Peter's Tahoe to Yosemite Trail Report June 2014

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 03 July 2019

Upon the first publication of this report on June 8th 2014 Peter had just completed an early season snow-hiking trip along the Classic Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route. At that time he sent us very valuable information about early season conditions early in the season, which we first put up here on June 8 of 2014.

This information is not only valuable for backpackers trying to ascertain the conditions along the unmaintained segments of the trail, but also preps backpackers for the difficulties and challenges of hiking and navigating the Sierra Crest and backcountry through Spring snow conditions.

Though the particular stage of Spring conditions Peter describes transpires at a different times during each season's unique progression from Winter to Summer conditions, Peter well describes mid-to-late Spring conditions in the High Sierra.

Peter describes the "doubly-difficult" task of hiking and navigating over long sections of snow covered terrain with confidence and skill. The double-difficulty is a product of the snow cover significantly expanding the length of terrain that must be self-navigated, added to the increased physical difficulty of traveling over snow conditions.
These conditions require  the hiker to find and stay on the unmaintained route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail under much more demanding travel conditions than provided by the solid Earth of Summer, and employ route finding skills for much longer lengths of trail than during Summer conditions. It's a "double-difficulty" hike.

Throw in the dangers of fording during Spring, and Peter cooked himself up one very challenging and serious backpacking trip.

Peter was kind enough to not just do an email interview, but to provide full and informative answers, descriptions, and even some fine pictures.
Talking to Peter revealed he has published an amazing personal account of this amazing trip on the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail - 2014 page of his unique Peter Allspice Variety Entertainment website.

Though Peter describes a very early season trip across snow travel conditions that should only be attempted by experienced expert backpackers with excellent snow travel and navigation skills in excellent physical condition, his account offers valuable information and insights for all prospective and experienced Tahoe to Yosemite Trail hikers.

I would sum this up by saying that hiking the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail becomes more difficult and challenging the earlier in the season it is attempted.

I focused my questions to Peter on the most difficult sections of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, being the unmaintained segments across the Mokelumne and Carson Iceberg Wilderness Areas, as you can see from my line of questioning below.

My TYT trail guide and Peter's great account can be accessed for more detailed information about all aspects of hiking the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Dates: May 24 to June 5 2014  
Distance: 184.47 miles

Alex: Take a minute and give me a window into the current conditions along the
TYT!! I've got a set of inquires below....

Alex: How were current trail conditions through Summit City Canyon and Clarks
Meadow? Not too marked-up? Not too dependent on self navigation?

Peter: What a place! I didn't do the fords, but found a *great* log ford further down from the "Upper Ford", maybe a 1/4 mile? 

Alternative ford below Upper Summit City Creek Ford, Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.Alternative ford downstream from Upper Summit City Creek ford.

Trail Guide: Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford

Peter's account: Day Five of the TYT

Alternative Upper Summit City Creek ford downstream from main ford.

Stupendous amount of water coming down from cliffs below Upper Ford. Stayed high/away from river in rocks avoiding brush. (There are actually ducks down the 'wrong side', but end at...(?)

However...eventually came upon bushwack HELL--as high as 4' above the ground climbing through bush.

 Never found trail between Lower Ford and "The Ridge" (before Irene). But deciphered where the trail likely would go and came upon it starting up The Ridge, across, down to Irene.

(Note: The segment of trail from the Lower ford of Summit City Creek to Camp Irene requires self-navigation and route finding.) 

Trail Guide Page: Lower Ford of Summit City to Camp Irene

Peter's account: Day Five of the TYT

Alex: Did trail guide descriptions match your experiences through there? Did you like
my descriptions of campsites and conditions along the route?

Peter ==>Didn't pay much attention to these, was mostly interested in maps/miles. But I did review some descriptions after the trip. Yeah...over/mis ducked. My decades of experience kept me from going wrong for too long though. Mis-ducked after Irene--probably by folks adding their version from either direction.

Alex: Summit City and Mokelumne Fords low? How were they running?

Peter ==> Right at Mokelumne River Ford figured I'd have to actually swim, but found 3 handily placed logs about 100' down stream from Irene fire ring; 2 that sloped from just submerged to about 5', and 1 that was floating--walked down the 2 while hand supported by floater. Then hit about 3' deep H2O and splashed through the rest of the wa and bushes. Foto attached below.

North Mokelumne River ford flowing full at Camp Irene on Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Trail Guide Page: Camp Irene to Mount Reba

Peter's account: Day Six of the TYT

Into the Carson Iceberg Wilderness Burned Zone
Then...the "Granite WIlderness". VERY tree-dropped! I even added/fixed a few dux. A newbie would go NUTS in there! Totally lost the trail once, but again, experience helped me deduce where the trail likely would pass--found in 10 min. Sure wouldn't want to XC through 6mi of logjam! Horse trails tended to follow easier routes around downed trees--they're not good log hoppers.

