Trip History

view into Bear Pen from PCT

view into Bear Pen from PCT

My first trip into the Granite Chief was in 2006, but the adventure started several years earlier when I was walking the Tahoe Rim Trail. There is a little overlook just off the trail as the TRT climbs out of North Fork Blackwood Canyon, south of Twin Peaks, where there is a view north down a valley. I was intrigued, and started looking at maps to see where this might be and how I could get there. This canyon is Bear Pen, with the Five Lakes Creek and Whiskey Creek basins beyond.

I also worked for five years at Camp Winthers, an environmental education summer camp near Soda Springs. From any high point there I can look south and see the Pacific Crest, with Granite Chief Peak being the furthest south. The backpacking program (Challenge) leaders talked about trips to Benson Hut and beyond, but my hikes and backpacks that direction never went beyond Roller Pass on the crest, and the North Fork of the American River Royal Gorge.

I discovered as I first walked north from the TRT/PCT junction near Twin Peaks along the PCT, that the trail was in pretty poor shape in places, so badly brushed in at one point that the trail was impossible to find for several hundred yards. So the next trip I took my nippers and started brushing out. I’ve continued to work this section of the PCT from Twin Peaks north to Granite Chief saddle, sort of keeping up with the year-to-year growth of brush.

I have continued going back to the Granite Chief ever since, and it has become a favorite. It was close enough to Carson City that is was not a major trip to get there, and as I gradually stopped driving, it was a place that I could get to by  public transportation, Amtrak to Truckee and then walk to the crest or take the TART bus south, or Amtrak and BlueGo to South Lake Tahoe and then the BlueGo bus north.

The trip history below is largely based on my photos. Each trip could be up to two days longer, since I don’t always take photos the first and last day. I believe there is at least one additional trip on which I did not take my camera. I will eventually check this list against my journals, however, there is at least one trip on which I forgot to take a journal.

When I made a blog post as the result of a trip, that post is linked with the name, but I didn’t start the blog until 2008, and there are some trips that I did not post.


  • 2006-07-13: walked from Donner Summit to Carson City, via the PCT, through the Granite Chief Wilderness, and along the Tahoe Rim Trail, photos on Flickr
  • 2006-07-24: in at Meeks Creek to the Desolation Wilderness, north along the PCT into the Granite Chief, some brushing on PCT, out at Granite Chief TH, photos on Flickr


  • 2007-09-01: Alpine Meadows TH, Five Lakes, brushing on PCT, 6 days, photos on Flickr
  • 2007-09-08: Alpine Meadows TH, brushing on PCT, 2 days


  • 2008-06-16: Whiskey Creek, brushing on PCT, 3 days, photos on Flickr
  • 2008-07-02: Truckee, Donner Rim Trail, Donner Pass TH, PCT south, trail work, Ellis Peak, 8 days, photos on Flickr
  • 2008-08-08: Hell Hole & Bear Pen: Rubicon Trail (OHV), McKinstry Trail, Kada Falls, Five Lakes Creek, Bear Pen, 5 days
  • 2008-08-24: Granite Chief Trail: Granite Chief Trail, Granite Chief Peak, 1 day
  • 2008-08-31: Powderhorn to Shanks Cove: Powderhorn Canyon, Five Lakes Creek Gorge, Grayhorse Valley, Shanks Cove, Whiskey Creek Camp, 4 days
  • 2008-09-10: Picayune Valley: Alpine Meadows TH, Picayune Valley, 3 days


  • 2009-06-11: PCT survey backpack: in and out Blackwood Creek, PCT, 2 day
  • 2009-06-13: PCT survey backpack: Alpine Meadows TH, PCT north, Tinkers Knob, Coldstream Canyon, Truckee, 4 days
  • 2009-07-16: Off-trail explorations: Barker Pass TH, Grouse Creek, Hell Hole Trail, Buckskin Trail, Kada Falls, 5 days
  • 2009-09-23: Powderhorn: Powderhorn TH, Powderhorn Canyon, Powderhorn Rim, 3 days


  • 2010-07-04: Finally back in the wilderness: Barker Pass TH, Tevis Trail, Picayune Valley, 3 days
  • 2010-07-14: Along the PCT: Donner Lake Rim Trail, Donner Pass, PCT, Powderhorn Rim, Barker Pass TH, 4 days
  • 2010-07-26: Down in the Rubicon: Granite Chief Trail, Little Needle Peak, Hell Hole Trail, Kada Falls, Rubicon Canyon, Barker Creek, 5 days


  • 2011-07-18: Through the Watersheds: Five Lakes Creek, Hell Hole Trail, Kada Falls, North Fork American River, Camp Winthers, 6 days
  • 2011-07-26: Granite Chief Trail, trailwork, 3 days, photos on Flickr
  • 2011-07-29: Granite Chief TH, Mountain Meadow Lake, Shanks Cove, Desolation Wilderness, 3 days, photos on Flickr

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