After four exploratory hikes, I have found a decent off-trail path from the Tevis Cup Trail to the base of Picayune Valley. It’s steep and difficult. The upper ~third of the steep slope section is mostly on sand/gravel at a 35-40 degree angle. But there is a use-trail (of sorts) on the sandy part. Some class 3 rock-climbing is required, and you may have to hold on to some brush to pull yourself up the hill in a few spots. The top of the steep south-facing slope might seem scary to some casual hikers. I’ve hiked this path up and down. Down is much easier because you can see the trail better. Down is also much faster.
NOTE: At the top of this page is a general map showing the X-C path. You might have to squeeze in the side borders of your browser window to see the whole thing. THIS MAP IS NOT ACCURATE. In reality, the entire path is north of the American River and doesn’t cross the river at all. This picture is just to provide a general idea of where the path goes.
If you’re starting from the Tevis trail, here’s the view looking down into the couloir you’ll enter as you begin the steep descent.
If you’re starting at the base of Picayune Valley, here’s the sign on the Western States Trail just after you cross to the north side of the river. This is where you’ll depart from the trail and head northeast up the slope.
A little background on other routes:
Don’t climb the dry creek bed on the steep face just west of the path. There’s lots of high brush at the top. And big boulders.
Don’t stay near the river and south of the river. LOTS of high brush.
Some old maps show a trail breaking off from the Tevis trail going southeast and meeting up with the PCT at the saddle midway between the top of the Siberia Express chairlift and Little Needle Lake. This trail basically no longer exists. Especially where it used to cross the river. It’s not there at all anymore.
Click here to download the GPS track I recorded using the Backcountry Navigator Pro app
I didn’t have time to make it all the way to the Tevis trail, so I manually edited the track to add a few legs on the easy section from the Tevis to the couloir shown above.
I hiked this path with five other hikers as part of a Five Lakes – Picayune Valley – High Camp day hike 7/20/2019. (Good day for this route because the Wanderlust Festival was underway at Squaw. So the tram ran with free downloads well into the evening.) You can read all about it here: