Scott's Summit City Creek Trail Report June 2014

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 15 May 2019


An excellent way to approach the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail is as a section hiker. This is how Scott, his hiking partner Rich, and their backcountry hiking dog Melika approached the difficult Carson Pass to Lake Alpine section of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Carson Pass
Scott Rich and Melika begin their TYT section South out of Carson Pass.

Mokelumne Wilderness Backpacking Map

Scott and Rich executed this TYT section hike early in the hiking season. Despite the drought conditions and earlier Spring Thaws a late May hiking trip is still early in the backpacking season.

Hitting the Snow at Frog Lake
Melika digging the snow with Frog Lake in the background.

  High water levels in the river fords, the potential for extensive snow covering the trail, and the much more unpredictable weather during early Spring brings makes Spring a challenging time to hike an already challenging trail.

Climbing from Winnemucca to Round Top Lakes
Up to Round Top through the Snow with Winnemucca Lake in background.

The seasonal timing factors of snow and runoff add to the basic route finding challenge of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail between Carson Pass and Lake Alpine. The middle 9.52 miles of the roughly 26.28 miles of this section are across unmaintained trail. 
 This unmaintained segment runs from the Summit City Canyon trail junction below Fourth of July Lake South to Camp Irene along the North Fork of the Mokelumne River.

Summit City over Mount Reba Backpacking Map

Thanks to Scott and Rich for sharing this information about Spring travel on the Carson Pass to Lake Alpine section of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. Here's Steve's note with some resources appended.

Thanks for all of your help and suggestions concerning the TYT section from
Carson Pass to Lake Alpine. All of it was very helpful and we allotted enough time to
experience this beautiful country on our second foray into the wilderness.

Snow Conditions
We ran into a quite a bit of snow at Carson Pass through Round Top but very
little after 4th of July Lake until we hit Mt. Reba. Even then snow was not
a problem until we got to the very top near the cornice.

Route Finding

Summit City. We got off the trail several times but, again, would have missed some great views of the area (cascading waterfalls on granite boulders) that were fantastic! If you keep heading downstream you will eventually meet up with the trail. 

The trail was a challenge in many ways. Staying the course was an on-going
 issue below the Upper Ford. We got off the trail early but got to see some
fantastic cascading waterfalls along the SCC through some granite open area.
Oh, and one of these days we can talk about our Camp Siren (upstream from
Camp Irene) that gave us a view of an incredible granite gorge leading down
to the Camp Irene crossing.


(Alex note: "Camp Siren" is in the toe of the boot-shaped forest between the lower ford of Summit City Creek and Camp Irene. See the map: Summit City Canyon  to Camp Irene and the Lower Ford of Summit City Creek  to Camp Irene trail guide page.) 

And the crossings were all interesting. The Upper Ford was a no-go at the 
boulder channel. The water had submerged some of the rocks even in the AM
and was running very fast.
We ended up further downstream after cheking upstream where a tougher climb our of the far side of the creek pursuaded us to look downstream. We found a good fording location downstream with a sandy bottom, only a few slick rocks and no more than chest high water in the deepest channel.
 It also had a huge eddy on the far side for someone to hang out and help when needed. Rich, the dog and I all made it without a hitch! The plastic bags helped a lot.

The Lower Ford of Summit City Creek was a bit hard to find and we ended up using a downed tree to make the crossing. No big deal.

Chaos along the channel of Summit City Creek at its Lower Ford
Jumble of terrain approaching Lower Summit City Creek Ford.

The Mokelumne River Crossing at Camp Irene was actually tougher as there is a very deep channel (where the water runs at low volumes most of the year) and, again we had to find a tree. It worked out fine.

North Mokelumne River Ford at Camp Irene, with backpacking dog...
North Mokelumne River ford at Camp Irene.

Guide Pages

Upper ford of Summit City Creek

Down to the Lower ford of Summit City Creek

North Mokelumne River ford at Camp Irene

Climbing Reba
The hike out of the valley was a beast. At one point we lost the trail and
bush wacked some crazy manzanita only to scale a big rock outcropping to see
the trail a scant 30 yards away through some of the most dense undergrowth
that I have ever experienced.
The manzanita won the battles but we won the war and made it to the trail. Beware of false ducks! We were lead to the creek that runs down alongside the trail with cairns clearly placed on down trees and along somewhat of a trail. This seemed to happen several times on the trail. 

Alex: What do you suggest about decision makng through the various "manzanita mazes" both down to the Lower Ford of Summit City Creek and while climbing Mount Reba?

Hummm. Reba. My only suggestion is that where one sees "ducks" showing the way it might just be a trail to water access on not necessarily the main trail up the mountain.

That trail is fairly well marked and maybe not "well used," but at least shows a bit of wear. Getting off the trail was a bitch and trying to get through carrying stuff is a challenge. At one point I had to pick up the dog and carry her through the really dense stuff. She might have figured out a path but it would not have been the one I was using.

Camp Irene up Mount Reba

Isolation Factor
We had the whole canyon to ourselves for 5 days out of 6 and were taken
with the views and the wildness of the area, in general. We now have 3 more
 sections to do before we get our TTY badge. Next up is the Lake Alpine to Kennedy Meadows section and then Meeks Bay to Echo Summit. The last one is Kennedy to
Tuolumne Meadows with the dog staying home for that one.

Guide Indexes
Lake Alpine to Kennedy Meadows

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit

Do It!
I highly recommend to others interested in this trek to do it early in the
season rather than late. We had perfect weather the whole time. Although I
looked up at the Sierra the day after we returned and saw some unbelievable
thunderheads no doubt dousing the mountain with some needed moisture. Lucky
we missed this as it would have made our crossings a bit more dicey.

I took some notes and we have some great photos of those off trail gems that
I am sure you will enjoy.

Take care,

You Fellow Hiker,


Scott, Rich, and Melika on the East Shore of Lake Alpine
Scott, Rich and Melkia at Lake Alpine.

Editor's Prologue:
 Many thanks to Scott for sharing the details of this excellent early season hike. Scott offered a bit of a biography to put his and Rich's experience in context:


Scott says,
"Just so you know we a couple of "old" guys (aka "experienced") who don't take a lot of chances so no worries about us making the smart decision. This area is pretty remote, which is the idea, so we don't want some else to risk their well-being if we had to get bailed out if we had to." 



Trail Guide Section
Highway 88 to Highway 4

Round Top Lake to Summit City Creek


Backpacking Maps
Echo Summit to Lake Alpine
(click red and black dots)

Summit City Creek


Originally Published
2014-07-03 18:49:48

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