The East Ridge route up Ralston Peak involves a 3.5mi classic ridge traverse in the scenic Echo Lakes region of the northern Sierra. Terrain encountered is varied and interesting, ranging from open forest to exposed class 3.
The start takes place at the Echo Lake parking area off of Hwy 50 near Echo Summit. From Echo Summit, proceed west on Hwy 50 for 1.25mi past "Little Norway" and turn north on Johnson Pass Road (Sno-Park sign). Travel 0.5mi NE until Echo Lakes Road is reached and turn left. Drive 1mi to the large hiker parking lot just above Echo Lake.
From the east side of the parking lot proceed south up the ridge to the crest.
The start of the route involves a light use trail that winds through an open forest on a gentle slope. If you lose the trail, don't sweat it, as staying on the crest is the priority.
After the first mile, the route steepens and switchbacks up a short hill to the rocky Becker Peak. Even though the trail doesn't cross the actual summit, the short scramble up some huge blocks of granite is rewarded with a grand view of Echo Lake.
The traverse from Becker Peak to Talking Mountain involves the first real class 3, as the hiker must negotiate huge gendarmes to avoid a bushwhack. Stay on the left (south) side of the ridge here.
From Talking Mountain to Saucer Lake, the traverse is relatively easy on the crest, with a few short sections of vegetation. Once past the cool Saucer Lake, stay on the crest to avoid nasty bushwhacking.
0.5mi past Saucer Lake, the class 2-3 becomes continuous, with steep, high-quality talus puctuated by exposed notches and long drops on either side. After a few hundred yards of this, the gentle southwest slope of Ralston Peak is gained, and the last 0.5mi is an easy stroll.
Reverse the route, or travel north down to the PCT and back to Echo Lake.
This is a great hike for approach shoes --- bring 'em!
A typical pack for a 10-mile dayhike is all that is needed, as the distance is short and the elevation gain is no more than 2500'.