The Pacific Crest Trail's Sonora Pass

You won't want to miss this breathtaking 8-mile dayhike.
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You won't want to miss this breathtaking 8-mile dayhike.

State: CA

Getting PCT cognoscenti to agree on the trail's top dayhike might seem like a Sisyphean effort, but there's surprising consensus on the 8-mile walk from 9,628-foot Sonora Pass south to Leavitt Lake Pass. Here, the PCT straddles a windswept ridge high above treeline, with 100-mile Sierra views. In the foreground, shimmering alpine lakes dot glacial cirques among towering cliffs and hillsides bursting with lupine, green gentian, and other wildflowers. Gnarled whitebark pines claw the air in mute testimony to their own staying power. And off in the distance, in every direction, are regal stone giants. On a good day, you'll see Mts. Conness and Lyell in Yosemite. Cap off your hike with the half-mile scramble up 11,570-foot Leavitt Peak, leaving the PCT at 10,880 feet on the peak's east shoulder. Then, to reach your car at Leavitt Lake, descend 1.7 miles on an old, closed jeep track called Horse Meadow Road, which is 8.1 miles south of Sonora Pass near 10,640-foot Leavitt Lake Pass.

Local Wisdom: Create a shorter, partial loop back to Sonora Pass by linking Latopie, Koening, and Leavitt Lakes via cross-country routes.

The Way: Sonora Pass is 35 miles east of Pinecrest on CA 108. To leave a vehicle at Leavitt Lake, drive 3.8 miles east of Sonora Pass on CA 108, then turn right onto Leavitt Lake Rd., which climbs 3 steep, deeply rutted miles to the lake. (Walk or bike this last stretch if you don't have 4WD.)