You will be hiking the section of the Pacific Crest Trail between Echo Summit and Carson Pass. It works best with two groups of hikers each starting at the distant parking lots. Your groups will meet somewhere along the trail, have lunch and exchange car keys before continuing on.
There are three options and they're listed in order of difficulty:
1. Easiest option: start at the parking lot labeled "END" just off Highway 88. Hike to Showers Lake for a picnic and head straight back. Amazing flower displays are visible within the first mile. This will limit the hike to under 10 miles and the elevation change will be minimal.
2. Moderate to Difficult: Hike from Carson Pass (Hwy 88) to Echo Summit (Hwy 50). There's roughly 1500 ft. elevation change in this westbound route.
3. Strenuous: Hike from Echo Summit to Carson pass. There's roughly 2500 ft. elevation change.
This trip has all the makings for a great day out: it's a beautiful drive and it can be as easy or as strenuous as you'd like it to be. Either way this is your chance to visit natural blooming gardens, alpine lakes and volcanic rock remnants. The flowers are at their peak right in the spring, but the hike is still nice all they way into fall.
Bring lots of mosquito repellant. The meadows are lousy with these pests.
First-aid kits and mole skin (for blisters) are a must.
Each hiker should carry 3 or more liters of water.
Mark the location of your car on your GPS
Familiarize yourself with Cal Star Helicopter rescue. If you hike in the area a lot the you may want to get a $40/yr insurance policy from them that will allow you to be air lifted at no cost should you find yourself unable to walk. Their site is http://www.calstar.org/
Be aware that USGS trail markers are wrong around Showers and they can easily take you onto the wrong side of the lake. If you find yourself bush whacking, you've gone the wrong way.
Bring GMRS/FRS radios for each team. Cell phone service is non existent here.
When all else fails, an amateur radio license and a decent portable HAM radio can be a life saver. Even if you're not a licensed HAM you can still use the 2 meter, 146.805 repeater in the event of emergency. An alternative to ham radios are the Garmin Rino series GPS/radio combinations. They will allow you to communicate with your group and even send your GPS coordinates to each other. In this area we were able to communicate while we were over 5 miles away from one another.
Visit the Showers Lake area as soon as the snow melts. The flowers are unlike most anywhere else.