Hiking White Mountain Peak | Conquer the Easiest California 14er
White Mountain Peak is unlike any other California fourteener. It’s a unique mountain, located in in a desert east of the the Owens Valley, and far easier to climb than any other California high peak. With a road to a research station for the University of California, it’s a relatively easy hike all the way to the summit with little route-finding and navigation required. If you can follow a road for 7 miles, and gain 3,300 feet, you can succeed in hiking White Mountain Peak.
Don’t be fooled however, this is still a savage mountain that should not be underestimated. Be sure to pack plenty of water for this dry mountain, and take time to acclimate. I recommend camping for 1-2 nights nearby around 8,000 feet. Altitude sickness is the number one reason people fail to summit, so taking time at elevation before your climb will significantly improve your chance of success. Read below for my route guide, weather info, maps and more.
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Hiking White Mountain Peak | Fast Facts
Hiking White Mountain Guide - Route Guide
Looking for a place to camp nearby to acclimate before your hike? There are a few spots at the gate to pitch a tent. Otherwise, check out the Grandview Canyon campground located at 8,500 feet, which does not require reservations. The Fossil, Juniper, Pinon, and Poleta group campgrounds (7,200′) do take reservations, available via National Recreation Reservation Center, Online, Phone: (877) 444-6777.
The standard route for hiking White Mountain Peak begins at the Bancroff Gate along White Mountain Road. Park at the road closure and start your hike. It’s a long 7.5 miles to reach the top, and there’s no water along the route, so be sure you have plenty with you, at least 3 liters.
Head out and continue hiking up along White Mountain Road, with the summit rising above you to the north. The old 4WD road isn’t well maintained but it’s very easy to hike, making for a very enjoyable approach.
As you pass around Mount Barcroft, a subsidiary peak of White Mountain Peak, you’ll pass by the Barcroft Laboratory of the White Mountain Peak Research Station. They study altitude and weather here, along with other areas of research. Pass by their observatory around 12,900 feet before descending a bit.
F0llow the road for a bit to the left of the main ridge before turning to the right to regain it gradually. Around 12,800 turn and continue straight up the ridge along the road. The altitude here will make the hiking feel significantly more difficult – drink plenty of water!
The road will now shift left again and head towards White Mountain Peak. This final section of hiking White Mountain Peak includes numerous switchbacks as you inch your way closer to 14,252 feet. The last section straightens out as you traverse a high slope, and then take a final wide switchback up to the true summit of White Mountain Peak.
At the summit, enjoy your accomplishment and the amazing views of the Owens Valley, Eastern Sierra, and surrounding White Mountains. Head back with plenty of time to ensure you make it down before darkness falls. I hope you found my route guide helpful and informative. Good luck hiking White Mountain Peak, and safe travels on the trail!
Alex Derr, Creator of The Next Summit
Alex is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.