OverviewChittenden Peak is the prominent peak that separates the Pacific Crest Trail in Jack Main Canyon from Tilden Lake in the northern region of Yosemite National Park. This remote part of the park is comprised of mixed alpine meadows, wildflowers, Lodgepole, Hemlock and Whitebark Pine forests, and plenty of granite that is typical of the Yosemite high country.
The granitoid dome offers excellent views of Jack Main Canyon, Tilden Lake, and the surrounding area. It can be climbed easily from the north via a gully that is mostly Class 2 with a couple of short Class 3 sections. There are also more technical routes on the steeper northeast ridge and east face. Although the peak is near the PCT, it is not a major peak and therefore does not appear to be climbed very often as evidenced by the few names in the summit register. You will likely have the peak all to yourself.
Getting ThereChittenden Peak is in a pretty remote area and there are several possible trailheads to begin your trip, each somewhat equidistant from the peak. Selecting a trailhead will depend on the season and your overall itinerary.
1) Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is accessible off of Route 120 near the western entrance to Yosemite National Park. From Hwy 120, drive north on Evergreen Road. Turn right on Hetch Hetchy Road and drive for 9.1 miles until you get to the parking area at O'Shaughnessy Dam.
The Hetchy Hetchy Road is only open at certain times, usually 7am-8pm. Check the YNP website for current times.
Take the trail north to Jack Main Canyon until you reach the PCT. Continue north for 2.5 miles until youe reach Chittenden Peak on the right hand side. (18 miles total)
2) Leavitt Meadows Pack Station is located on CA Hwy 108, just west of I-395. Free parking is available in the trailhead parking area near the campground, north of the pack station. You can hike the 21.3 miles to Chittenden Peak, or have Leavitt Meadows Pack Station take you all or part of the way. Rates for horses are available on their web site*.
Follow the West Walker River trail south until you reach the Cascade Creek trail (10.9 miles). Follow the Cascade Creek trail and PCT to Dorothy Pass (2.5 miles). Continue south on the PCT past Grace Meadow until you reach Chittenden Peak (7.9 miles).
3) Kennedy Meadows Resort is located off of CA Highway 108, just west of the Sonora Pass. The trailhead is located at the end of the parking area for the Kennedy Meadows Resort. Overnight parking at the resort lot is $5/night and can be paid at the resort lobby. Alternatively, free parking is available at the signed forest service "trailhead" parking lot, which is located about 3/4 mile from the trailhead.
Kennedy Meadows also operates a pack (horse) station. They will let you park overnight for free (and shower for free upon return) if you pack in with them one-way*. They also have rental cabins, a supply store, small restaurant and saloon. You can hike the (25.7 miles) to Chittenden Peak, or have Kennedy Meadows drop you there.
Follow the Huckleberry Trail until you reach the cut off for Brown Bear Pass (11.8 miles). Take the Brown Bear Pass trail east over Brown Bear Pass and Bond Pass until you reach the PCT (7.3 miles). Head south on the PCT until you reach Chittenden Peak (6.4 miles).
4) The Leavitt Lake trailhead is only accessible with an SUV with high clearance and 4-wheel drive. Leavitt Lake road is located 3.8 miles east of the Sonora Pass off of CA Hwy 108. It's 3 miles to Leavitt Lake over very rough terrain and a couple of stream crossings. Free parking is available on the north side of the lake. Follow the Leavitt Pass trail south, up and over Big Sam, for 10 miles until you reach Emigrant Pass. Near Grizzly Meadow, take the trail split to the southeast that leads over Bond Pass to the PCT (3.5 miles). Head south on the PCT until you reach Chittenden Peak (6.4 miles). (19.9 miles total)
* Call well in advance to reserve horse and guide if you decide to pack in with either one of the pack stations.
Red TapeFree wilderness permits are required for overnight stays in Yosemite National Park.
Depending on your point of entry and which direction you are coming from, call one of the following ranger stations for wilderness permits.
- Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station: (209) 372-0200
- Summit Ranger Station, for Sonora Pass trailheads: (209) 965-3434
- Bridgeport Ranger Station, for Sonora Pass trailheads: (760) 932-7070
When To ClimbThe climbing season varies each year depending on how much snow the area receives during the winter months. Hwy 108 closes during the winter, making winter access from the north more difficult. The distance of Chittenden Peak from the nearest trailhead adds complexity to winter climbing. So typically the most popular time to climb the mountain is from June through October.
CampingThere is a very good camp site at the south end of Tilden Lake, and another fair camp site on the west shore near the middle of the lake by the peninsula/beach. There is also primitive camping available in Jack Main Canyon, and at the meadow/lake just north of the peak.
Mountain ConditionsCall any of the ranger stations listed above for current conditions, or click on the links below.
Hwy 108 road conditions.
Yosemite Conditions website.
Other Nearby PeaksThere are numerous other peaks that can be bagged while in this remote area of northern Yosemite. Haystack Peak, Schofield Peak, Michie Peak, Kendrick Peak and Snow Peak are all within a 4-mile radius of Chittenden Peak. In addition, within a 8 mile hike, further to the north are Bigelow Peak, Quartzite Peak, Keyes Peak, the Saurian Crest, Craig Peak, and Tower Peak.
EtymologyHiram Martin Chittenden (1858-1917); captain and later brigadier-general, Engineer Corps, U. S. Army; with two other commissioners, Robert B. Marshall, U.S.G.S., and Frank Bond, U. S. General Land Office, made a report in 1904 on revision of boundaries of Yosemite National Park which was adopted by act of Congress, February 7, 1905. (R. B. Marshall.)
Chittenden is best known for his history, “American Fur Trade in the Far West,” and for his many years’ connection with Yellowstone National Park, where he rendered distinguished service in construction of roads and bridges. Place Names of the High Sierra (1926), by Francis P. Farquhar
- Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park website
- Leavitt Meadows Pack Station
Web site provides directions to the trailhead at Leavitt Meadows Pack Station and rates for pack (horse) trips.
- Kennedy Meadows Resort
Web site provides directions to the trailhead at Kennedy Meadows and rates for cabins and pack (horse) trips.