Gorgeous PCT With Great Views
You will see at least a few through-hikers on any section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in the high Sierras during the summer, but its segments around Ebbetts Pass are great for day hikes. Going south on the PCT involves dropping into a deep drainage before climbing way up to Noble Lake, and going north involves very little elevation change and wide open views.
I went north on Friday, July 3, 2015 for an amazing hike through wildflowers, forests and sagebrush with great views of clouds in the bright blue sky. The trail head is at the western end of the signed parking lot on the south side of CA Hwy. 4. The initial trail travels a few hundred yards to a junction: go left to head south on the PCT or continue straight ahead to head north. The PCT meanders about 1/4 mile west/north until it crosses Hwy. 4 and continues up through a gloomy forest of lodgepole pine.
The trees disappear about 3/4 mile from the trail head, and you'll get a taste of the views to come. The PCT gently ascends the lowest portion of the Ebbetts Peak massif just above its steep slopes above Kinney Reservoir 600' below. That half-mile ascent of only a few hundred feet are the most cardio you'll get on this hike, but the elevation is almost 9,000' so even small stretches can tax your lungs and legs.
Push onward as the PCT winds through forests of Jeffrey and lodgepole pine with quite a few aspen invading the open spaces. The aspens must make this an extremely stretch in the fall, but the wildflowers were on full display in early July, 2015. Blue-purple lupine, purple self heal, daisies, red scarlet gilia, scarlet penstemon, goldenwood, anemone, and Mariposa lily all grace the open spots along with who knows how many other species. I was very impressed with the display.
The PCT reaches 3 miles and the views open up for the rest of the hike (5 miles out) of the Reynolds Peak massif on your left and the craggy ridge of Raymond Peak straight ahead. Enjoy the views east/northeast of the deep Noble Creek and Silver Creek drainages as they carry a surprising amount of water down to the East Fork of the Carson River down to the Nevada desert. There is a large rock that has great 360° views about 5 miles in right before the PCT drops into the Eagle Creek and Pennsylvania Creek drainages. Continue on to Canada or return the way you came for only a daylong adventure.
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