camp on the crest near "Twin Towers"

This blog is created by Dan Allison, a backpacker in the Granite Chief Wilderness.

Your questions, comments, and corrections are welcome! The blog is meant to fill a gap, to provide information not provided by other websites related to the Granite Chief Wilderness, not meant to be comprehensive. So please use the links to explore other websites related to the wilderness.

There are some sources of information about the Granite Chief Wilderness online, but they are all missing something, so I’ll do my part to contribute those missing parts. Though I’ve spent a lot of time in the wilderness over the last six years, I’ve not (yet!) seen all of it.

The Granite Chief Wilderness was established in 1984 as part of the California Wilderness Act. It is about 25,000 acres, and almost entirely in the headwaters watershed of the Middle Fork of the American River (and the Rubicon River, which flows into the Middle Fork).

If you are looking for the Truckee business, Granite Chief, it is at http://granitechief.com/.

15 thoughts on “About

  1. Kirk Lundquist

    Trying to find out more of the history. My mother Joan Lundquist was involved in helping granite Chief Become a wilderness area. I have the old tee shirt silk save granite Chief in my possession. she stated to me she got a call from a congressman I believe when it did become a wilderness area but don’t know more. I’ll ask my siblings.

  2. Nathaniel

    Hey Dan, it’s Nathaniel Brodie, the GC Wilderness Ranger for 2017. Please drop me an email at your convenience (nathanielfbrodie at gmail); would be good to touch base. Happy trails.

  3. pj

    Do you know the history behind the wilderness designation of Granite Chief? Were there any individual who fought for this area to be proposed?

  4. karen

    Was researching GCW as am alternate to a short (2 night 3 day) backpacking trip the first weekend AFTER labor day weekend. Any advice on current trail conditions. PS….. Great blog with so much great info. And I’m a grandma, so I pack light and don’t want to go more than 10-15 miles round trip. Any suggested destinations?

    1. Dan Allison Post author

      For a short trip of 10-15 miles, I’d recommend going in at the Alpine Meadows trailhead and past Five Lakes towards Whiskey Creek Camp. This trail should be in good condition, at least as far as Whiskey Creek Camp. You can drop your pack and explore north along the PCT, or down Five Lakes Creek or towards Picayune Valley. The second and third trails will have trees down on them, but are usable. I haven’t been into the area in three weeks, so don’t know what the mosquito status is, but I don’t think there have been any nights cold enough to suppress them, so go prepared. After Labor Day weekend you won’t see may people in this area, still some day hikers to Five Lakes, but few beyond there.

  5. Mark Kushner

    Had a great but tough time out in the GCW this past weekend. Went up and over the Saddle at K-22 at Squaw and dropped down at Little Five Lakes. It took a little effort to find the PCT but we followed it all the way to the meadow before the switchbacks leading up to little needle lake. The whole little needle lake area is still covered in snow. Sat night dropped down to low-30’s but had a great view of the nearly full-moon. Sunday was tough because PCT was mostly covered in snow all the way to the top of granite chief chair-lift. We a map and gps which made navigation easy. We had snow-shoes but it was more practical to not use them. The top of granite chief chair is completely covered in about 10 feet of snow going down all routes of the run. We could not continue on to the GC trail as we hoped to continue to mt. meadow lake. It was quite dangerous and we cut our losses and hiked up the hill to the top of emigrant chair at squaw and made it down to high camp. Despite the snow we had a good time and only saw one person who happened to be a through hiker on the PCT. Definitely want to go back when the snow melts but heading down to mammoth area in a couple weeks so i will get to see even more of it yeah. Have fun out there.

  6. Mark Kushner


    I was wanting to go to the GCW this weekend. How are the snow drifts? Is it difficult to get around up there right now?


    1. Dan Allison Post author

      I have not been into the Granite Chief yet this year, but I will speculate based on other years and what I’ve seen other places this year. If you go in at the Alpine Meadows trailhead and past Five Lakes into the Five Lakes Creek / Whiskey Creek drainage, you’ll encounter snow patches but nothing major. All the other entry points will have deep snow and the trail will be difficult to follow. Specific problem spots are the PCT just south of the wilderness boundary, the switchbacks south from Five Lakes Creek, and the switchbacks below Granite Chief. All are north facing with steep slopes. Let me know what you find.

  7. Michael Lee

    Great website and the photos are are out of this world. If would wouldn’t mind helping me out with recommendation. My friends and I are planning a trip out to the Tahoe area for a 5 day, 4 night backpacker in early august. I realize this might be ideal but it is what it is. Any ideas? Understand that we are from Dallas so we want it all. it just sucks around here for backpacking. Any tips for back country permits etc, would be awesome…

    thanks in advance,

    1. Dan Allison Post author

      Sorry for the slow reply. I don’t look at my Granite Chief blog much during the winter.

      For classic Sierra scenery in the Lake Tahoe area, one wants the Desolation Wilderness, but so does everyone else, so unless you want to share with many people, you’d want to head to the west or north parts, far from Lake Aloha. It requires permits, and there is ample info on the Internet about that. The Tahoe Rim Trail is quite nice, mostly on the ridgetops around the lake, with great views and not only in the lake direction. You can go on and off at every road crossing, so creating a trip of any length you want. The east side has longer gaps between water, but this year should be doable in August because it has been wet. See http://tahoerimtrail.org/.

      The Granite Chief is of course my favorite, not so much because of the scenery, but because of the solitude. I’d go in through Five Lakes to make it easy, and then spend time down in the drainage to the west, where you will see less people and more wildlife the further you go.

  8. Ingo

    Hey Dan – cool website – we are coming form north lake tahoe and are looking for the most wild (few people) 3 day 2 night trip in the area…… any thoughts?

    1. Dan Allison Post author

      I am sorry that I missed your question – I wasn’t paying any attention to the website or blog during the winter, and did not notice until yesterday when I started updating. For a three day trip I’d either go in at Barker Pass and do a loop that includes the PCT and Powderhorn Trails, or go in at Alpine Meadows and explore the Five Lake Creek basin below Whiskey Creek. There can be overlap between these two. In from Barker you’ll see a lot of dayhikers and maybe PCT thru hikers, but probably no one on Powderhorn. In from Alpine you’ll see a lot of dayhikers as far as Five Lakes, some beyond to Whiskey Creek camp, and very few beyond.

  9. tory

    hi dan,

    great website. can you suggest a good loop for a 2.5 day trip (friday morning until sunday early afternoon). I’m a novice but my cobackpackers are very experienced… Thanks for your help!

    1. Dan Allison Post author

      The place you probably don’t want to go on a weekend unless you like a lot of people is Alpine Meadows trailhead for Five Lakes Trail. This is the most heavily used entry point. If you do go in there, head for the less used trails and don’t spend any time in the Five Lakes area, which is great during the week but overrun on weekends.

      An option is the PCT, Five Lakes Creek trail, and Powderhorn trail, which is about 18 miles and can be made a loop with a two mile walk between the two trailheads, Barker Pass for the PCT and Powderhorn. The trails are in pretty good shape, and this is a great introduction, with both long views on the PCT and more intimate contact with the wilderness in Powderhorn Creek and Five Lakes Creek.


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