Category Archives: Trail Conditions

Snow conditions???

This is the time of year when people start asking for snow and trail conditions reports. I have nothing to report. Because I am a car-free person, and therefore dependent on trains and transit for getting to the wilderness, and my travel is not essential, I haven’t been up in the Granite Chief area this season, and won’t be for a while. Of course I will walk there if I must (from Sacramento), but that is a five day trip just to get up to the area, and so I won’t have anything to say until the middle of June, at best.

But… I hope that others will report snow and trail conditions. So if you are a reader of this blog, and get up to the wilderness, or even the approach trails, please leave a note here to help others out with trip planning.

Trail Conditions 2019 Update

This is a summary of the comments that I made to the original blog post while in the field, and a bit additional from the second part of my trip. These observations were made 2019-07-15 through 2019-07-24, so snow conditions and creek crossings will have changed by now. Peak snow melt is definitely past, and all the creeks are dropping.

Granite Chief Trail: good condition, one 42 inch tree tangle and a few smaller; first snow 2370m, more towards top but all passable.

PCT Granite Chief Trail to Granite Chief saddle: 20% snow coverage overall, but complete coverage up the north side of saddle. Thru hikers have beat out a reasonable route. Steep north slope requires snow spikes, or tedious step kicking.

Tevis Cup Trail: some snow at beginning and in trees west of old boundary. Several muddy areas and water running on trail, a few erosion problems. West part from old boundary rerouted and now a trail rather than logging roads.

Talbot Trail: no issues, other than it is boring and comes out onto FR51 way too early. No water past the creek near the north end.

Western States Trail (Picayune): overall good condition; a few medium trees, one large, several small; tangle of downed trees just below ridge is now cleared; some snow patches. Crossing of Talbot Creek rock hop or log. Crossing of Middle Fork, knee deep wade with poles for stability, or logs down below, rock hop not possible yet.

Five Lakes Creek Trail: about 30 down trees, all but one large easy to step over or go around. Crossing Five Lakes Creek, knee deep wade in moderately fast water; Bear Pen Creek, shallow wade; no rock hop for either yet. Grouse Creek is a rock-hop (Grouse Creek will dry completely at some point during the summer). Moderate winter debris on the trail.

Whiskey Creek Trail: one medium tree down at beginning. Whiskey Creek now a rock-hop (updated 2019-07-24).

from Alpine Meadows TH: Five Lakes Trail good condition; Squaw Saddle trail good condition; PCT Five Lakes jct to Whiskey Creek jct good condition, one small tree.

Powderhorn Trail: about 25 trees down, most small but one medium and two large; two might not be passible for horses. A lot of winter debris on the trail. All watercourses flowing. Snow from boundary up to ridge 40%, trail can be followed with a close eye.

PCT from Barker Pass to TRT: snow patches on east side of ridge after trail reaches ridge; multiple patches on the east/north side of ridge approaching the wilderness boundary, though the steep snowbank that stops people in many years is easy to navigate this year; snow patches through the trees to the PCT/TRT junction.

Hell Hole Trail: I did sufficient trail maintenance that the trail can now be followed from Diamond Crossing to Steamboat Creek, including through the downfall tangle past Buckeye Creek where the trail was lost. There are hundreds of trees down (really!), but almost all can be stepped over, climbed over, or bypassed on well established use paths. There is thick winter debris on the trail in many sections, only a small part of which was removed. The trail past Steamboat Creek has become more vague with time, and I’m not sure it can be followed anymore, but I did not explore extensively. Five Lakes Creek is a shallow wade, both forks of Buckeye Creek are rock hops, and Steamboat Creek is a rock hop. Though Steamboat Creek was flowing well 2019-07-24, it always dries at the trail crossing at some point during the summer, though water might be found upstream or downstream.

Trails not checked: Shanks Cove Trail (it was reported to me by hikers that they were unable to follow the trail from the junction with Western States to the ridgeline, probably in the downfall area climbing out of the little valley). Lower Hell Hole Trail. Greyhorse Trail. Bear Pen Trail. Most of the PCT. I figure information about the PCT is more widely available, so I did not do trail condition observations on the majority of the PCT through the wilderness.

Trail Conditions 2019

With the deep snows of winter still lingering, I have been spending my backpacking time on the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which generally follows the ridge lines around the San Francisco Bay. There are 375 miles completed of an eventual 550 or so, and I’ve done about 64%.

My first trip to the Granite Chief will be July 15, and I’ll have some information on trail conditions at the end of that trip. The best source of trail conditions I could find is the Tahoe Rim Trail Association’s Current Trail Conditions page. Though the TRT only edges the Granite Chief Wilderness, the elevations are similar and trail conditions might therefore be similar.

If you, dear readers, have anything to report, please either comment on this post or send me an email ( Since I’m out backpacking elsewhere, I might not get to posting for you for a few days, so better to comment directly, but whatever works for you works for me.

Good travels!

