Notes for Potential Hikers
This is an easy low-stress walk on well-marked and maintained trail, without massive gains and losses, and at a lower altitude than some of the areas further south. This would be a good trip for less-experienced backpackers, people who would like to backpack with children, or those susceptible to altitude sickness.
Truckee is only a few miles east of the PCT just off of I-80, and Greyhound runs a bus from Truckee to San Francisco. Anybody in the Bay Area who can find a ride to Sonora Pass, Ebbetts Pass, or Carson Pass could consider walking the PCT from any of those passes north to Truckee.
We took a couple short side trips off the PCT to climb four SPS Peaks: Round Top, Granite Chief, Tinker Knob, and Castle Peak.
- Granite Chief and Tinker Knob are walk-ups just a few minutes from the PCT. Both have fine views from the top.
- Round Top and Castle Peak are more distant from the PCT and are reached via short class 3 climbs. Castle Peak is actually a bit north of Interstate 80, so after reaching the summit, we backtracked a few miles to return to the highway.
- There are also numerous summits in the Desolation Wilderness with Dick’s Peak being the most easily accessible from the PCT.
We were quite surprised by the number of people we encountered along the trail. There were plenty of day hikers, a number of backpackers walking the Tahoe Rim Trail, which is concurrent with the PCT for about forty miles, and a couple of people doing long segments of the PCT. In particular, there were many people in the area around Lake Winnemucca enjoying the easy day hike in from Carson Pass. There were many weekend backpackers in the Desolation Wilderness. Although the PCT was busy in places, we never had any difficulty finding private campsites. Wildflowers were still quite vibrant and colorful, even though it was already August. We had very few mosquitoes and never needed repellent.
During the summer there is friendly staff at an information building at Carson Pass. As PCT hikers, we were offered water and cookies. You can’t buy food there, but you could purchase guidebooks, historical accounts, and stuffed animals.
There is a deli and store open during the summer on the trail at Echo Lake a couple of miles north of Echo Summit. They sell freshly made sandwiches, beer and ice cream as well as a variety of groceries including a small selection of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Finding water was never difficult as many of the creeks were still flowing.
There is very good camping on top of the ridge between Highway 40 and I-80, about a mile south of I-80. At this place, road noise was not noticeable from either 40 or 80.