Alta Toquima Wilderness Trails
Hike and Trail
The massive summit of Mount Jefferson is the crown of the Toquima Range. This isolated summit reaches almost 12,000 feet. The area's uniqueness has attracted great scientific interest. More than a century ago, John Muir tramped its high plateau and forested glacial cirques and confirmed the role of glaciers in shaping Great Basin mountains. More recently it was designated by the Forest Service as a Research Natural Area for the study of alpine plants.
Just below the peak itself is Alta Toquima, the highest known Indian village in North America. The site, long abandoned, was discovered in 1978 by Dr. David Thomas of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Ancestral natives hunted bighorn sheep and collected limber and pinyon pine nuts. The remote village is located on a 15-to-30 percent slope, an added challenge for both the prehistoric village dwellers and modern-day visitors who brave the steep slopes and long rocky climb to reach the site.
Mt. Jefferson actually has three summits: south, middle and north. The connecting ridgeline traverses almost eight miles, all above 11,000 feet. Access to the top is relatively easy from the Pine Creek campground. Backpacking loads can be relatively light, as there is abundant water and several eastside streams support trout. A small alpine lake rests in a glacial cirque at 11,000 feet. Large groves of aspen and limber pine crowd the upper canyons, and in late July the high meadows may be rich in wildflowers.
Pine Creek campground on the east side of the wilderness area offers developed campsites, complete with picnic tables. It is located along the creek, for fishing. Access can also be had from Meadow Canyon.
Camping amid the rugged beauty of the Toquima Range. (c) Scott Smith