Trail Guide Page: Lake Alpine to Rock Lake

Peter's Trail Account:  Day Six of the TYT

Alex: Did you do ok through the Clarks Meadow? Hopefully you crossed it on the
North side of the meadow... How was the route through there, and did you
have any trouble finding your way out of the headwaters of the Clarks Fork?
Did you climb out the crack in the South-West side that I describe on
the guide?

Peter ==>Lost the trail after the cross before the 'Squeeze' (which is before the Mdw); found it again to mdw. Hiked straight through middle of C Mdw, then kept finding ducks all the way up through the/your 'crack'. Yeah, for awhile there..I was 'on-crack'. Lotta snow, but did notice a couple ducks on exposed rox.

Trail Guide: Boulder Lake junction to Saint Marys Pass

Peter's Account: Day 8 of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

I admit, I do have a knack for finding long-lost trails, and recognizing a most likely path. I also tell time by the sun within 20 min (often times w/in 10); haven't owned a watch in decades. I've even surprised people around a camp at night, <10min off.

Alex: Lake Alpine and Kennedy Meadows Pack Stations resupply spots work outgood? Did you spend days off nearby?

Peter ==>LA--went straight across road; picked up last drinkable wa at toilet. Resupply at KM--nice spot. Spent the night top of hillock by water tank--nice!

Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

Peter's Account: Day 8 of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

Alex: What were the moisture conditions between Brown Bear and Bond Passes?
That place breeds clouds of mosquitoes during early Spring
saturation-time, but I figure that time to be of very short duration.

Peter: ==>Brown Bear Pass->Bond Pass: XC--lotta snow. occasionally saw trail. but very wet. VERY few skeeters till Yo, almost none till Jack Main. Going through tarns after Seavy, thot I heard machines; stopped, it was *clouds* of skeeters. Made it home w/o any bites! Apparently got the juice on at the right times.
Took the Upper at Grizz--wow! Great view--I'm a Ridger-Runner. Trail through (Bush Chin? Willow? Don't remem) right below Grizz should prob go around its upper/east side--it's so wet/bushed/in-grown. Otherwise enough snow to hide trail--though I kept finding ducks.

Trail Guide
Kennedy Meadows to Relief Reservior

Brown Bear Pass to Bond Pass

Peter's Account: Day 9 of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

 Alex: How'd it look? How were general wetness and mosquito conditions?
I'm thinking we're seeing a strange combination of conditions, of Spring
and mid-Summer mixed up together. I figure the skeeters are going to die
out by mid-July, rather than the mid-Aug of normal years...

And, how were the rivers at the bottom of the Five Canyons of N.
Yosemite? Low flows? I'm talking the series of fords starting with Falls
Creek followed by Stubblefield, Kerrick and Virginia Canyons...

Peter ==>Crossed Falls to Tilden Trail--boot off xing, no rockhop/logs available.
 Found pair of "Crocs" at Stubblefield--just what I needed!
Kerrick - big but not much prob.
Everything else I found rockhop or log to cross dry; or sometimes donned the Crocs, or ran through (waterproof boots w/high wa-proof gaiters.) NoBo PCTers hardly slackened their gait--they've done so many xings, and merely walk in their wet hike shoes all day. I much prefer a dry boot.

Trail Guide: Tilden Lake Loop

Peter's Account: Day 12 of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

Alex: How did the guide help you with that section, from KM to TM?

Peter ==> I 'photoshopped' the 30min maps--pared them down to bare minimum of what I needed; got them all on 2 sides of legal size; them ran them through my laminator. Didn't need the section up to Carson--I know that area quite well.

Alex: Is that piece of trail not a great trip on its own, as kind of a "half-TYT?"

Peter ==> I appreciated the solitude, seclusion, quiet ('cept the jets), rarely traveled character (Round Top to Brown Bear). They should keep the cows out of all wildernesses--ick!

Alex: Is that trail, the TYT, not the best?
Peter: ==>Each trail has its allure.

Alex: I always hate making the transition back to "civilization..." That's why
I always try to push my trips down to Whitney, if the time and money are

Peter: ==> I had lotsa food, prob for 5 more days, and thot to continue to Big Pine, visit friends, but had foot pain from day 2 from new boots. Had to get new, didn't trust my old ones to make it 200mi.

General synopsis:
Peter: ==> Left May 24 (Memoral Day weekend), zero people till after Dicks Pass. Lotta snow Stony Ridge Lake to Phipps Pass; then again Mid Vel to Dicks Pass.
  To avoid tourons at Lake Aloha, XC from Suzie to Margery Lakes; passed 65 on trail, w/many in distance. 4-6' snow along the top, which turned a lot of Flatlanders back.

