Back to index Ebbett's Pass to Noble Lake PCT Hike
Trip Date:  7/17/2020

Distance: 12.6 Miles

Vertical Gain: 1500'

Group Size: 7

Hike Rating:  Easy  
Moderate   Hard   Strenuous
Noble Lake Hike
See video of this hike  See video of hike   Download GPX GPX for this trip
Noble Lake Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 32.921, W 119 48.351     End Coordinates:   N 38 34.990,  W 119 47.355
Car Shuttle Req'd:   Yes Parking Directions:   For the trailhead take Highway 4 to the PCT parking area on the south side of the highway a little bit past Kinney Reservoir.  Drive up the dirt road to the PCT parking area at the coordinates and find the start of the trail to the west just past the rest rooms at the lot.  
For the end of the hike parking area, look for the most westerns of two sharp horseshoe turns in Highway 4 about 4 miles east of the PCT parking lot.  There is a gravel pull out here with enough room for about 5 vehicles.  You should be able to see the Noble Canyon Trail marker from this spot to your south.
Hazards of Note:   Mountain lion and bear country, as well as some narrow, gravelly sections of trail along the PCT as you make the climb over the last 1/2 mile to Noble Lake.

Crowd Factor:   Moderate.  The PCT is a well-travelled trail and you will most likely run into a few hikers along the 5 miles between the trailhead and just past Noble Lake. Along the Noble Canyon section of trail you will enounter few to no other people.
General Notes:
There are three options for doing this hike to Noble Lake.  One is to do an out and back from the Noble Canyon Trailhead, for a total of about 11 or 12 miles depending on whether you go past Noble Lake to the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness boundary or not.  The second option is to do an out and back from the PCT trailhead, for a total of 9.5 to 11.5 miles given the same option.   The third option, which we took, was to make this a point to point hike, heading in on the PCT and then back out on the Noble Canyon Trail so that we were able to experience both trails to Noble Lake.   Note that the PCT trailhead is 1400 feet in elevation higher than the Noble Canyon Trail, so you will have that difference between the start and end and we decided to have the last five miles downhill.  
The PCT section from Ebbetts Pass to Noble Lake a pretty spectacular display of both volcanic and granite formations all along the way, and in mid July the wildflower display was also pretty amazing.  We counted no less than 20 different varieties along the way, and it is possible there were more that we just missed.  The first 2 1/2 miles are mostly a slight downhill along the way, with nice views of Noble Canyon below as well as Silver and Highland peaks to the east.  
At about the 4 mile mark you will notice the Noble Canyon trail junction heading off to the north, which is the point you will turn off during your trek back from the lake to get to the end of the point to point hike.   The last mile to the lake begins a constant climb up gravelly switchbacks, some of which seemingly take you a good quarter mile away from your destination before turning and leading you back to toward the lake once more.
Once you reach Noble Lake you will find there is one campsite spot on the eastern shore, which had a couple of nice logs stretched across rocks to form two benches that we were able to use for our group to partake in a lunchtime meal.  The lake itself is an unusual green color, mostly due to the grass which is growing in it for most of its extent.  The 9975' Tryon Peak can be seen in the distance to the west behind it, but for the most part there are only a few trees scattered about the lake and this was the best place to be out of the sun.
Even though it is another mile (each way) to the top of the pass to the south, the views of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness beyond this point are well worth the effort. On a clear day such as the one we had, you can even see the mountains far to the south which sit inside Yosemite National Park at the northern end.  
Heading back down from the pass you will notice a small second lake above Noble Lake to the east, which we did not explore but looked pleasant and untouched by the masses of PCT hikers who head through this area.  
At the Noble Canyon junction you will head to the north, and follow this trail for five miles until you reach the end of the trip at the horseshoe bend in Highway 4.  This route follows Noble Creek the entire way, but for most of the trip you are above it and often cannot even see it.  There are a few open areas in the forested trail that afford nice views of the sides of the canyon as well as back toward the lake we just visited.  About a mile from the end you will have to cross the creek, and while there were some small trees across the trail at this point that could be navigated, some of us just walked through the relatively shallow water at this time of the year.

Our group ready to head out from the PCT parking area along Ebbett's Pass.  The actual PCT is .2 miles to the west, but there are signs clearly marking which way you will need to go.  Parking area
This way to travel the very short distance to the PCT proper. This way
This section of trail was open and filled with views of the volcanic ridges which towered above us. Open views 
The imposing Silver Peak looms across Noble Canyon and makes frequent appearances as you make your way up the PCT.   Silver peak
To the south of Silver Peak along the same ridgeline is the just as impressive and slightly taller Highland Peak.
Highland Peak
Lots of great viewpoints along the way made for tempting spots to take pictures of the group.  Our destination of Noble Lake is in the far distance on the right. Views up the canyon
Halfway along our route on the PCT there is a nice set of waterfalls to the west of the trail.  They were not flowing very much on this mid July day, but they provided enough water for a bonanza of flowers to be growing along the trail just downstream from the falls. Waterfall
This turn in the trail is the first of many switchbacks over the next mile which will lead you 600' in elevation up to the lake. First switchback 
Well worth turning around along the way up to see impressive views down Noble Canyon, Raymond Peak deep in the heart of the Mokelumne Wilderness. and even Freel Peak far to the north. Views back
Our first look at Noble Lake with Tryon Peak looming over it in the distance. Noble Lake
All of us, with or without fur, enjoying lunch at the only campsite around the lake.  Lunch at the lake
The trek from the lake up to the pass was another 400' of elevation over a mile, but the trail was pretty and the views just got better and better. Heading up to the pass
Almost to the top we had great views to the north of Noble Lake and beyond, which set us up for the views to the south which were coming up. Back toward Noble
This view south toward Sonora Pass and Yosemite, taking in much of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness area was well worth any effort to get up to the pass.   Carson-Iceberg
To the Southwest it was possible to spot the two Highland Lakes, which are reachable by vehicle down a 10 mile stretch of dirt road and also a number of trailheads into the Wilderness area below. Highland Lakes
To the southeast you could generally follow the path of the PCT 20+ miles toward Sonora Pass, including Sonora Peak in the distance. Southeast
We met a PCT Thru-hiker at the pass who offered to take our group picture, but only 5 of our 7 were captured in this shot. Most of our group
Another nice look at Noble Lake as we headed back down from the pass.  By the time we reached our lunch spot where we had dropped our packs, a couple had shown up to camp and were thrilled we weren't staying but had 'saved' the spot for them. Noble Lake
Our group on the way back down the PCT from Noble Lake, just before making the turnoff onto the Noble Canyon Trail. PCT Hiking
This poor weathered marker pointing out Tryon Peak and its elevation of 9975 was hardly legible at thie point. Weathered marker
It took awhile for the forest to open up along the Noble Canyon section of the trail, but this meadow filled with many shades of green was an early highlight on this section. Meadow
A nice look back up the canyon and the pass which we had visited right in the distant middle. A look back
The stacked rocks on either side of the Noble Canyon Creek made it easy to find the best route across. Crossing
When reaching this junction marker make sure to aim for the Trailhead as the other route will take you to the WRONG hairpin turn in Highway 4 about a mile away from your car by road. Junction
Finally, after 12 1/2 miles we were at the end of the trip, noted by the sign just off the road that starts or ends the Noble Canyon Trail. At the finish
GPS Track of the full hike, starting along the PCT on the right and heading up to the pass and then back down the Noble Canyon Trail to the left. GPS Track of Hike