Title-2 Welcome-2 About Driving-map
The Leavitt Lake entrance to the Emigrant Wilderness is a 185 mile drive from San Mateo, much of it along California Highway 108.
A Jeep trail departs Hwy 108 about 4 miles east of the Sonora Pass. The Emigrant Wilderness area is shown here in blue.
Overview-1 Z-GE Overview
A 2013 Google Earth updated view
The northern half of the trip
The southern half of the trip
Trip elevation profile
Picked up the wilderness permit from the Pinecrest ranger station just after noon on Saturday, July 14th
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Arrived 1:00pm at the Sonora Pass on Highway 108 (crossing point for the Pacific Crest Trail)
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Starting up the 3-mile Jeep trail...
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...from the Highway 108 turnoff to Leavitt Lake
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The first of three creek crossings
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After navigating the challenging access road, arrived at Leavitt Lake (9,556 feet elevation) at 1:45pm
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The Jeep’s home for the next few days
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Underway at 2:30pm along the WWII mining road that crosses the Sierra Crest
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Pausing for a breather at 10,000 feet
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Leavitt Lake fades into the distance
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Approaching Leavitt Lake Pass, a view of Yosemite’s mountains to the south
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The Pacific Crest Trail joins the route for a short distance
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A long descent from Leavitt Lake Pass lies ahead
0 - Camp1
Made an early camp the first night at Kennedy Creek to acclimatize to the altitude
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Camp 1, which was buffeted by high winds throughout the night
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The setting sun creates a spectacular alpen glow on the mountains behind Camp 1
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A look at the trail ahead
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Shortly after sunset at Camp 1
Day 1
Day 1 trail notes
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Day 2 (Sunday) begins with a hearty oatmeal breakfast
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The winds finally subsided, yielding to a sunny day ahead
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Broke camp at 9:45am and resumed the climb towards Big Sam Pass, the highest point of the trip at 10,825 feet elevation
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The “U” shaped signature of a glacial valley to the north of the trail
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Once above the tree line, the terrain becomes quite stark
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Volcanic rock deposits enroute to the summit
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The trail ahead climbs in switchbacks towards the pass
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Two hikers descend from Big Sam Pass
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A first look at the Emigrant basin from near the summit
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Rock formations to the north
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Arnica somehow survives at the windswept pass
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Sawtooth Ridge dominates Yosemite’s skyline to the south
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Pausing at the Big Sam summit to enjoy the view
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Starting the descent towards High Emigrant Lake (leftmost lake below)
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The broad trail descends though a series of switchbacks
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Arnica flourishes on the sunny slopes
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Spectacular scotch broom
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Missing a flipper?
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Approaching the loop intersection near Grizzly Peak ahead
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A closer look at Grizzly Peak’s unusual mineral deposits
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Arriving at Grizzly Meadow 3:00pm Sunday afternoon
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Nearby Grizzly Peak Lake
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Pausing during a difficult ascent towards Snow and Bigelow Lakes
0 - Camp2
Little-visited Bigelow Lake serves as the site for Camp 2
Day 2
Day 2 trail notes
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Morning of Day 3 (Monday) at Bigelow Lake...the weather is cool and windy
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A check dam at the north end of the lake
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Bigelow Lake looking south
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On the trail at 9:35am. This sign points the way to several local destinations from Black Bear Lake.
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Arriving at Horse Meadow following a steep descent from Black Bear Lake
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Looking northeast up Horse Meadow at 8,450 feet elevation
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The southwest end of Horse Meadow
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Fences restrain the cattle that sometimes graze in this meadow
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A primitive stock gate at the south end of the meadow
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Beginning a 3-mile descent to Huckleberry Lake from Horse Meadow following the East Fork of Cherry Creek
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Lupine, arnica and Indian paintbrush cover the trailside
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Wild daisies and paintbrush also flourish
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The spectacular colors glow in the morning sun
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Taking a break while searching for the difficult-to-find trail connector at Huckleberry Lake
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A view of Huckleberry Lake looking north
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A beautiful lily pond at Huckleberry Lake
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Following a good bit of cross-country navigating, the critical trail intersection is finally located
0 - Camp3
After a difficult ascent up a poorly maintained trail, Camp 3 is made near Letora Lake
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The tent is situated next to a towering Ponderosa Pine
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Looking east from camp towards an unnamed lake near Letora Lake
Day 3
Day 3 trail notes
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Awoke on Day 4 (Tuesday) with a severe eye irritaion, probably caused by wind and the high altitude UV.
