The ascent begins at the east end of Kennedy Lake. It's about a 9 mile hike from the trailhead at Kennedy Meadows Resort.
The Kennedy Meadows trailhead is located off of CA Highway 108, just west of the Sonora Pass. Directions are available on the Kennedy Meadows Resort web site.
Click here for USGS Mapping Information.
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.
Follow the Huckleberry Trail for 2.4 miles. Just before you reach the green PG&E shack, the trail splits off the Kennedy Lake. Follow that trail for 5 miles until you reach the lake. It's another mile to the far end of the lake. (8.5 miles total).
This route follows Kennedy Creek up from Kennedy Lake, as described in Ben Schifrin's guidebook. Click here for a topo map.
Follow the maintained trail southeast from the north shore of Kennedy Lake. The trail runs along the north side of Kennedy Creek for its entire length. It will steepen after about a mile. The trail starts to disappear at 9600'. Head north-northeast at this point for 1/4 mile to reach Horse Meadow Road. Once on the dirt road, you'll be near the trail junctions for Leavitt Lake (north), Kennedy Canyon (northeast) and Big Sam (south). It's about 2.5 miles to this point.
Horse Meadow Road is an old jeep road that was built for access to the old tungsten mine at Snow Lake. It comes up from Leavitt Lake and goes all the way up and over the summit to Snow Lake, though it may be hidden under snow early in the season. The road is no longer open to vehicular traffic.
Follow the road to the southeast for 1/2 mile. It will then swing around to the west, with a gradual incline for 1/2 mile and then level off for 1/2 mile at about 9,900'. The road traverses a steep section of the mountain at this point and it was the most dangerous part of the ascent when we were there in June. Although the road itself is level, when snow covered the angle of the traverse is about 45 degrees. See pic 1 and pic 2. (See my trip report that describes how we managed this crossing during early morning, frozen snow without ice axe and crampons.)
The road then enters a cirque, which was covered in snow when I was there. The road ascends the north side of the bowl, which is the lowest part of the ridge. Once on top of the ridge, it is an easy walk to the summit, which is just east of the road.
Start elevation: 7,840'
Elevation gain: 2,985'
Distance: 5 miles
No special equipment is needed later in the summer other than for overnight backcountry camping. However, you might consider bringing crampons and/or ice axe earlier in the season unless you are extremely knowledgeable and comfortable crossing exposed ice/snow fields without them.
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