Back to index Tamarack to Raymond PCT Hike

Trip Date:  07/21/2017

: 14.5 Miles

Vertical Gain: 500'

Group Size: 1

Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard    Strenuous
Raymond PCT Route
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Raymond Tamarack Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 37.201' 
W 119 54.492'
    End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates  
Car Shuttle Req'd:   No
Parking Directions:   Take Highway 88 to the Blue Lakes Road turn south, just to the west of Pickett's Junction.  Go south on Blue Lakes road 11.5 miles to the turnoff for the Tamarack Junction trailhead for the Pacific Crest Trail, otherwise known as Sunset Lake Road.  Follow this road for about 1/4 mile and then park in the PCT trailhead parking on the left side.  Note:  There a couple of access roads which might require 4WD further down (toward Lower Sunset Lake or Wet Meadows Reservoir) which will cut a significant amount of travel time (3 miles or 5 miles) off this out and back.
Hazards of Note:   Mosquitos, tics, loose rock and shale as you near the Raymond Lake and Raymond Peaks area.

Crowd Factor:   Moderate to High.  The entire length of this trek is along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the lakes which the trail passes along are very popular camping destinations.
General Notes:
From the trailhead parking, pick up the trail which heads to the right of the rest room building at the east end of the lot.  Follow this trail for about 1/10 of a mile until it connects up with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT.)  Head to the right (south,) and follow this trail for as long as you would like.  The trail ends at Mexico but Raymond Lake is a viable turn around point 8 miles ahead if you can get out onto the trail early enough.
About 5 1/2 miles into the trail the switchbacks up toward Raymond Lake begin, and the views of Pleasant Valley and Thornburg Peak across to the north are fantastic from here.  In the spring and early summer there is an impressive cascade of water along Pleasant Valley Creek which flows out of Wet Meadow Reservoir.

The empty trailhead at the Tamarack parking for the Pacific Crest Trail just south of Blue Lakes road.
Lonely Tamarack Trailhead

The first couple miles of the trail south from Tamarack TH are mostly forested with a number of lakes visible on both sides of the trail at times.
Early forest section 

The only official PCT markers along this entire section of trail were on either side of the Lower Sunset Lake road which the trail crosses early on.

A look through the smokey skies toward part of the Raymond Peak ridgeline.

A couple of lakes can be seen along the way early into the trip, but Lily Pad Lake is right along the trail and is worth a few minutes to check out.
Lily Pad Lake 

Peak season started a little late this year, but once the wildflowers started blooming they exploded all throughout the area.

Four miles into the trail, just a little bit past the Wet Meadows Trail junction is the official boundary of the east side of the Mokelumne Wilderness area.
Wilderness boundary 

The section of the PCT as it enters the Wilderness Area leaves the forest for a little bit, offering a preliminary look at how the trail will be once the Raymond area switchbacks begin a mile further.
Exiting the forest

Even in late July there were still a number of water crossings along this section of the PCT north of Raymond Peak.
 Water crossing

Looking north from the trail toward Jeff Davis Peak on the left and Markleeville Peak on the right.
Looking north

At the start of the switchbacks which eventually lead up to Raymond Lake there is a nice overlook of Thornburg Peak and Pleasant Valley down to the right.
Thornburg Peak

A lot of smoke in the air today from the Detwyler fire near Mariposa to the south, but still a great look toward Markleeville in the distance and Pleasant Valley in the foreground.
Pleasant Valley

A look ahead at the PCT where it starts to cut into the mountain below some of the Raymond Peak area (behind this false summit.)
Toward Raymond

A closer look at how the trail cuts right into the side of the hill, and needs to be reworked nearly every year with all of the loose shale and volcanic rock above it.
More trail

7 plus miles in another look at Pleasant Valley to the east.  This ended up being my turn-around spot as I was out of time to explore any further on this trip.  Next time I will pick up the trail at Wet Meadows to be only about 3 miles in at this point.
PV again

There is a wonderful lunch spot/camp site just at one of the bends in the switchbacks in this area.  Water is close by provided by the snowmelt from a large field still around this late into the summer.
Lunch spot

On the way back I had a nice glimpse of a full Wet Meadows Reservoir from the trail.
Wet Meadow Reservoir

This was a small exposed section of the PCT on granite that needed some marking to keep anyone heading south from taking a wrong turn off to the left.
Trail maintenance

The volcanic plug that is Jeff Davis Peak is a very distinctive feature along most of the section of this hike.
Jeff Davis

GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike