Pine Creek Trailhead
This Trailhead provides the most accessible route into the wilderness highlands and the best maintained trail. The trail starts in the Pine Creek Campground at an elevation of 7550 feet and follows the South Fork of Pine Creek. One mile above the campground, the trial encounters a junction with the lightly used Bucks Creek Trail. This difficult to follow trail avoids the highest parts of the wilderness a turns northward for 3.25 miles to connect with the Pasco Canyon Trail. One and ½ miles above the campground, the Pine Creek Trail then encounters a junction with the North Summit trail at an elevation of 8,170 feet. The North Summit Trail is overgrown and very difficult to follow. The persistent explorer may be able to trace this trail for 4.4 rugged miles to where it joins the Summit Trail north of the North Summit. At about 4.2 miles from the campground at an elevation of 9,850 feet, the Pine Creek Trail encounters a junction with the Middle Summit Trail. This Middle Summit Trail, crosses a low ridge then follows the South Fork of Pine Creek up to a scenic glacial tarn then presents a difficult 800 foot scramble up to the high altitude plateau, just south to the Middle Summit the trial encounters a junction with the Middle Summit Trial. The Pine Creek Trail continues up the southern-most fork of Pine Creek to a point 5.3 miles above the Campground where it joins the Summit Trail at an elevation of 10,950. Following the Summit Trail north for ½ mile below the towering South Summit will bring the explorer the additional 500 feet of elevation to reach the high altitude, sprawling summit plateau.
Mount Jefferson Trailhead
This Trailhead starts at 9,575 feet and provides the highest access to the Alta Toquima plateau. Vehicle access to this trailhead, however, can be sketchy. This trailhead is also the Southern terminus of the 15.4 mile Mount Jefferson Summit Trail. This trail climbs steeply to 11,750 feet directly south of the South Summit then abruptly drops 800 feet to meet the Windy Pass and Pine Creek trails. Most of that 800 feet will have to be re-climbed in the next mile to attain the highest portions of the summit plateau. There are no trails atop the Alta Toquima Plateau, and their should not be. This broad summit is Research Natural Area and a Native American cultural landscape. This plateau should remain free of modern human modifications. The exception to this leave-no-trace concept is several small radio repeater installation on top of the South Summit.
Moore’s Creek [aka Jefferson Summit] Trailhead
This trailhead serves as the northern terminus of the 15.4 mile Mount Jefferson Trail. This oddly routed trail starts by taking explorers ¼ mile downstream before turning nearly 300 degrees to follow Moore’s Creek up into the highest reaches of the wilderness. After fighting through brush-choked Moore’s Canyon for a mile, the trail climbs up a ridge to parallel the creek This portion of the is not a trail per se, but the route is marked by rock cairns. At 3.28 miles from the Trailhead, after dropping down into the upper canyon, the trail encounters a junction with the Pasco Canyon Trail at an elevation of 9,400 feet. The upper part of the Pasco Canyon trail is a trespass vehicular route into the wilderness. From here the Summit trail continues south, following rock cairns until it reaches the summit plateau at an elevation of 10,300 feet, 4.6 miles from the trailhead. The portion of the trail on the summit has no distinguishable tread and is not marked. This is how it should be, as this high altitude area is a very fragile landscape and is rich with archeological history. It is important to leave this area looking as it did when it was utilized by Native American for thousands of years before historic times.
Pasco Canyon Trailhead
This Trailhead lies high up on the slope north of Pasco Creek to avoid the private property at the mouth of the creek. From this 7,725-foot elevation, the trail contours along the slope until it meets the creek and follows it up through the steep, twisting Pasco Canyon. Two miles from the trailhead, this trail meets the trace of the Bucks Creek Trail. At this point neither the Pasco Canyon Trail nor the Bucks Creek trail can be distinguished from the numerous livestock and wildlife trails in this canyon. The Bucks Creek trail heads up the southwest drainage entering this meadow. If the hiker continues to follow the northernmost forks of the Pasco Canyon drainage from this meadow, in she will find in ½ mile the trespass vehicle route that climbs up the head of the canyon and joins the Summit trail, as described in the Moore’s Creek Trailhead description above.
Windy Pass Trailhead
This Trailhead lies at an elevation of 9,275 feet and is accessed by a rough two-track route. The contours toward upper Andrews Creek gaining only 200 feet in the first ¾ mile. From Andrew creek, the Windy Pass route climbs in earnest over the next 1.2 miles to meet the Summit Trail at an elevation of 11,000 feet on a high ridge above the Pine Creek Trail. This route provides the most expedient access to the alta Toquima Plateau.