OverviewMt. Barcroft was named for Sir Joseph Barcroft (1872 - 1947), the British physiologist who pioneered studying the effects of high altitude on the human body. It is the easiest of the five California Thirteeners in the White Mountains, a walk up from the gate on the White Mountain road.
Getting ThereTake 395 to Big Pine (16 miles south of Bishop), then turn east on 168 and go for about 12.5 miles. Turn left on the White Mountain Road which becomes a dirt road after 10 miles (near the Schulman Grove Visitor Center turnoff). The road goes all the way to the summit of White Mountain Peak, but you’ll have to park just below the gate at about 12,000 feet (mile 22.7 from Highway 168). The road doesn’t require a 4WD vehicle or high ground clearance, but both certainly make a difference in the time that last 13 miles takes to cover.
Hike 2 miles up the road past the Barcroft Research Facility on your left and continue on a bit further to the Bancroft Observatory (dome on your right). Turn off the trail to your left here, and head up Mt. Barcroft’s northeast ridge about 0.75 miles to the summit.
For more details on the approach, please refer to the White Mountain Peak page.
Red TapeAs with White Mountain Peak, the extremely high trailhead (12,000') requires proper acclimation - you don’t want to just drive up from sea level and have at it! If you’re doing both peaks on the same day hike, you’re going to be above 12,500' for quite some time, so any altitude sickness you do have must be enjoyed for many miles along a treeless jeep road.
Note also that there are no water sources available on the entire hike (besides perhaps some snow melt in early season). Thus, you’ll need to carry whatever you plan on drinking.
The good news is that you don’t need a permit nor any other form of registration to climb, even for overnight stays.
Although this peak is not in the Sierra the access is still from 395, so you may still find some relevant information on Matthew Holliman’s excellent Eastern Sierra logistics page.
CampingWith the entire landscape above treeline, the views are expansive from most locations. The Sierra Crest pokes above the horizon and can be dramatic in early season before high pressure zones and/or fires result in poor air quality above the Owens Valley.
The jeep road is bikeable, even when carrying overnight gear/water. There are many flat areas suitable for camping all along the road, including the area nearby the Observatory. Keep off the fragile grass, and please don’t feed or molest the scientists.
Once again, your first night above sea level should probably not be spent above 12,000'.