Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

Granite Chief Wilderness

The Granite Chief Wilderness was designated a Wilderness area in 1984 because of its pristine nature, natural beauty, and potential to provide primitive, non-motorized recreational opportunities. The Tahoe National Forest manages this 25,680 acre wilderness which is not as crowded as other nearby wilderness areas.

By practicing good "Wilderness Ethics" techniques and observing wilderness regulations, you can help maintain the pristine condition of the Granite Chief Wilderness and lessen the need for additional regulations in the future.

Seasons of Use ... Be Prepared

Elevations in Granite Chief range from 5000 foot valley to 9000 foot peaks. Summers are typically warm and dry, though nighttime temperatures can be cold and afternoon thundershowers often build over the mountains. Snow is possible during any month of the year. Be prepared for changeable weather and bring clothing that will keep you warm and dry. Please refer to "Backcountry Safety Tips" for additional information.

Deep snow usually makes the Granite Chief inaccessible to hiking until May or early June, though this varies with the snowfall from year to year. North facing slopes can remain patchy with snow until July.


Recreation maps of the Forest can be purchased at any Ranger Station. Topographic maps (and the skills to use them) are highly recommended in the wilderness because of the minimal signage and the remoteness of the area.

Most of the Wilderness is covered by two USGS topographic maps; the Granite Chief 7.5' and Wentworth Springs 7.5' quadrangles. Small portions of the eastern part of the Wilderness are covered by the Tahoe City 7.5' and Homewood 7.5' quadrangles.

Private Land

Many of the trailheads and trails accessing the wilderness are on private land. Please respect the rights of landowners.

Wilderness Regulations

Wilderness Permits are not presently required for day or overnight use in the Granite Chief Wilderness.

California Campfire Permits are required if using a portable campstove or building a woodfire. They are available from any Ranger Station or California Dept. of Forestry office and are valid until the end of the year issued. When wildfire danger is high, you may be restricted from building campfires, using stoves, or smoking. Check the Fire Restrictions page or with a Ranger Station.

Group size is limited to 12 people for day and overnight use.

Camping, campfires, and stove use are prohibited within 600 feet of any lake in the Five Lakes basin.

Camping, campfires, and stove use are prohibited within 250 feet of the Whiskey Creek structures. (less than one mile southwest of Five Lakes on the Whiskey Creek trail).

Recreational stock animals:

Stock size is limited to 12 animals for day or overnight use.
Stock are prohibited within 600 feet of all wilderness lakes (except to pass through the Five Lakes basin on the Five Lakes trail).

Dogs are prohibited from May 15 through July 15 each year in the following deer fawning areas: The wilderness portion of the French Meadow Game Refuge (except for the area east of the Pacific Crest Trail) and the Big Springs Trail and the portion of Five Lakes Creek that parallels that trail.

Bury human waste six to eight inches deep and at least 200' (100 paces) from lakes, streams, campsites, and trails. Toilet paper must be packed out or buried.

Water Advisory

Water in the Sierra may be contaminated with Giardia lambia and Crytosporidium, two organisms which can cause serious illness. These organisms are invisible, tasteless and odorless, and can cause symptoms that begin long after you've left the backcountry. Some backcountry waters may also contain bacteria and viruses that can make you ill.

There are may ways to protect yourself from these organisms. If day hiking, carry sufficient water from home, or bring along a portable water filter (make sure it filters down to 1 micron). If camping, use a filter or boil your water for three to five minutes.

Water is usually available year round in the major creeks, but smaller creeks may dry up toward the end of summer.

For More Information:

Contact the Truckee or Foresthill Ranger Stations or the Tahoe National Forest for additional information.

Truckee Ranger District
10342 Hwy 89 north
Truckee CA 96161
(530) 587-3558 (voice)
(530) 587-6907 (TDD)

Foresthill Ranger District
22830 Foresthill Road
Foresthill CA 95631
(530) 367-2224 (voice)
(530) 367-2226 (TDD)

Tahoe National Forest
631 Coyote Street
Nevada City, CA 95959
(530) 265-4531 (voice)
(530) 478-6118 (TDD)


Granite Chief Wilderness lies within the Tahoe National Forest, four miles west of Lake Tahoe and just south of Squaw Valley Ski Area. The wilderness encompasses the headwaters of the American River.