Shortly after departing camp at 8:45am, noted this sign pointing the way back to Huckelberry Lake. Rough trail? Oh yes...
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Following a 600 foot ascent from Cow Meadow Lake, reached Lower Buck Lake at 11:30am
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Northern Buck Lake at 8,320 feet elevation
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Another stock gate near Buck Lakes
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Nearing Buck Meadow, north of the lakes
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Enjoying the spectacular scenery in Buck Meadow
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The trail heads for another climb... the peak ahead towers over Emigrant Lake
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After a long ascent, approached Emigrant Lake at 3:30pm from the west
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A first look at this very large lake while heading east
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Another view facing west
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Pausing for a moment at the southern end of the lake
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Unusual rock formations line the shore
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The very rocky trail continues along the shore
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Lupine provides the foreground for a look at a Half Dome-like rock face
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A closer look at “Half Dome 2”
0 - Camp4
Camp 4 is made 4:45pm at the northeast end of Emigrant Lake
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A large rock provides the tent shelter from the wind
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Filtering water for camp use
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The temperature is dropping quickly...
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...as the winds intensify
Day 4
Day 4 trail notes
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Day 5 (Wednesday) begins with sunshine and frost
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Starting the day with strong camp coffee…
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Airing the gear in the morning sun
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Underway again at 9:30am. This photo shows the intersection of the trail to Blackbird and Middle Emigrant Lakes.
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The trail at times is very challenging to follow
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Approaching Middle Emigrant Lake at 9,335 feet elevation
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Camp site used in another backpacking trip many years earlier (September, 1988)
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The reflective surface of backpacker’s umbrella provides protection from the high altitude UV
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Emigrant Meadow Lake at 9,407 feet elevation
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A backpacker’s most important equipment
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More trailside lupine enroute to Grizzly Meadow
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Arrived Grizzly Meadow Lake at 12:45pm
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Another view of Grizzly Meadow Lake at 9,616 feet elevation
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Approaching Grizzly Peak, this time from the west
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Making shade for a lunch break
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The loop is closed at Grizzly Peak
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A final look back, leaving Grizzly Peak behind
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Northbound again towards the famous Emigrant Pass
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Moss campion in full bloom near the pass
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Looking west back down onto Emigrant Meadow Lake
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Approaching High Emigrant Lake at 9,706 feet elevation
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This check dam provides an anchor for abundant flowers
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Another view of the dam
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Unusual rock formations at the north end of High Emigrant Lake
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Ascending once more to near the tree line
0 - Camp5
Camp 5 is made early (3:45pm) at High Emigrant Lake... not enough time in the day for the double pass crossing
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Camping in tundra-like terrain
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The tent must be well-secured since there is little shelter from the wind
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A water source is located conveniently nearby
Day 5
Day 5 trail notes
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The temperature drops during the night... the gear is mostly frozen Thursday morning
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Frosty tent fly
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The frozen grass begins to thaw as the sun rises over the mountains
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Camp 5's kitchen shows the bear canister that also serves as a handy stool
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The coffee making equipment is critical survival gear
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Departed High Emigrant Lake at 9:00am and began the ascent towards Big Sam Pass
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The trail is often very steep
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The cold wind is now blowing with gale force
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Finally reached Big Sam Pass 10:45am after a long climb to 10,825 feet elevation
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From the summit looking north
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From the summit looking west
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From the summit looking east
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From the summit looking south into Yosemite
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The switchbacks leading to the pass as seen from above
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The trail descends sharply only to re-ascend in the distance
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The trail route is shown here in red
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Even in late July, the snows continue to melt
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Just below the Big Sam summit, a substitute for the Sigaba flag…
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Kennedy Lake to the west
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The PCT breaks south into Kennedy Canyon
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Two backpackers enter the wilderness along with their canine companion
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The “U” shaped Kennedy Canyon
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The trail back to Leavitt Lake Pass is long and difficult
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A final view to the south
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Alternative routes up the mountain
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Finally reached Leavitt Lake Pass at 2:00pm
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The steep descent back to Leavitt Lake begins
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The lake comes closer into view
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Arrived back at the car 2:45pm. Time for a beer and a steak at Kennedy Meadows...
Day 6
Day 6 trail notes
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The first creek crossing on the rough road back to Highway 108
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Incredible vistas to the north and east
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Cattle roam freely on and near the road
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A final look back, just south of the Sonora Pass on Highway 108