Buena Vista Peak sits at the end of Buena Vista Crest and is among the highest points in south-central Yosemite. The peak is a simple class 2 scramble from most directions and offers one of the best views in southern half of the park. To the north the vista includes Buena Vista Lake, Half Dome, Mt. Starr King, and the Clark and Cathedral Ranges. To the south one can see Royal Arch Lake, Johnson Lake, Crecent Lake, and the Wawona Valley. The peak is accessable from via a long dayhike or overnight backpack from the Bridalveil Creek or Chilnualna Falls trailheads.
Reaching the peak requires a long (20+ mile round trip) dayhike or overnight backpack.
There is a maintained park trail that forms a 15 mile loop around the peak and the series of small lakes that surround it. The counter-clockwise route (ascending near Royal Arch Lake) is somewhat steeper than the clockwise route (ascending after the Chilnualna Lakes). The trail passes, but does not climb, the peak itself.
The clockwise route brings you to Buena Vista Lake and the north face of the peak. Leave the trail at the lake and scramble up the scree slope on the north face to the obvious chute in the center of the face. (Alternately, climb the ridge on the right side of the lake and then cross over to the chute). The chute is easy class 2. The highpoint is 100ft to the left (east) of the top of the chute.
The southern/southeastern slope is less steep (and probably an easier winter ascent). Head offtrail north of Royal Arch Lake and travel cross country to the top of the treeline, and then up the talus slope to the bolder strewn top.
There are several trails leading to the loop:
West: Park at the Bridalveil Creek Campground (Off of Glacier Point road, trailhead is in the back near the pack station) and follow the signed trail along Bridalveil Creek. This ~6 mile route is mostly flat. Water available at trailhead.
South: Park at the Chilnualna Falls Trailhead (Trailhead is at the end of Chilnualna Falls Road, which is on the other side of the bridge from the Wawona village). Follow the signed trail along Chilnualna Creek, past Chilnualna Falls to join the loop. The trail is strenuous (2500+ ft elevation gain in ~6 miles). Supplies are available in Wawona Village.
North: Trail from Mono Meadow reaching the loop near Buena Vista Pass.
East: Trail from Buck Camp reaching the loop between Royal Arch and Johnson Lakes
All of the standard Yosemite backcountry rules apply. See the Yosemite Valley Page for more information.
Wawona and Yosemite Valley are the nearest permit stations, depending on which direction you are approaching the trailheads.
Glacier Point road is closed during the winter months that the ski resort is not open. Bridalveil Creek campground closes in early September.
When To Climb
Best season is late spring until first snowfall.
Conditions in the valley below Buena Vista Peak vary greatly with the changing seasons. In the spring during snowmelt, the area is *extremely* wet. Creek crossings (esp Chilnualna and Bridalveil) may be dangerous or impassable and much of the area near the Chulnualna Lakes may be marshy or underwater.
By late season, the creeks will be completely dry (making backcountry water available only at the lakes). Several of the lakes (Chilnualna/Crecent) have blueberries late in the summer.
Excellent camping at numerous points along the loop. Royal Arch Lake, the sourthernmost Chilnulana Lake, and Buena Vista Lake are among the best spots.
Wilderness permits are required for any camping in the Yosemite Backcountry.
Current snow conditions at Ostrander Lake (~5 miles NW of Buena Vista) can be found here
See the Yosemite Valley Page or the for general park condition information.
There is another Buena Vista peak in Kings Canyon (near the Kings Canyon overlook)
The summit has both a registry and a USGS marker.
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