Tree, Poison Flat, Carson Iceberg Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your Backpacking Guide to the High Sierras Yellow Flower
Highway 50 in the dark.
Crossing Highway 50 in the dark


The Trails



Weather Conditions

Weather Notes

Northern High Sierras

Central High Sierras

Southern High Sierras



Gear List

Gear Forum

Gettin Started


Testing yourself and your gear

Gear Reviews


top of page

Backpacking Camp Highway 50: It's Dark!  Campsite #3

Hiking between Lower Echo Lake to Echo Summit, The Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trails





Trail Prep

The art of walking

Physical Preperation


Trail Skills

The trail
Off the trail
Camp skills






Photo Catagories

Trail Stories

Trail Culture

News and Science




Terms and Conditions of Use





top of page

Trail guide section index

To Echo Lake

South To Echo Summit

Topo Map

Topo map

maps index

miles & elevations Miles & Elevations Index Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Local Weather

All Sierra Weather
forest-wilderness Permits
all pages

Last Steps of Day 3
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Hiking across Highway 50

After a long day hiking South through the Desolation Wilderness from Fontanillis Lake, I began to run out of daylight between the South end of Desolation Wilderness and the North side of the Meiss Country Roadless Area.

I decided to push on as far as I could before complete darkness ended my hiking day. Then I took a minor injury.

Twilight ended a short ways South of where the combined Pacific Crest, Tahoe to Yosemite, and Tahoe Rim trails cross Highway 50.

Don't let this happen to you. I'm an idiot. I could have staged up at Tamarack Lake North of Upper Echo Lake. I wanted to squeeze out as many miles as possible, and I knew I could get water, if with difficulty, where the outflow from Echo Lakes drained into the American River. So I pushed ahead.

It turned out that the American had dried out way up here, the beginning of the flow had retreated down-mountain. This "retreat" of the tops of rivers and drainages down the mountain always happens during late-Summer into Fall and Winter, earlier during dry years and later during wet, up and down the High Sierra Crest Trails.

I was lucky the water managers had opened up the Echo Lakes.

Transition from Desolation to Meiss Roadless Area


Echo Lake to Echo Summit
15 minute backpacking Map
 Meiss Country Roadless Area
15 minute backpacking Map

Miles and Elevations

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations
Echo Summit to Carson Pass
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

comments or questions?

The Tahoe to Yosemite, Pacific Crest, and Tahoe Rim trails
on the
South side of Highway 50
  After we cross Highway 50 southbound we walk about 30 yards East towards Echo Summit along Highway 50 to this sign.  
  Pacific Crest Trail Sign, South side of Highway 50, just East of Little Norway  
This sign marks the dirt road pictured below.
Pacific Crest Trail road on South side of Hwy 50 Trail turns Left 50' down road
Above: Hike about a 100 feet down this dirt road, then turn Left at the trail markers where the dirt road turns Right. The road terminates further down along Highway 50. A trail breaks off to the Southwest to the top of the highest local peak, the peak to the South of Echo Summit. Above: Trail marker indicating where the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail backpacker turns left at the trail where the dirt road bends Right.
Pacific Crest Trail South side of Highway 50 Wound taken making ford

Trail marker in tree indicating where the PCT backpacker turns left off the dirt road.

This trail parallels Highway 50 East up to Echo Summit.

Root gouge from fording mishap. Whoops.


top of page

Final Loading
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail Pack

16 days unresupplied to Tuolumne Meadows.
Three days off along the way.

Al Camp, Night 3 on the PCT

At the tiny emergency "throw-down" backpacking camp about 100 feet up the trail East of the dirt road.

It is a camp because I camped there.

Note the two large food bags in front of my pack. The Garcia bear-proof canister is already inside the pack, above the sleeping bag.

The two huge food bags will be firmly secured to the outside of the pack. No bounce.
The top compartment of the pack has insulation and cooking gear. The bottom compartment holds the Garcia, which fits perfectly.

The external food bags are securely attached to the frame and slung low on the pack to keep the center of gravity low and controllable.

Fully Loaded Pack

Trail Skills: Backpack Lashing System


Echo Lake Trailhead to Echo Summit

Desolation Wilderness ended on the North side of Upper Echo Lake, but the Lake Tahoe Basin Administrative Unit continues to the Carson Gap, the very point where we step South out of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

The Meiss Roadless Area, AKA Meiss Country, begins South of Echo Summit and runs all the way up to the Carson Gap.

Echo Lake to Echo Summit

Lake Level
7414' feet.

