Central California Trail Closure

South Fork San Joaquin River Bridge damaged

The bridge across the South Fork San Joaquin River is damaged. This large metal bridge normally provides safe passage at PCT mile 854.5 in Kings Canyon National Park across the river.

Do not use the broken bridge, as doing so may be dangerous. Without a bridge, crossing the river is not possible anywhere in the general vicinity during high water. The record-breaking snowpack this year essentially guarantees that high water conditions will exist into August, if not longer. This is a significant impact to travel along the PCT/JMT between Muir Trail Ranch and Evolution Valley.

Detour to the East via Bishop and Piute Passes

People looking to travel through the area should use Piute Pass and Bishop Pass to detour around the area. Please do not use other trails or routes, as protecting the wilderness and fragile natural resources is important for all of us.

Make smart safety choices in this heavy snow year

Travel during this heavy snow year is significantly challenging and is not suitable for everyone. The detour involves two high mountain passes and reaches nearly 12,000 feet. While surely challenging, the conditions are not known – expect avalanche danger in early season, high water runoff, damaged trails, and more.

Make good and safe choices this season. Many people will cancel their trips or obtain new permits and delay to later in the season or another year, and that will be a good decision for many people who don’t have the skill, experience, or desire for serious snow travel conditions in the Sierra Nevada. Please consider the risk to others if you require a rescue operation.

Please protect the Sierra from damage caused by hikers by traveling through and not lingering

We are concerned about lots of people walking this detour and the damage that could result. Additional use to this already popular route could likely cause damage unless users are very careful about following Leave No Trace. While trails themselves are resilient to footsteps, a lot of damage can happen, especially when camping. Snow blankets the mountains and trails will be wet. Please take extreme care to not pollute water sources: do not defecate in the snow, or too close to water or trails. Walk on the trail, even if it’s wet to prevent trail expansion and trampling of sensitive plants.

Please do not walk cross country – by staying on trails, your impact is concentrated to one area. There are simply more people wanting to detour than fragile areas can sustain.

By traveling with care, you are protecting the Sierra for future generations.

Northbound travel

Leave the PCT at mile 832.2 near the Le Conte Ranger Station. Travel east across Bishop Pass to the road at South Lake. This is 12 miles with 3,450 feet of elevation gain and 2,380 feet loss.

Make your way between South Lake and North Lake.

From the North Lake Trailhead, travel over Piute Pass and stay on the Piute Canyon (upper trail) to rejoin the PCT at mile 857.2. Please stay off the Golden Trout Lake Trail. This is 16.4 miles with 2,450 feet of gain and 3,700 feet of loss.

Southbound travel

Leave the PCT at mile 857.2, traveling up Piute Canyon and across Piute Pass. Please stay on the high trail and off the Golden Trout Lake Trail. Reach the road at North Lake, a distance of 16.4 miles with 3,700 feet of gain and 2,450 feet of loss.

Make your way between North Lake and South Lake.

From South Lake, travel over Bishop Pass to rejoin the PCT at mile 832.2. This is 12 miles with 2,380 feet of gain and 3,450 feet of loss.

Traveling between South Lake and North Lake

Travel via car between these two trailheads. The roads are not safe to walk. It is unclear at this time whether the Bishop Creek Shuttle will be running. Eastern Sierra Transit Authority is proposing to discontinue the shuttle. A public comment period is open until June 9, 2023. Learn more here. Find information about other shuttle companies here.

The Tyee Lakes Trail requires an additional quota permit for overnight use. It is not covered by your other permit that you are using on the PCT/JMT. The Tyee Lakes Trail will hold steep north facing snow for a long time.

Detour map for Bishop and Piute Passes

How PCT Long-distance Permits work on this detour

The PCT Long-distance Permit has special Terms. Please note:

  • PCT Long-distance Permits do not allow for camping off the PCT corridor, this includes while traveling to and from trailheads. If you cannot do this travel in a day, you must obtain local permits if you wish to take this detour and camp on it.
  • PCT Long-distance Permits allow for travel off the PCT to resupply or access trailheads within fifteen trail miles of the PCT. This travel must be done on the most direct trail between the PCT and the trailhead. A special allowance is made for travel on the Piute Pass Trail, a distance of 16.4 miles, for the purpose of detouring around the South Fork San Joaquin River Bridge. The Bishop Pass Trail is ~12 miles and is already allowed under the Terms of the permit.PCT Long-distance Permits do not allow for travel across Lamarck Col as it is not an official trail nor other cross-country routes such as the Sierra High Route in the area. Travel on detours other than the Bishop Pass Trail and Piute Pass Trail require additional permits from the local land management agencies.
  • Normally, continuous travel is required in the area. If permit holders skip any portion of the Southern Sierra and wish to return to travel through the area, they must obtain new permits from the local land management agencies. This Term is waived for the purpose of traveling between South Lake and North Lake while utilizing the detour. PCT Long-distance Permit holders may exit via one trailhead and rejoin at the other and their permit will remain valid in the Southern Sierra.

How “local” wilderness permits (ie. non-PCT Long-distance Permits) work on this detour

PCT Long-distance Permits have rules that are different than those for permits issued locally under trailhead quota systems.  Local trailhead permits do not have itinerary restrictions similar to PCT Long-Distance Permits.  As long as a permit is available and issued for a specific trailhead for a specific date of departure, the permit holder is generally free to plan the continuous wilderness itinerary of their choice including traveling on the JMT, PCT, other trails or off trail travel (with a few notable exceptions such as exiting Whitney which requires availability of an additional quota).  The Inyo National Forest website wilderness permits page (Inyo National Forest – Recreation Passes & Permits (usda.gov) states that “If you have a break in continuous wilderness travel, a new permit would be required from the agency where the next section of your trip begins.”  The continuous wilderness travel requirement will not be enforced for those that have a break in continuous wilderness travel for the purpose of travelling the reroute.  No other trailhead quota permit rules have changed.

Important information about roads and campgrounds

South Lake and North Lake Campgrounds are small, first-come first-served campgrounds with fees and limits on the number of people and tents per site. They will open late this year. Have a plan should you arrive, and they are full or closed. Camping outside of a campground (ie. dispersed camping) is not allowed in this area. You may need to stay in one of the other campgrounds in the area, including Willow, Mountain Glen, Four Jeffrey, Big Trees, Intake, Bishop Park, Sabrina, or stay in the town of Bishop.

The roads in the area will open late this year. The campgrounds will open after the roads open. We understand that the hope is to open South Lake Road to Parchers Resort in mid-June, then the road to Lake Sabrina, then the road to North Lake.



Photo courtesy of the National Park Service, Jacob Mcnamara and SEKI Aviation/Helitack.

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service, Jacob Mcnamara and SEKI Aviation/Helitack.