PCT: VVR Ferry to Red's Meadow

Miles 878.7-906.7 of the northbound PCT: Over the seventh of nine major passes in the central Sierra, and reaching the outskirts of Mammoth, CA near Devils Postpile.

Hiking Moderate

Distance
45 km
Ascent
1.8 km
Descent
1.8 km
Duration
1 day +
Low Point
2.3 km
High Point
3.3 km
Gradient
11˚
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PCT: VVR Ferry to Red's Meadow Map

Description

After passing Edison Lake and the ferry access to Vermillion Valley Ranch, CA Section H of the PCT continues northward along the route of the John Muir Trail, aiming for Mammoth and Devils Postpile National Monument. This segment of trail remains concealed among forest for the most part, but rises to an alpine vista at Silver Pass, and features big waterfalls on a few different creeks. Another highlight comes at Lake Virginia, which is a popular spot to camp along this portion of the trail.

From the ferry trail junction (NB mile 878.7) the PCT continues up the valley of Mono Creek, then crosses its north fork at an easy ford (NB mile 879.4), and starts more steeply uphill. The trail climbs steadily through varied forest of pine, aspen, and brushy meadows, plus granite shelves and slabs. Decent campsites are scattered throughout, where you might choose to spend the night to set up for Silver Pass. After crossing the creek a second time (NB mile 881.5), the climb up to the pass really begins, taking tight switchbacks and stairs up a sun-exposed, bouldery slope.

Silver Pass Creek tumbles in slides nearby, and the trail crosses it in a spot right below a tiered waterfall (NB mile 882.6). Higher up, the trail tops out a headwall, with a view of the water careening down into the valley. After a brief, level stretch beside a meadow with campsites, the trail tips upward again. The trees gradually give way to more and more granite, and eventually the timberline. The trail enters a tundra basin with Silver Pass Lake in the center (NB mile 884), and the pass up ahead.

Silver Pass (NB mile 884.9) is not too difficult compared to some other passes in the High Sierra, but can become a snowy slog nonetheless, depending on conditions. The trail actually crosses a shoulder of the mountain above the actual pass, allowing for a gentler descent around the bowl of Chief Lake on the other side. You can find good camps near Chief (NB mile 885.5) or Squaw Lake (NB 886.5) if you want to spend a night above treeline before the trail drops back down.

Next comes the descent into the valley of Fish Creek, where the trail wanders among thick forest with a few stream crossings, passing several sheltered campsites. After crossing Fish Creek on a bridge (NB mile 888.6), it’s a scenic ascent along the tumbling creek to reach a serene valley meadow called Tully Hole. From there, switchbacks lead up a sun-soaked slope and then through a stretch of forest to reach Lake Virginia (NB mile 891.8).

This lake makes an excellent place to camp, or at least a spot to take a break and cool off in the water. Beyond the lake is a brief uphill to a minor pass, then downhill switchbacks lead to the wooded shores of Purple Lake (NB mile 893.5). From there, the trail begins a rolling traverse along a forested mountainside, headed west above the expanding valley of Fish Creek. This stretch has seasonal streams but may be mostly waterless by late season.

Reliable sources come at the crossings of Duck Creek (NB mile 901.0) and Crater Creek (NB mile 902.9), near the end of this segment. All that remains is a downhill jaunt through continual forest to eventually reach the junction for Red’s Meadow Resort and a campground (NB mile 906.7). The rustic resort, just ¼ mile off the PCT, has a general store, cafe, and shower house open to hikers. The resort can also accept resupply packages. In addition, there’s a Forest Service campground located a bit farther up the road. The town of Mammoth Lakes is easily accessible from here as well, in case you want to leave the trail for better resupply or for a zero-day. The Devils Postpile shuttle can be used to get from Red’s Meadow into town and back.

Permits: This segment of the PCT crosses from Sierra National Forest into Inyo National Forest. A wilderness permit is required for camping, and you will need to obtain it from the agency in charge of wherever your trip begins. So you must plan based on the trailhead you’ll start from, and look up the permit process for the relevant agency. Alternatively, if you get the PCT long-distance Permit it can serve in place of the agency-specific permits. Also, bear-resistant canisters are required for camping along much of this segment, as well as on stretches of the trail to the north and south. Other regulations apply to wilderness permits as well, and the number of permits may be limited, so it’s recommended to research and plan well in advance.

Sources: https://pctmap.net/trail-notes/ https://pctwater.com/ https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/permits/local-permits/

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

May, June, July, August, September, October, November

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Guidebooks in this area