 Top of rise between Echo Lake and Echo Summit
7610 feet.

Highway 50 crossing
7200 feet

Echo Summit trailhead
7380 feet

Highway 50 Crossing
29.71 miles South of the Meeks Bay Trailhead.
1 mile North to the Echo Lake Trailhead.
1 mile South to Echo Summit Trailhead.


mileages and elevations


Camp Notes
Arriving Highway 50

On South Side of Highway 50, 35 yards up trail after turning left off the dirt road towards Echo Summit.

I found a nice flat spot big enough for my pad and Sleeping bag.

Late September @ 6:42 pm or so

before Sunset: Mid-50's

No weather, no mosquitoes: no tent

"or so" note: I record the Sunrise/Sunset times, the time of the transit of the Sun, and the Moon Phases for the day each trip begins as the header of my journal.

This allows me to use the Sun as a compass and a clock.

The times above reflect the time of the start day of the trip. In fact, each day the Sunset and Sunrise change, so my accuracy diminishes. The rate of change is up to a minute a day for both Sunrise and Sunset.

Astronomical Information

Morning 4, Highway 50 just North of Echo Summit

Girded Rock
Natural decor: Rock trussed up by shrub at my little backpacking camp.
Happy Alex, Day 4 Rock and Brush
Happy Camper. Not the best camping spot, but sweet nonetheless. Looking forward to the day! Rock and plant detail.

North: Echo Lake to Echo Summit 2                                                        South: Highway 50 to Echo Summit

Emergency Camp by Highway 50

It was a brief hike South down to Highway 50 after my almost disastrous ford. On my immediate right (West) at the Pacific Crest Trail junction with Highway 50 is Little Norway.
Little Norway has undergone numerous transitions through the decades. Long ago it had food and rooms for travelers, and pretended to be a Winter Resort. Now it appears to be a unique community of people renting rooms and maybe apartments in the disheveled structure.

Between Little Norway and the Pacific Crest Trail on the North side of Highway 50 sits the raging torrent of the very same creek that I had almost fallen into minutes before. The creek runs into a rock lined culvert that passes under Highway 50 into the South Fork of the American River.

Its flow is determined by the operation of the flood gate at the Lower Echo Lake dam. It was a raging torrent the evening I passed by.

It was now completely dark, but on the positive side I now knew where I was going to get water. Now I just had to figure out where I could throw down my pad and sleeping bag.

I crossed to the South side of Highway 50 and proceeded East along the shoulder for the brief walk to the Southbound Pacific Crest Trail marker posted at the junction of a dirt road and Highway 50. About 100 feet down this road our Pacific Crest/Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route turns Left off of the dirt road to parallel Highway 50 Eastbound up to the Echo Summit trailhead.

About 100 feet up the trail I noted a small flat shelf in the forest floor debris to my immediate left off the trail. It was also equipped with a nice little granite boulder that I could use as a backrest. Perfect. This would be where I would spend night 3.

Because it was so late in the season, the American River, here a little creek running along the South side of Highway 50 down from its headwaters at Echo Summit, was not flowing. I hung my two big bags of food on the trees at the trail junction with the dirt road, pulled the Garcia bear canister out of the pack, and set off for the big creek from Echo Lakes next to Little Norway to fill my water jug so I could make dinner and filter some fresh water.

I sure would have liked to camp at a better site. But sometimes this is how things work out when you are pressing hard on the trail, and you have to make due. I knew this would happen as I constantly stopped to meet other backpackers along the trail throughout the day, took detours to chase interesting bugs, and stopped to take pictures for this trail guide.

No big deal.

Tomorrow morning we will have a very short hike up to the Echo Summit trail head.


Topo Hiking Map: Echo Lake South              Topo hiking Map: Echo Lake to Echo Summit
Miles and Elevations

North: Highway 50 to Echo Summit

Backpacking Trail Guide


Echo Lake
Echo Summit 2

Compass index for trail guide directions.

Backpacking Trail Guide


Highway 50
Echo Summit

Backpacker Forums

Have a great Sierra Nevada route or trip to relate?

Post it on: TahoetoWhitney.Org

Echo Lake: What's your favorite trip through this region?
Add your experiences, comments, or pictures about the trail crossing Highway 50:
Section: Meeks to Echo
Segment: Highway 50 camp

North: Echo Lake to Echo Summit 2                                                        South: Highway 50 to Echo Summit

Home Page

Alex Wierbinski

top of page

Frosted Backpack

Backpacking Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney

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

Snug tent after Snow Storm
© Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Crown Jewel of the Pacific Crest Trail