Trail conditions 2018

I have not been on all the trails yet this season, but will report on ones I have been. The PCT is in good condition; the Granite Chief Trail is in good condition; Five Lakes Creek Trail is in decent condition, some down trees but nothing that can’t be bypassed; the Powderhorn Trail is becoming quite brushy and though I did some work here, there are many days left to do, and there is a tangle of down trees about 2/3 of the way from the top that could not be bypassed by horses due to the terrain; Western States Trail is in decent condition from Whiskey Creek Camp to the saddle, with some brushy sections and some down trees, but the section just below the saddle dropping into Picayune Vally is a mess of down trees and the trail hard to follow; the lower section of Western States in Picayune Valley has had some trail maintenance and is in good condition.

Dan McGee commented on the Shanks Cove Trail on the Trails and Maps post. I think I had reported the issues with that trail, but now can’t find it, and it certainly was not on the Trails page. A number of years ago there was a significant downfall of huge red fir trees in the gully just past the small seasonal drainage south of the Western States Trail junction. This has never been cleared, and has gotten worse by the year. As a result, the whole trail is becoming less used, and is brushy and obscure in other places. I don’t have anything to report about the south section of the trail, from Greyhorse Trail down to Five Lakes Creek Trail, but will after my next trip. Unless you are good at route finding and enjoy clambering up and down over huge trees, this is a section to avoid until the Forest Service clears the trail again.

Water is still moderately plentiful at the normal spots in the backcountry, however, the lower elevations are getting really dry and the higher elevations will dry soon. By the end of the season, I’d expect only the largest and most reliable sources to be running.

As always, your trip reports and trail condition comments are welcome. I no longer am able to get in early in the season and review all the trails, so I and others depend on YOU passing along information.


People have been asking me about snow conditions in the Granite Chief, and I’m sorry to say I don’t have any information for you. I will be going in on a backpack trip Monday, July 3, and may have a chance to post briefly while I’m on that trip (there is some cell reception from the crest, though none in the rest of the wilderness), but if not, then at the end of the trip about July 11.

If you have information, or trip reports, please share them by replying to this post. If you had an approved comment in the past, your comment will go up immediately, if not, I have to approve it, but again, may be able to do that when I’m on the crest. If there is still a lot of snow up high, I’ll head down into the Five Lakes Creek basin, where the bears have never heard of cell phones.

I went backpacking this last week along two sections of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, in part because I figured there was still a lot of snow in the Granite Chief. But a week of very warm weather may have opened up some of the trails, and I’m anxious to get into the high country.

PCT trail maintenance trips

I’ve had two backpacks this year doing trail maintenance on the Pacific Crest Trail through the Granite Chief Wilderness. Since almost all my time was up on the PCT, I don’t have anything to report about the rest of the wildneress, but since I have two more backpack trips coming up, will have a report on much if not all of the trail system.

I brushed from Granite Chief trail on the north to Five Lakes Creek in the middle, and the trail is in good condition except for a short 0.1 mile part between Whiskey Creek Camp trail and Five Lakes trail that I didn’t get done, though it is not bad. I also did the Whiskey Creek Camp trail since it was getting a bit brushy. While in this area I spent some time exploring around Five Lakes Creek and Whiskey Creek, looking for the old trails that were there before the new PCT alignment was completed. In some places these old trails are easy to follow, but no always. I still think there is a trail on the south side of Five Lakes Creek to Big Spring Meadow, but so far I haven’t located it.

On the second trip I focused on the PCT north from the PCT/TRT trail junction near Twin Peaks. There are several sections here that are very brushy, and a few that are essentially closed in. I got all but one of these opened up again, to a point where they should be OK for about five years. But there is one very brushy section that I did not get to, and will be very bad by next year. It is about 0.2 miles. I did spot brushing on the remainder, and it is in decent shape but could use work. I think this year I accomplished what I have not in several years, keeping up with the rate of brush growth, though not gaining on it, which is why there are some badly brushed-in sections left. Next year perhaps I’ll get those last very brushy parts done, and be “caught up” at least for a couple of years.

PCT trail before

PCT trail before brushing, overgrown with tobacco brush

PCT trail after

PCT trail after brushing, cleared to five-year width








Continue reading

Trails and Maps

One of my purposes of my Picayune Valley and Shanks Cove trip earlier this year was to create GPS tracks for the Western States and Shanks Cove trails. In the area of the saddle between the Five Lakes Creek basin and Picayune Valley, the trail alignment shown on the National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps is incorrect. It turns out, now that Trimble Outdoors has added National Forest roads and trails as an available overlay in MyTopo Maps, that the Forest Service base maps are incorrect.

Continue reading

trail maintenance

Dan Lutz, Assistant Recreation Officer for Trails and Wilderness for the Truckee Ranger District of Tahoe National Forest, sent this trail maintenance information on August 4:

Glad to hear you were out in the wilderness and noticed the hard work the crews have put in there so far. We have had a couple crews go in there – one was a fire crew we try to go in there together annually. They help us out logging out the trails as they work on some training exercises. We get alot of work completed with this 10-person crew for 4 days. They were in Big Springs area and working north-south and then also the Shanks Cove trail. Additionally, we had a volunteer group spiked at Diamond Crossing and they worked on the Hellhole trail for about 5-6 days. Lots of maintenance needed there. Then we had our regular trails crew on the northern portion of the PCT from Squaw to Five Lakes.