The Woodchuck Basin Trail takes us into the Mokelumne Wilderness as it travels up to the top of Wheeler Ridge and then down the other side to Wheeler Lake.
The trail is initially fairly steep and weaves through an alpine forest passing through meadows, crossing a couple of streams eventually coming out into exposed open vistas with lava bluffs and a steeper terrain to Wheeler Ridge and then down to Wheeler Lake.
The trail is well established and very easy to follow and at 3.9 miles peaks at the crest of the divide between the Stanislaus Watershed and the Mokelumne Watershed. Often the immediate drop on the Mokelumne side of the ridge has a snow ledge or at least snow patches. Down the Moke side and another 1.5 miles is Wheeler Lake with a beautiful campground.
The Woodchuck Basin parking area and trailhead are 1.2 miles past Lake Alpine and before Cape Horn. Make a left and pull into the large dirt parking area that is also a small campground, with scattered fire rings. Park under the trees and follow the wide dirt road-to-path to the trailhead about a quarter mile up the hill.
This is a popular hiking trail and is open to foot, dog and horse traffic only, no motorized vehicles of bicycles are permitted.
While this trail is not long, it travels up steep, exposed slopes at high elevation, so know your hiking abilities and be cautious of the ever changing Sierra weather that can go from sunny skies to rain, thunder and lightening with out notice. In the early or mid spring the snow can remain much later on the northern side of Wheeler Ridge, then in the sunny western exposed meadow and can hide the trail.
Bring the usual hiking food, water, rain gear, hat, and first aid because even if close to the car you are in a steep wilderness area.