OverviewBig Sam is a large, prominent peak on the border of the Emigrant Wilderness South of Sonora Pass. It is made of brown volcanic rock like the peaks to the North, contrasting with the granite peaks to the south. It is not a technically challenging peak. A maintained (jeep) trail goes almost directly over the top of the peak providing a straightfoward but strenuous ascent (Schifrin's SP2). This trail goes from Leavitt Lake Pass to Horse Meadow. The rocky summit provides excellent views, especially to the South and West. The actual summit is located just East of where the trail tops off. Peaks in the area include Leavitt Peak, Kennedy Peak, Molo Mountain, and Tower Peak. At certain times of year there is a great wildflower display on the peak. Although this may not be a technically demanding peak, the great views make it worthwhile.
Corrections by Gordonye and Alpinist.
Getting ThereFrom Sonora Pass on 108, take the PCT South until Kennedy Canyon then continue South on the jeep trail (12 miles). From Leavitt Lake, take the jeep trail south until you hit the PCT and then follow the Sonora Pass route, about 6 miles. Leavitt Lake is reached by turning south off 108 and taking a 4x4 trail for a few miles. It can also be reached from Kennedy Meadows and Kennedy Lake.
Red TapeOvernight permits are required for the Emigrant Wilderness and the areas around it. Parking is $5/night at Kennedy Meadows. Groups are limited to 15 people. I always pick up my permit on the way up there at the Summit Ranger Station which is at the corner Pinecrest Lake Road and HW 108. Their phone number is (209) 965-3434.
When To ClimbThe easiest time to climb is when the route is snow free from June to October. A winter ascent of this peak would be rewarding but arduous because of 108 being closed in the snowy season. The North slope might be difficult in winter and early spring.
CampingGood camping spots can be found at Kennedy Lake which can become crowded. On the South side of the mountain there are several lakes including High Emigrant Lake, the Grizzly Lakes, and on the North and West sides of Emigrant Meadow Lake. No campfires are allowed at the lakes on the South side of the mountain because it is too high. Beware of mosquitos in these spots. There are fragile meadows to the South so be careful where you camp.
Mountain ConditionsConditions. Always be prepared for winter weather, even in summer. Snow lingers on the north side of the peak and may bury the trail.
- Emigrant Wilderness web site
Emigrant Wilderness web site: USDA Forest Service, Stanislaus National Forest
- Kennedy Meadows Resort
Kennedy Meadows web site provides directions to the trailhead and rates for cabins and pack (horse) trips.