July-September 505 Miles
Trail is generally snow-free during these months.
Starting from this section’s lowest point at Walker Pass (elev. 5,246’), the trail enters a road-less and wildly scenic realm, being met only occasionally by a dead-end road from the east. It hugs the relatively dry crest through the Chimney Peak Wilderness before reaching and crossing the South Fork of the Kern River near Kennedy Meadows. The route alternates between expansive meadows and conifer forests, then embarks on a 3,300’ ascent and traverse to Cottonwood Pass. To the north is the majestic glaciated High Sierra. For trail users, the glaciers’ most important accomplishment was the excavation of shallow basins which filled with water to create thousands of photogenic lakes and tarns, many near or above tree-line.
In Sequoia National Park, the popular John Muir Trail descends from nearby Mt. Whitney (elev. 14,494’) to join the PCT. The trails share the same tread for most of the way to Highway 120 in Yosemite National Park’s lush Tuolumne Meadows (elev. 8,690’). Along this mostly wilderness stretch, the route repeatedly descends deep canyons only to ascend to high saddles. ThePCT crosses eight named passes above 11,000’ in this section, the first being Forester Pass (elev. 13,180’), the highest point on the entire trail.
After crossing Highway 180 at Sonora Pass (elev. 9,620’), the altitude changes diminish in amplitude, and the trail soon begins a generally sub-alpine, relatively level traverse that stays close to the Sierra crest until this section ends at Interstate 80 (elev. 7,200’). There is some volcanic rock south of Yosemite, but notable amounts are encountered from Sonora Pass to Echo Summit at Highway 50, and again near this section’s end north of the Granite Chief Wilderness.
Plants in this section include corn lily, snow plant, red fir, Jeffrey, and ponderosa pine at lower levels and mule ears, mountain hemlock, and weather-twisted white bark pines near tree-line. Animals include marmot, coyote, deer, and black bear. The latter too often enjoy a meal of dehydrated food and granola bars left unguarded. Mountain chickadee, junco, Steller’s jay, Clark’s nutcracker, and red-tailed hawk provide a cacophony of nature to visitor’s ears.