Desolation Wilderness Map

0 peple Echo Lodge to Benwood; Lots of snow after turnaround at Benwood; lots to Little Round Top (camped there; avoided the Meiss Swamp--saw Sacto-Stockton at night! Wow! Didn't know you could!)

Meiss Roadless Area Map

 ALP122 to Woods Lake--4th July Lake, a couple people lotsa snow.

Carson Pass Region Map

 0 peple 4th July Lake to Lake Alpine, just a couple trax. 2 cars at Lake Alpine.

Carson Pass to Lake Alpine

 0 peo till Peaceful Pines; some snow over Jenkins/Woods Pass. Gorgeous under the Dardanelles!
Spied/eyed them from Aerola, Hiram, etc last Summer. Never imagined I'd be hiking directly under them!

Carson Iceberg Wilderness Map

 0 peo Clarks Fork Trail to Mary's Pass. Hiked/hitched 108 to KM--2 women who'd just climbed Mid Pal and Split!

 A group day hikers up Summit Creek, some snow at Brown Bear Pass. Trail confusion down Bond--snow.

Kennedy Meadows to Yosemite Map

1st person down Jack Main.

Noone on Tilden Loop, snow in vicinity. Snow on trail close to Seavey and in 'tarnland'. Dug out trail sign (@ 3-trail jct bef Seavey). Met about 10/ NoBo PCTers/day after Tilden, NO local hikers till Yo!

Jack Main Canyon Map

 Benson Lake Gorgeous! Spent (only) an hour--too early to camp.

Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake Map

 TONS of water and lotsa snow in Vol Pk area. 1st 'locals' at Smedberg Lake.

 Good deal of snow Matterhorn Canyon->Miller Lake, but by my passing, plenty of PCTers had boot-marked trail.

Bensen Lake to Virginia Canyon Map

 No snow on trail after Virginia Canyon. Lotta skeets down Cold Canyon; much drier than rest of trail. Local hikers Glen Aulin to Tuolumne Meadows. Only one branch of Dingley/Delaney was deep enough to require a log xing.

Virginia Canyon to Tuolumne Meadows Map

PLENTY of water till Cold Cyn; I sip outta everything I judge safe, 'cept in 'Cowland' (Granite Wilderness, Reba area, Clark Fork)
All waters had hit their high levels before I passed.

Alex: Next time you've got to check out the PCT route from Tahoe to Yosemite.
Then add in the JMT down to Whitney. Actually, I like to mix up the best
bits of both...

Peter: ==> Did the JMT in '77; climbed all 14ers (30 days in '94); desert mtns; BMC w/Sierra Club in '76, prob close to 200 summits, 10years w/TNSAR & TBSP...decades of stuff.

Alex:  Whoa!

 Alex: The TYT is an excellent challenging and one of the funnest routes
 around, and I figure about the hardest long trail in the Sierra.

Peter: ==> It's a doozy! Def would drive a bejinner nutz!

 Alex: The segment of unmaintained trail from Carson Pass to the PCT is about
as difficult as the unmaintained routes along the TYT. A bit more
difficult, actually, as there's been no-one out there trying to open it up.

Peter: ==>Good, leave it that way. Everytime something is publicized/popularized/guide-booked it is overrun. There are prime place I've been I won't even tell you, or anyone. The earth is being ex-plore/ploit-ed to death.


Alex: Thanks a heck of a lot Peter.


I will send the maps I made. They are very small scale (30min) which most people probably would find extremely difficult to decipher/translate.

On some other hand, so many people are using an electronic device to find their way (at least generally speaking; they don't yet tell where to place the feet; nor effectively guide one through thick bush ), they may be even less than impractical.

Heck, for years (decades) I used (and far preferred) the 15min maps over the 7.5's.


See Peter's account of this Tahoe to Yosemite Trail hike at

Tahoe-Yosemite Trail - 2014

 Trail Guide and Maps References

Trail Guide

Tahoe Trailheads

Highway 88 to Highway 4

Highway 4 to Highway 108

Highway 108 to Tuolumne Meadows


Round Top Lake to Summit City Creek


Backpacking Maps
Desolation Wilderness

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

Summit City Creek

Carson Iceberg Wilderness

Highway 108 Corridor

North Yosemite Backcountry


A montage of Peter's Desert Flower photography:

 Peter's wildflower collection.



Peter's, Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, Tahoe to Yosemite, TYT, backpacking, hiking, unmaintained, trail, Spring, snow, conditions, report, Summit City Creek, Clarks Fork


Originally Published
2014-07-03 19:36:13

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