USGS topo map
We have a variety of Northbound loops out of the Clarks Fork Trailhead. We can hike up to the PCT via Boulder Lake and turn North to return through one of the two Disaster Creek trail junctions along the PCT. We can continue North on the PCT past the Disaster Creek trails to circle back around through trails further to the Northwest, such as the Arnot and Highland Creek trails.
Continuing North on the PCT past the Disaster Creek trail brings us to Wolf Creek Pass, where we can access the top ends of both Disaster and Arnot Creek trails, as well as the Gardner Meadow Trailhead off the Highland Lakes Road.
How we hike back to our starting trailhead determines the nature and length of our custom Northbound backpacking loops beginning out of the Southern Carson Iceberg Wilderness.
The Carson Iceberg Wilderness really is covered by an amazing web of trails.
Loopy with Maps
These two maps below lay out both the classic Saint Marys Pass to Sonora Pass Loop as well as our basic options turning North on the PCT through Boulder Lake and coming back through Disaster or Arnot Creeks:
Central Carson Iceberg Wilderness Loops
Two of these trails, the Arnot and Disaster Creek Trails have trailheads directly accessible from the Clarks Fork Road. Thus we can hike a medium sized backpacking loop out of the Arnot Creek Trailhead that return to the Clarks Fork Road via Disaster Creek at 18.3 miles. (Including the 4.17 miles along the Clarks Fork Road that separates these two trailheads.)
Or we can turn Southwest at the top of the Arnot Creek Trail to return to the Arnot Creek Trailhead via Highland Creek and Jenkins Canyon. This trip runs about 25 miles.
The Highland Creek Trail itself begins from the Silver Valley Trailhead on the East side of Lake Alpine near Highway 4. Starting backpacking loops out of and returning to the Silver Valley Trailhead using both the Pacific Crest and Tahoe to Yosemite Trails along with a selection of our four connecting trails can vary from between 45.25 to 79 miles, depending on where we decide to turn around and loop back to the Silver Valley Trailhead.
Both the Arnot and Disaster Creek Trails link up with the Pacific Crest Trail just Northeast of Upper Gardner Meadow at Wolf Creek Pass via Lower Gardner Meadow. The Disaster Creek Trail also connects with the Pacific Crest Trail at Golden Canyon.
Half-way up the Disaster Creek Trailhead to Upper Gardner Meadow a trail turns East to bend through Paradise Valley between Arnot and Disaster Peaks to connect with the Pacific Crest Trail at Golden Canyon.
Hiking South from Wolf Creek Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail coming up from either the Arnot or Disaster Creek Trailheads allows us to loop back to the Disaster Creek Trail through the Pacific Valley trail at the top of Golden Canyon.
We also have the option of continuing South along the Pacific Crest Trail past Golden Canyon to the Boulder Lake trail junction, where we can quickly drop Southwest off of the Sierra Crest down this short trail to the Boulder Lake trail junction and the TYT located 2.56 miles down the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus River from the Clarks Fork Trailhead at the end of the Clarks Fork Road.
The Bottom Line
The Carson Iceberg Wilderness offers a treasure-trove of hiking loops big and small from the trailheads that ring this interlocked web of trails. Time, money, fitness, and a lack of imagination are your only limits.
These limits keep 99% of people off of these trails.
Check out this 30 minute hiking topo map of the Carson Iceberg Wilderness that marks out these fantastic backpacking loops. Click the RED DOTS along the trails to see that particular trail guide page and the associated maps and miles information for that area. Click the BLACK DOT trail routes for detailed maps of that area.
You can navigate these maps and guide pages North to Meeks Bay along both the TYT and PCT, or follow either trail South to Tuolumne Meadows.