Hiking Lake Alpine to Rock Lake, Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, Stanislaus National Forest

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 09 December 2011

Hiking Lake Alpine to Rock Lake, Backpacking the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, Stanislaus National Forest.

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, south through Silver Valley Trailhead into Carson Iceberg Wilderness, Stanislaus National Forest.

We continue South through the Silver Valley-Highland Creek Trailhead.

Before clear trail South to Rock Lake we have to navigate the series of trail junctions defining the Duck Lake Loop.

Duck Lake from the West.

We can hike either way around Duck Lake. The view above is from the West. Once we decide which route, and hike around Duck Lake, we have a single trail to the North Fork of the Stanislaus River.

Crossing the boulders and passing by the big campsite on the North side of the North Fork of the Stanislaus River we begin a moderate ascent the soon enters a spooky old burned zone.

 Burned forest between North Stanislaus River and Rock Lake, Carson Iceberg Wilderness.
 In the guide I  reported the route South from the North Stanislaus River to Rock Lake as degraded, composed of bits of degraded trail, unmaintained segments, and even some of the old trail degraded into route-status. (trail definitions

These degraded conditions continue intermittently South of Rock Lake to where our trail comes to overlook Spicer Meadow Reservoir.

The trail is all good South of that point, with maybe a bit of faded conditions in Jenkins Canyon next.

Trail Guide Resources

Trail Guide Page
Hiking Lake Alpine to Rock Lake

Video and Trail Guide:
"Heavy Brush and Fallen Trees"

Topo Hiking Map
Duck Lake to Spicer Meadow Reservoir

Miles and Elevations
Lake Alpine to Saint Marys Pass

Resupply Page
Lake Alpine, Bear Valley, and Arnold

Permit Information
Stanislaus National Forest

This page was created for your input, and supplemental information about the TYT between the Silver Valley Trailhead and Rock Lake.

 The backpacker input below well updates the status of this segment of trail:

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Thanks for the update Glenn.

The person to get a-hold of will be the Trails Ranger of the Stanislaus National Forest.

I figure they have that trail on a long-range maintenance schedule. They did a bunch of work on the North Shore of Spicer a few years ago, and I've always figured they would work their way North to Lake Alpine, eventually.

If not, you will get this section of trail on their work list!

Keep us posted as to what you find out from the FS.

Happy Trails, (or route-finding!)


Alex Wierbinski

Just to let you know I sent a letter to the Forest Service a week or so ago with my experience on this trail south of the North Fork.

Another hiker I met on this trail went a little farther than I did and found the conditions very challenging and turned around. I saw a few other things on a couple of the trails starting from CA 4 and noted them in my letter.

If I hear anything back I'll pass it along. Hope to get out there again next year.

Good Day!

I hiked a segment of this trail on September 26th.

Although I had stopped and talked to the ranger at Alpine Station, it sounded like this route was walkable to the south of the Stanislaus crossing but potentially for the lost (!?).

Once I crested about half-hour south of the river crossing the trail finding became quite a challenge and decided to turn around. Too much brush, small trees and some good size trunks across the trail. The trail maps and the sign at the trailhead seem to indicate otherwise.

I'm going to drop a note to the USFS because I think this looked like a pretty good route and needs some attention to keep it in use beyond the river.

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Hey KC,

Your point is well taken. The gap between expectation and reality is the doorway to trouble.

All indications are the Highland Trail was heavily used at one time.

I am thinking that the future trajectory of trail maintenance is going to be directly tied to the budget, the economy, and I am not real optimistic about that.

Thus I think we are going to see a growing number of maintained trails that are put on such long maintenance schedules that they might as well be marked as unmaintained.

The Stanislaus National Forest is huge, and its trail maintenance dollars seem to be thinly spread.


Alex Wierbinski
Alex Wierbinski's picture

Repeated hiker experiences have confirmed a change in status for this segment of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail South of the North Fork of the Stanislaus River to Rock Lake.

The burned section has degraded beyond unmaintained down to "route" status.

