Jenkins Canyon to Highland Lakes: Highland Creek TYT to PCT

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 14 March 2012

Hiking off the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail up Highland Creek to the Pacific Crest Trail brings us through two fairly remote trailheads at Highland Creek and Gardner Meadow.

These trailheads have fairly remote access through a dirt road.

We have hiked 18 miles from Lake Alpine South on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail to get here. We continued up Highland Creek rather than climb Jenkins Canyon to Arnot Creek just above where it empties into the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus River.

Backpacking to the top of Highland Creek we have come to Highland Lakes and its dirt road.

Highland Lakes is served by a well-maintained high-quality dirt road. The Highland Lakes road is located off of Highway 4 just West of Ebbetts Pass. Highland Lakes also has a small self-registration car campground.

Jenkins Canyon trail junction on the TYT to Highland Lakes Trailhead: 6.46 miles.
Lake Alpine to Jenkins Canyon on the TYT: 11.38 miles.
Jenkins Canyon to Arnot Ck Trailhead off Clarks Fork Road: 7.48

The Jenkins Canyon trail junction is located a short ways above the far Northeastern end of Spicer Meadow Reservoir and its fine campsites.

8613 feet at Highland Lakes Trailhead
6880 feet at Jenkins Canyon. 

For hikers South out of Highland Creek Trailhead down Highland Creek to the Jenkins Canyon trail junction, which way you turn there determines if we are hiking South into the Clarks Fork watershed off of Highway 108 or will be turning North on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail towards Lake Alpine on Highway 4, remaining in the drainage of the North Fork of the Stanislaus River.

Highland Lakes Trailhead Northeast to the PCT at Wolf Creek Pass via Gardner Meadow:
3.27 miles.

Hikers coming up Highland Creek from Jenkins Canyon to link up with the PCT will hike down the dirt road past the Highland Lakes through the Gardner Meadow Trailhead. Just past the trailhead we find trails branchng off North on the PCT, South down Arnot and Disaster Creeks, East down Elder Creek, and Southeast down the Pacific Crest Trail.

Take your pick!

The best map to put these options into a broad context is the
Carson Iceberg Wilderness Backpacking Map.

Click the black dots for detailed maps, the red dots to link to the trail guide page for that location.

Have you hiked up or down Highland Creek's canyon? Do you have advice, campsite information, scrambling experience?

This is the forum to supplement  the Highland Creek trail guide page, for your questions, comments and experiences all add to our trail knowledge.


Trail Guide Information

Jenkins Canyon to Highland Lakes Trailhead

Local Topo Hiking Map


Highland Lakes Backpacking Map

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail Topo Hiking Map


Miles and Elevations

This page is for supplementary information for the guide composed of your comments, questions, and supplemental information!

Map embed: 
Alex Wierbinski's picture

I got a nice email from George and Sue on April 7 2013 about their hike down Highland Creek from Highland Lake to Spicer Meadow Reservoir, and I believe they exited the Wilderness on the East Shore of Lake Alpine. I could be wrong about the exit point... might have been Elephant Rock.

There is a segment where the trail gets diffuse above the above the upper ford. Here's what George had to say:

"Great hike! We made it overnight, camped at Spicer. First day easy hike down but lost the trail at the big rock wash, found the hard way we should have stayed to the right of the wash. We found the best camp on the lake!

It's a little hard to describe how to get to it but if you find one of our camps you will know, because our pile of "bear rocks" will be by the tent site( I've read your tips).

Thanks George and Sue!

Check out their notes about another fine backpacking trip in the same region:

Bull Run Lake

Alex Wierbinski

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