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Deer Valley Trail, Mokelumne Wilderness

Rating North to South "6"
Rating South to North "7"

Adopt-A-Trail By: South County Trail Riders

Click for Deer Valley, California Forecast




Picture of river crossing at Clover Valley.


  Location: From HWY 88
  Take HWY 88, 12 miles East of Kirkwood to Blue Lakes Road. Turn right on Blue Lakes Road and travel 11.5 Miles to Lower Blue Lake (The last five miles being gravel road). You will come to the PG&E caretaker’s station/campground at Lower Blue Lake, you will know this because you just drove back on to asphalt. Go to the left below the dam following the creek, there is a sign marking the trail.


                  From HWY 4
  Take HWY 4, 9 miles East of Lake Alpine. On the right side watch for sign indicating Hermit Valley Campground, this may not be visible from the road unless you are looking off to the right side. There is a cement block restroom near the entrance to the trail. The trail was not marked last time I went through but if you find yourself climbing up a hard rock section you have found it. Don’t get discouraged the last 100 feet of the trail on this end is probably the roughest of the whole trail. I would recommend running the trail from the north end first, due to the simple fact the trail head is easier to find.
  Description: Deer Valley trail runs from Lower Blue Lake to HWY 4 just below Hermit Valley. The trail can be run from either direction. South to North probably being a little harder due to the large amount of boulders on the climb at the south side. The trail can be run in about 3 hours. For a full day of 4 wheeling run it one way then turn around and run it back the other way. There are two 18” to 24” water crossings depending on the snow run off. There are a few climbs going North to South which can be challenging. There are nice wilderness camping areas by Clover Valley and Deer Valley. 


Picture Compliments of Dan Vassey

  Recommended equipment: Almost any type of  4x4 vehicle can make it through, but some are easier than others. Stock Jeeps will do the job. Vehicles with a long wheel base will have a little trouble with some sharp turns. Tow hooks and straps are a must.  The less the vehicle is equipped the more work  you can expect.


  Accommodations: Developed campsites are available at Lower Blue Lake and Upper Blue Lake on the North end of trail. On the South end of trail there is campsite at Hermit Valley.


Stay on the designated trail and out of meadows.

Area History

The legendary John C. Thompson founded the route between Genoa, Nevada and Murphy’s Camp, California via Woodfords, Markleeville, Hope Valley, Deer Valley, Hermit Valley, and Big Trees.

In January 1856, Snow-shoe Thompson began a remarkable series of trips across the Sierra on skis, which continued for twenty winters. By the mid-1850’s mail was being transported over the Sierra Nevada by horseback and mule and later by wagon. But with each winter, heavy snows blocked the flow of mail. The Mormon Emigrant route passing Carson pass was often blocked with heavy snow and hit hard by the winter storms. Snow-shoe Thompson founded a route which required less elevation to traverse in the stormy winter times. The mail continued to be carried by Snow-shoe Thompson regardless of the winters. From 1856 until his death at age 49 in 1876, he braved the winter storms on his ten foot long skis, called snowshoes at the time. He made his skis from recollections of his boyhood in Norway. His skis were very cumbersome and crude by today’s standards. Snow-shoe Thompson’s first skis were made from green oak and were about ten feet long and six inches wide, weighting 25 pounds!

The weight of his mail bags were normally 60-80 pounds, but often weighed over 100 pounds. His first trip was made from Placerville to Carson Valley a distance of 90 miles. Having successfully completed the trip to Carson Valley and back, he became a necessity—the communication link between the east coast states and California. No matter how bad the weather or how deep the snow, Snow-shoe Thompson never failed to bring the mail over the Sierra Nevada. Typically, he covered the 90 mile one-way trip in about 3 days, traveling during the day as well as at night. He carried no blankets, nor did he even wear a heavy overcoat, relying on his exertions to keep him warm while traveling, and on campfires at night. His principal route was from Placerville to Carson Valley and back. At first he used the Placerville-Johnson-Luther Pass route, but later the Big Tree route to Hope Valley, where both routes continued down Carson Canyon to Genoa.

There are many tales of his wintery experiences, saving lives and rescuing lost travelers. He was never lost, nor did he ever suffer a mishap, even in the most violent blizzards. He rarely received any compensation for his services--many promises, but little cash. "He took pride in the work," writes his biographer. "It challenged the spirit of adventure within him. It was like going forth to battle, and each successive trip was a victory. His equal in his peculiar line will probably never again be seen. The times and conditions are gone that called men possessing the special qualifications that made him famous. It would be hard to find another man combining his courage, physique, and powers of endurance…"

John A. Thomson was born in Norway in 1827 and came to the U.S. when he was ten years old and came to California at age twenty-four. He is buried in Genoa, Nevada, in the Carson Valley.


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