Elevation gain: Almost none
Features: Before 1984, a big chunk of the Sierra Nevada between Ebbetts and Sonora Passes north of Yosemite Park was unprotected and open to development. The California Wilderness Act filled in this threatened link with the establishment of the more than 158,000-acre Carson-Iceberg Wilderness on the Stanislaus and Toiyabe National Forests.
Encompassing a dramatic segment of the Sierra Nevada Crest and providing the water source of three mighty Sierra rivers (the Mokelumne, Stanislaus, and East Carson), the Carson-Iceberg is a beautiful area of high alpine peaks, mountain lakes, meadows, and forests. The optimum time to visit the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness is summer but you can squeeze in a hike or two before the snow flies.
Trail Directions: Asa Lake offers an easy, beautiful, and introductory hike into the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Follow the Gardner Meadow Trail past the trail intersection to Upper Gardner Meadow and through grassy expanse of Lower Gardner Meadow. About 2.5 miles from the trailhead, turn left on the Pacific Crest Trail and head north about ½ mile to pretty Asa Lake. The trail makes its way through fir forests and over at least one saddle, and then across small and large scenic meadows with great views of the Sierra Crest’s 10,000 foot-high peaks to the south. The route goes up and down a bit on its way to Asa Lake but the lake and trailhead are essentially at the same 8,500 foot elevation.
Driving directions: From the Gold Rush town of Angels Camp on Highway 49, take Highway 4 east towards Ebbetts Pass. Please note that the upper portion of this highway is not plowed and is typically closed in the winter due to snow. Shortly before reaching the pass on Highway 4, turn right on Highland Lakes Road and drive south 7-8 miles to the Upper Gardner Meadow Trailhead turn-off on the left. The trailhead parking area is about 100 yards off the main road just northeast of the first Highland Lake. For the most recent road and trail conditions, contact the Forest Service’s Summit Ranger District at (209) 965-3434.
Caution: Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.
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- Sierra Forests Hikes