The Headwaters of the American River
Designated as a wilderness area in 1984 to protect is natural beauty, the Granite Chief Wilderness encompasses glacier carved valleys, red fir forests, granite formations, and pristine mountain meadows. Several major streams drain the area, and the northwest section of the Wilderness is part of the French Meadows Game Refuge.
The area is served by a substantial trail system used by both hikers and equestrians. Most of the use originates from the east or Lake Tahoe side because of the ease of access and because of the population and recreation visitor base.
The Pacific Crest Trail crosses the area north-south for about 21 miles along the eastern boundary passing through Five Lakes Basin. The Five Lakes Trail crosses near the middle of the Wilderness, and from the Basin, follows Five Lakes Creek for about nine miles to Hell Hole Reservoir. Away from Five Lakes, the Wilderness receives light human use, a great attraction for solitude seekers.
Elevations in the Granite Chief range from 5000-foot valleys to 9000-foot peaks. Summers are typically warm and dry, though nighttime temperatures can be cold and afternoon thunderstorms often build over the mountains.