There are a couple of different options for hiking the Pinecrest Peak Trail (aka PCP), the long version and the short version. The short version is just over 4 miles to PCP with an elevation gain of 1900 feet and begins just off Herring Creek Rd. The long version begins at or near Pinecrest Lake and adds another four miles total to the trip and another 1000 feet in elevation gain. This trail is popular with both hikers and mountain bikers (downhill only) so be aware especially when hiking down.
The Pinecrest Peak Trail offers some of the most incredible views outside of Yosemite. There are various overlooks along the trail for viewing Pinecrest Lake 2000 feet below as well as the slopes of Dodge Ridge and the Dardanelles on the north side. The trail is rocky, especially higher up, and fairly well exposed so make sure and wear sunsceen and bring plenty of water and snacks. Expect to spend around four hours on the short version and six hours on the longer version, which includes stopping time for breaks and taking in the views.
PCP trail is well traveled and maintained so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way up and back but it is always a good idea to have a map or GPS with you. Once you reach the granite dome overlook where the old observation lookout used to be, you are rewarded with epic views, however, to reach the actual Pinecrest Peak you must continue on up the fireroad. About 1/4 mile up there is a single track trail off to the right which will take you to PCP or you can continue on the dirt road for another mile and a quarter to the peak.
To reach the trailhead for the short version hike take Herring Creek Road (FR 4N12) three miles past Strawberry and drive for three miles. Turn right on FR 4N27 and drive for another mile and park. 4N27 is dirt and slightly rutted but is passable by most high clearance 2wd vehicles. There is a sign for Pinecrest Peak Trail near the “bridge to nowhere”. The long version begins at Pinecrest Lake so park near there and start the Pinecrest Lake Loop CW. About 1/2 mile past the dam you will see a sign pointing the way to Catfish Lake. Take this trail and continue on past the lake for another mile or so and you will come to a post marker “Peak”. Take this to the summit. Another option if you don’t like hiking is to drive to Pinecrest Peak. To do so you will need a 4wd vehicle and about 1 1/2 hours. Take Herring creek road until it splits. Take a right to stay on 4N12 for another three miles and turn right on 5N31. Follow this to Pinecrest Peak and the overlook one mile beyond.