Upper Pioneer Trail
ElevationAscent: 1,054' 321 m
Descent: -431' -131 m
High: 5,349' 1,630 m
Low: 4,582' 1,397 m
GradeAvg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 19% (11°)
Current trail conditions
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“The lesser-known and arguably best section of the Pioneer Trail.”— Brian Hamilton
Family Friendly Starting from the Bear Valley end, hike up to the little bench for a beautiful view of Bear Valley, Lake Spaulding, Old Man Mountain, and Signal Peak (aka Red Mountain) to the east (photo).
If starting at Bear Valley, follow Zeibright Road (gravel) west to a split (dirt) that goes right then under the water flume. The trail starts to the right about 75 feet beyond the flume. From there, it climbs old abandoned roads and great sections of new singletrack for a few miles to reach the top with views overlooking Bear Valley along the way.
If starting at the Omega Rest Stop, cross Highway 20 and look for a short connector to Pioneer Trail. It's a little confusing since there is a moto trail that runs parallel in this area. Pioneer Trail is just a few yards further into the forest beyond the moto trail. Just continue perpendicular to Highway 20, cross the moto trail and you'll hit Pioneer Trail.
Turn left onto Pioneer Trail for this segment (Upper Pioneer Trail) or right for Lower Pioneer Trail that will take you to White Cloud and Harmony Market (or to Nevada City via Miner's or Snow Ditch Mountain Trails).
Upper Pioneer Trail has a few rocky sections and one small creek crossing with no bridge at Steephollow Creek - a year-round water source to filter. It's common to see bears along this trail later in the afternoon, especially around Steephollow Creek and Lowell Hill Road crossings. This segment is 98% singletrack and is signed well. It does cross a few moto trails around Omega and Excelsior Road. There are tons of logging roads and singletrack trails, including moto trails, up here to add to your hike!
In the fall, this hike is often dusty in spots, but perfect after the first rains soak in. There's considerable debris, some fallen trees, and a few small stream crossings in the spring. Occasionally there are horses on the trail, including a few rather large gatherings each year that are usually posted at trailheads in advance. The higher you go on Pioneer, the quieter and more challenging it gets. You haven't really seen Pioneer Trail until you've included the upper sections!
Land Manager: USFS - Tahoe National Forest Office