Take a hike: Kaiser Peak revisited

The Fresno BeeJuly 3, 2013 

Editor's note: This is an updated version of a story that originally appeared in The Bee on July 19, 2006.

 

Rising 10,320 feet above sea level, Kaiser Peak is the centerpiece of the Kaiser Wilderness and features a commanding view of dozens of Sierra peaks from its summit.

Sounds great, right? It is, but you'll have to work to get there.

Most visitors to the Kaiser Wilderness enter via the Potter Pass, Sample Meadow or Upper Billy Creek trailheads. Few hike directly up Kaiser Peak, and for good reason: It's strenuous, requiring 3,200 feet of climbing over 51/2 miles, with much of the route exposed to the sun.

So get an early start — and be sure to bring plenty of water.

From the Deer Creek trailhead at the back of the D&F Pack Station, the route immediately tilts up. Pass a trail junction toward Potter Pass by staying left and (you guessed it) up the hill.

More steep switchbacks follow before the trail passes near College Rock, a prominent dome on Kaiser Ridge. (The easiest way up is a third-class route on the west side.) The view here, looking straight down at Huntington Lake, is pretty impressive.

The trail continues climbing (and climbing) through forests and a small meadow before a final push to timberline at 4.3 miles. Kaiser Peak now looms in the distance. It's the higher of the two summits.

From here, it's clear where you have to go. Keep going until you reach a short spur trail that leads to the top. Don't worry, you're nearly there.

From the summit, much of the southern Sierra unfolds before your eyes. Shuteye Peak, Merced Peak, Mount Ritter, the Silver and Mono divides, Mount Humphreys and Mount Goddard shimmer in the distance. Mammoth Pool is visible far below in the San Joaquin River drainage as well as Edison Lake to the east. Allow ample time to soak up the surroundings.

Most hikers return to Huntington Lake by retracing their steps. It's also possible to descend a prominent gully to George Lake (experienced cross-country hikers only) or continue on the Kaiser Loop Trail toward Nellie Lake before turning back to the pack station through dense forests. These return routes both add several miles.

Kaiser Peak

Where: Kaiser Wilderness near Huntington Lake

Length: 11 miles, round trip

Difficulty: Strenuous

Fees: None

Trailhead: From Lakeshore Resort, continue west on Huntington Lake Road and turn right on Upper Deer Creek Road toward the D&F Pack Station. Drive 0.5 miles and park in small lot signed "Hiker Parking." Take use trail from here to official trailhead behind the stables.

Maps: USGS, Kaiser Peak; Tom Harrison Maps, Kaiser Wilderness.

Info: (559) 855-5355 or www.fs.usda.gov/sierra/.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6218 or marekw@fresnobee.com.

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