This project really started in the summer of 2008, not long after I began working for the Pacific Crest Trail Association. Mike Dawson, PCTA’s director of trail operations, told me about this section of the PCT in the Tahoe National Forest. Yuba River Ranger District Public Services Staff Officer Joe Chavez, a passionate trails manager, had concerns about various user conflicts in the area—some legal and some illegal. Mike and I committed to spending time with Joe and other Tahoe National Forest staff to consider this section of trail and evaluate how to solve the problems. We spent two and a half days studying maps and conducting field work with the agency staff, and we all felt this section of trail warranted a deeper analysis.
Of the 16 miles we studied, we agreed that realigning a 6.5-mile section of the PCT would solve the problems. That required that we build 3.9 miles of new trail and connect the PCT to 2.6 miles of existing trail.
In 2014, the PCTA supervised an American Conservation Experience (ACE) crew and broke ground on the new section of trail. Each year since we managed to build one-half to three quarters mile of new trail. The terrain is rocky, steep, and downright rough to work in. And we build the PCT to a very high standard compared to some other trails. Each new piece of trail tread was hard work.
The new PCT route travels north of the Sierra Buttes and swings down from the ridge to Tamarack Lakes. The upper lake will provide a beautiful location for PCT users to refill water and camp for the night. Vehicle access to the upper lake will be blocked, providing a newly quiet place to visit. The trail will then travel past Pack Saddle campground, which provide more water access and facilities.
The newly built 3.9-mile section of the PCT up to Tamarack Lakes is sure to be a popular day hike and horseback ride. Of note: there is one section between Upper and Lower Tamarack Lakes that requires some technical rock work. We plan to complete that next year. Meanwhile, there is a clear and easy walk around using a dirt road below Lower Tamarack Lake that provides a continuous path, which many people already are using. This new section, including the temporary route below Lower Tamarack Lake, will be clearly signed for people to follow.
Heading north from Pack Saddle Campground, hikers and equestrians will use the old Deer Lake trail, which is now officially the PCT, and this is a continuous path that ties back to the PCT above and just north of Deer Lake. This 2.6-mile northern portion of the project still needs some improvements. Short sections need to be realigned, we need to lower the grade to PCT standards, and we need to improve switchbacks and drainage features to make the trail more durable and sustainable. We will be tackling this work in the coming year. If you are interested in being a part of this project, PCTA will be hosting volunteer work parties in 2018.
It takes a community to build and protect the PCT
As this is now a continuous path, we are excited to be opening it up for hikers, horseback riders and PCT enthusiasts to enjoy. It could not have been accomplished without the dedication of PCTA volunteers, staff, our Forest Service partners, and all the other partners and volunteers who gave their time, energy and hard work to making the new trail a reality.
We’d also like to extend our community’s gratitude to the donors who made this work possible. Thank you to all of the PCTA members and donors, the National Forest Foundation for a large grant, Wells Fargo, the U.S. Forest Service for continued funding of the trail and to all others who pitched in their dollars.
So, head out and enjoy the newest section of the PCT! Download a map of the new segment.
CLICK HERE to see the original article and the photos from the Pacific Crest Trail Association.
Justin Kooyman is PCTA’s Northern Sierra Regional Representative. He's in charge of the PCT from the northern boundary of Yosemite National Park north approximately 450 miles to Burney Falls State Park. Justin partners with seven National Forests, one National Park and one CA State Park in the maintenance and management of the PCT. His regional office is located in Portola, CA. When not working, Justin can be found exploring the Northern Sierras or looking for uncommon birds in Plumas County.