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.
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!
If you’re hiking White Mountain Peak, you’ll need a good topographical map. I recommend downloading this on your phone or other digital device and also printing out a backup copy. It’s key to have one in case anything happens to your electronics or your battery dies.
Use these two sources to check the weather conditions before your trip. Consider the temperature high and low, wind speed, precipitation, and whether there are any storm systems on the horizon to be aware of. It’s important to check the forecast multiple times before hiking White Mountain Peak.
White Mountain Peak is the only peak in the White Mountains taller than 14,000 feet. It is capped by a Research Station for the University of California that studies high altitude topics like astronomy and weather. The road to this station provides an easy way to hike to the summit. Alternatively, the West Ridge route offers a class 2/3 approach that’s 10 miles long, but best for more experienced hikers and climbers.
Notably, White Mountain Peak is the only peak taller than 14,000 feet in the lower 48 states not found in the Rocky Mountains, the Cascade Range, or the Sierra Nevada. It’s also the only one to be so completely surrounded by desert-like conditions.
Here are some more links with information for hiking White Mountain Peak:
Hiking White Mountain Peak is an inherently high-risk activity – use my route guide at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
Hiking, scrambling and climbing up California’s high peaks are inherently high-risk, dangerous activities. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my Route Guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on California’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Hike White Mountain Peak at your own risk.
About the Author: Alex Derr
Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.