Day Trips: Carson Iceberg Wilderness

Posted By on August 19, 2013

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Story and photos by Charlie Pankey
Trip  – Wolf Creek Trail head in Alpine County, Doorway to the Carson Iceberg Wilderness
Key facts:
34 miles from Douglas High School in Minden
Located off Hwy 4 in Alpine County
Wolf Creek is the Southern Tip of the Carson Iceberg Wilderness
From Wikipedia:
( It encompasses 160,000 acres and was designated by the California Wilderness Act of 1984. It protects an area of High Sierra landscape with elevations from 4,800 feet (1,500 m) to 11,462 feet (3,494 m) along the Sierra Mountains from Ebbetts Pass to Sonora Pass in the south.[2] The US Forest Service manages the wilderness which is in both the Stanislaus National Forest and the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Located in the wilderness are the headwaters of the Carson River draining the east side of the crest, as well as the North and Middle Forks of the Stanislaus River on the west slopes.

The name Carson-Iceberg comes from two prominent geographical features: the Carson River (named for noted scout and explorer Kit Carson) and the distinctive granite formation called “The Iceberg” on the southern boundary near Clark Fork Road.)

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Looking for a great family day hike?  Tucked away about 5 miles off the main highway along Highway 4 is the Wolf Creek Dry Camp. A popular place for horseback riders in the Sierra hiking trails.  I set out today to discover what type of hiking the Wolf Creek Trail would provide into the Carson Iceberg Wilderness. I was introduced to the idea by a guy I met on the Pacific Coast Trail head on top of Ebbett’s Pass earlier this summer that was explaining that they were working as group to go down the Wolf Creek trail from the Pacific Coast trail.  Not knowing what to expect, I loaded up on water and energy snacks for the hike for myself and two dogs.Daytrip4-cvt-081813pankey

 To get to the destination from Minden head out Hwy 88 towards Woodfords. At Woodfords take a left towards Markleeville. The trip will follow the Carson River past Markleeville for about 12 miles to a popular Christmas Tree gathering spot called Centerville Site ( no sign that say’s Centerville Site just what it is called on map)  There is a sign that tells you the Wolf Creek is to the right.
The road to Wolf Creek is five miles, 3 miles paved, 2 miles rough rocky road, will probably need at least a Subaru all wheel drive type vehicle, not suggested for Honda Accord.   The road ends at the camp ground and trail head so no chance of getting lost. Side note: you will be surprised to find there is a residence back there and cattle farming that goes on throughout the summer in this valley.
Upon arriving, I found the campground had a half dozen sites set up, all with horse trailers. The trail head is right at the entrance and there is plenty of parking options for day trippers.
Starting out on the trail was exciting, it is very beautiful area with sweeping alpine meadows, a great creek and mature pines.  You enter Wilderness area immediately on your hike so your destination really is up to you on your hike.  Today my hike consists of a timed hike, so 1 hour in 1 hour out. (Pick up a map and you will see there are multiple routes and connection points in the Carson Iceberg Wilderness trail system, so you can build a more adventurous trip if you have time.
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To my surprise on the hike the trail is relatively flat.  I would say in the hour hike in it might be the easiest hike I have done in the Sierra Mountains. The hike never strays more than hundred yards from the river and gives you ample opportunity stop and play in the cold mountain water or stop for a peaceful  time in the valley.  About every 15 minutes on the hike I found a great place to pull over let the dogs play in the stream, take a water break and a few pictures. As I was walking I thought it would be easy for all levels of hikers to enjoy this trip because it has scenery and rest areas for all fitness levels.  The path does have a lot of loose rock on it and you do need to watch your step to prevent twisted ankles.
If you are taking the dogs on this trip, watch out for the horses. Although you are not likely to see many people on this trip I did run into a pack of 9 horses and dogs. Also I was reminded almost an hour into the trip that I was in the wilderness, found a tree that looked like it was a favorite scratching post for I assume a bear. It is part of the adventure of hiking in the wilderness. We are in their home and  need to stay alert.
After my hour-in Hike, the Dogs and I were ready to head home. I love stopping at Woodfords for a sandwich but will also offer up there are opportunities to eat along the Carson River and Markleeville also. I choose Woodfords and had a Tahoe Sandwich with Roast beef, turkey and Jack Cheese, Great sandwich.
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Today’s Day trip all together was a little over four hours.  I will be returning, maybe next time I will plan to come in from the top on the Pacific Coast trail, that looks to be a good solid day hike. Great hike and lots of peace and quiet. I would recommend this hike to anyone, as long as your car can make it out the road. The hike is easy and quite peaceful.
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  1. Nice job, Charlie. The Carson-Iceberg is one of the best kept secrets in the Sierra. Enter it from Little Antelope Valley south of Topaz, and it will blow you away.