The Granite Chief Wilderness is a 19,048 acre (77 km2) federally designated wilderness area of the Tahoe National Forest. Created by the California Wilderness Act of 1984, it is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains west of Lake Tahoe in California, USA. It is managed by the US Forest Service and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. Elevations range from 4,800 feet (1,500 m) to 9,019 feet (2,749 m) at the summit of Granite Chief.
Events such as the Western States Endurance Run and the equestrian Western States Trail Ride, (popularly called The Tevis Cup) cross portions of the wilderness. The Pacific Crest Trail also passes through along the east edge of the wilderness.
This region is extensively glaciated and has features such as hanging valleys, cirques and U-shaped valleys, but few lakes. Just outside the wilderness boundary there are two large recreation reservoirs, Hell Hole Reservoir to the south and French Meadows Reservoir to the west.
Lakes and Waterways
The principal drainages are the Middle Fork of the American River and Five Lakes Creek. The small lakes within the wilderness boundary are the Five Lakes, Mildred Lake and Little Needle Lake.Fish such as Rainbow, brook and brown trout can be seen in Whiskey, Picayune, and Bear Pen creeks as well as the largest lake of the Five Lakes group.
Flora and Fauna
Rich, volcanic soils support a range of plant life, from fields of mule ears to conifer forests including whitebark pine at the highest elevations. Along the creeks grow black Cottonwood, alder and aspen.
The three bracted onion (Allium tribracteatum) is a native perennial bulb endemic to California. The California Native Plant Society lists the three bracted onion as " rare, threatened, or endangered ... " and there are only 10 counties with either specimens obtained or a verified observation made. Near the North Forth American River is Whitney's milk vetch (Astragalus whitneyi var. lenophyllus).
Typical of the high Sierra Nevada Mountains, the wildlife include mountain lion, black bear, and mule deer.Granite Chief wilderness provides important fawning areas for mule deer, so visitors are prohibited from bringing dogs into certain areas of the wilderness from May 15 to July 15.
Activities include Day-hiking, backpacking, fishing, cross-country skiing, mountain climbing and horsepacking. The Five Lakes basin is the most heavily used area in the wilderness due to the close proximity to both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski areas. Two commercial outfitters offer horsepacking trips into the wilderness.
There are 37 miles (60 km) of trails with eight trailheads. The most used is the Granite Chief trailhead located at Squaw Valley Ski Area parking lot. Talbot campground is located near the Talbot trailhead, four miles (6 km) north of French Meadows Reservoir and is the only trailhead with a no-fee campground.