That fire was over 25 years ago. I believe the truncated growth since then is a testament to our drying times.

Nonetheless, the last time I went through here in Oct of 2011 I found very subtle signs of the old trail decorating the route, but very hard to find.

My buddy Ari was exasperated!

This segment is rapidly moving to being promoted to a third segment of unmaintained trail along the route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Thanks for your updates!!!

Keep them coming!

Just to stir the pot a bit, do you folks think this degradation of trail should be incorporated into part of the "challenge" of the TYT, or should be repaired?


Trail Definitions

Alex Wierbinski

My two cents' worth is that routefinding challenges are always good fun. But exploring the Clark Fork basin and the Mokelumne River canyon are higher quality adventures than wandering around in a burn zone trying to find the trail.

So if someone wanted to clear some of the downfall, it wouldn't bother me. When we were in the Clark Fork drainage, we ran into a woman who was a member of Backcountry Horsemen. We suggested to her that the Alpine-Spicer Meadow Reservoir stretch might be a good candidate if her group was looking for a trail project, but I'm not sure she understood where we were talking about.

Wilderness Volunteers might be a good option too, especially because of their work nearby in the Summit City Creek/Mokelumne River area. Different national forest, but I'm sure the Eldorado NF people could put in a good word with the Stanislaus NF people.

All of this would be subject to Stanislaus NF thinking that working on this trail is a high enough priority, as the NF would probably assign a ranger to supervise any group working on the trail; that's been my experience on Wilderness Volunteers trips in other national forests or parks.

I don't mind a challenge, but it would be nice for some of the trails indicated on Forest Service maps to be cleaned up.

As an avid hiker/backpacker, I feel the opportunities for cross-country travel experiences abound. Most peaks are cross-country experiences without defined trails.

When popular car camping locations, such as Lake Alpine, have kiosks noting defined trails that are actually anything but, that's when unfortunate incidents can occur.

That all being said, my loop south of Lake Alpine to Spicer overlook and back through Elephant Rock Lake was a tough but fun adventure.

Did a loop south of Lake Alpine as an overnighter August 30-31st, 2015.

The trail to Rock Lake from the east shore of Duck Lake and down to Spicer overlook was in very poor condition.

Tons of tree fall and little evidence of trail maintenance. We lost the trail several times. The alignment on the USGS topo is nonexistent in areas; it's completely overgrown.

When we stopped by the Lake Alpine Resort after our trip, the store clerk said they warn people away from going that way. Conditions from Elephant to Duck Lake were a lot better for sure.

Just want to give you a quick update.

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Summer 2015

Johnny reported faint trail conditions along segments of the TYT South of Lake Alpine to Spicer Meadow Reservoir, especially South of the North Stanislaus River.

Johnny's 2015 TYT REPORT
Rough Trail South of Lake Alpine

Alex Wierbinski
Alex Wierbinski's picture

This is what I wrote after a backpacking trip that crossed through the burned area from North Stanislus River to where we can overlook Spicer Meadow Reservoir, October 2011:

"I had to really pay attention to follow traces of the trailbed through too many sections to recount. The trail was gone crossing all meadows and sections of moving soil. Gone. Meadows and moving soil eat trailbed, as you know.

The last two year's heavy Winter snows and late Spring snowpacks have degraded the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail across these surfaces, and fallen trees have not been cut for a couple of years. No big deal. The faint trail is easily followable, though it causes a bit more pondering time and a bit more work."

Also See: Carson Iceberg Loop

Alex Wierbinski
Alex Wierbinski's picture

Trail Conditions Update.

I got a report from Peter about conditions along the TYT early in the 2014 hiking season:


Peter also reported that the burned section South of the North fork of the Stanislaus River to Rock Lake presented some problems due to fallen burned snags and degraded trail.

Keep Your Eyes Open through here!

Thanks to Peter for the update.

Anyone else hiked from the North Stanislaus to Spicer Meadow Reservior after June of 2014? Post up what you experienced.

Alex Wierbinski

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