Stanislaus National Forest

Carson-Iceberg Wilderness

The 160,000 acre Carson-Iceberg Wilderness straddles the crest of the central Sierra Nevada, within the Stanislaus and Toiyabe National Forests. This area lies within portions of Tuolumne and Alpine County and is bordered by State Highway 108 on the south and State Highway 4 on the north. Watersheds drain to the Stanislaus River on the west slope and the Carson River on the east slope. The name Carson-Iceberg is derived 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.

The Carson-Iceberg Wilderness is a rugged landscape of great scenic beauty. Much of the area is dominated by volcanic ridges and peaks. Prominent in the southwestern portion are the Dardanelles. There are many streams flowing through deep granitic canyons but few lakes. Elevations range from about 5000 feet near Donnell Reservoir to 11,462 feet at Sonora Peak. From some vantage points one can view vast desert to the east and dense conifer forest to the west. Precipitation averages 50 inches annually on the west slope and as little as 15 inches on the east slope, 80 percent of it in the form of snow. Snow packs typically linger into June, sometimes later following very wet winters. Summers are generally dry and mild, but afternoon thundershowers occur periodically and nighttime temperatures may dip below freezing anytime.

Various Native Americans inhabited the area for 10,000 years. The most recent inhabitants, the Me Wuk from the west slope and the Washoe of the Great Basin, spent the warmer months hunting in the high country and trading with each other. In 1827, Jedediah Smith and fellow trappers crossed from east to west somewhere near Ebbetts Pass. The earliest emigrant crossing in the Carson-Iceberg area was in 1841 by the Bartleson-Bidwell party, just north of Sonora Pass. Following the discovery of gold in 1848 and the subsequent increase in population, native cultures quickly declined. As this new population became more established, sheep and cattle grazing became the major use of this area. Grazing continues to this day, but recreation has now become the dominant use.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 established a National Wilderness Preservation System "to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness." The Carson-Iceberg Wilderness became part of the National Wilderness Preservation System with passage of the California Wilderness Act of 1984. Various human uses, such as recreation, grazing, and mining, are allowed by the Wilderness Act, but all activities will be managed or carried out subordinate to the higher purpose of maintaining wilderness values. These overriding values are 1) outstanding opportunities for solitude and 2) the ability of natural processes to operate free of human influence.

A Wilderness Visitor's Permit is required for overnight visits to the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Only one permit is required for trips which are continuous and pass through more than one Wilderness. Group sizes are limited to 15 people and 25 pack and saddle stock. One permit is required per trip per group. If you have a larger group than is permitted, reduce the number of people, split the group to visit different areas, or visit an area which permits larger numbers. You are not permitted to camp or travel within one mile of a related group.

Management of visitors and their impacts is especially important for preserving the naturalness and solitude that distinguish wilderness from other settings. Those people who use the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness visit primarily from June through September. Most use is concentrated around the few lakes found in the Wilderness. By applying no-trace camping skills, visitors can minimize the impact of recreational use on the wilderness environment. Information about "leave no trace" skills can be found on wilderness permit attachments and is posted at trailheads.

There are approximately 195 miles of trails in the Wilderness. Travel is restricted to foot or horseback. Mechanized transportation of any kind, including bicycles, is prohibited. Major trailheads on the Stanislaus portion are Wheat's Meadow, County Line, Arnot Creek, Disaster Creek, and Clark Fork on the Summit Ranger District (Highway 108) and Silver Valley (Lake Alpine), Stanislaus Meadow, Mosquito Lakes, Pacific Valley, and Highland Lakes on the Calaveras Ranger District (Highway 4).

For guide services and saddle and pack stock contact:

* Kennedy Meadows Resort
P.O. Box 4010
Sonora, Ca. 95370
209-965-3900/965-3911 (summer)
209-965-3900 (winter)

Always be prepared for cold and wet weather!
Trip Planning

Wilderness permits are required for overnight camping. Forest and Wilderness maps can be purchased at any Stanislaus National Forest office or from from the National Forest Store. You may also find the following useful:

* Carson-Iceberg Wilderness; Jeffrey P. Schaffer; Wilderness Press
* Sierra North; Thomas Winnett; Wilderness Press
* The Tahoe-Yosemite Trail; Winnett and Denison; Wilderness Press


Livestock grazing first came to the high country in the 1860's. The Wilderness Act allows grazing to continue where it was an established practice before the area was designated as Wilderness. There are ten grazing allotments (nine cattle, one sheep) in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Grazing management plans specify animal numbers and length of time in each feed area. Gates and drift fences control livestock movement to prevent overgrazing and to reduce conflicts with Wilderness visitors. Please help by keeping gates closed.

Under the Wilderness Act, mineral rights established prior to December 31, 1983, will remain, subject to constraints on exploration and mining to protect surface resources. There are few claims in this Wilderness and no mining activity at the present time.