OverviewMt. Hilgard is a "Striking mass, strongly suggesting Castle Peak in Tuolumne County." ~Theodore S. Solomons, 1896. It is the second tallest peak along the Mono Divide with its neighbor, Mt. Gabb, about 400 feet taller. This peak is a popular companion with Mt. Gabb for many peakbaggers, as they are both SPS peaks, and are feasible to summit in the same day.
Mt. Hilgard was first climbed by Charles F. Urquhart in July 1905. It appears that the name was originally given to the mountain shown on the U.S.G.S. map (edition of 1912) as Recess Peak, but was changed to Mt. Hilgard at the suggestion of an admiring pupil in honor of Eugene Woldemar Hilgard who taught for the University of California.
The easiest route is the South Slope , class 2, which is reached from the Lake Italy Outlet. The East Face is approached from the east ridge and is also a class 2 route. The Northeast Ridge is rated class 3-4 by Secor, and is accessed by the second Mono Recess. A traverse to Mt. Gabb is accomplished by descending the southeastern side of Mt. Hilgard to some benches around 11,800ft. and continuing east up the southern side of Mt. Gabb.
Getting ThereThe quickest approach to Mount Hilgard is a cross country approach from Mosquito Flat via class 2 Cox Col just north of Bear Creek Spire. Approaches from Pine Creek via Italy Pass just south of Mount Julius Caesar have also been done. Italy Pass is a bit easier than Cox Col but the trailhead at Pine Creek is about 2800 feet lower. The trailhead differences make Pine Creek more time consuming even though Italy Pass is about 700 feet lower and perhaps more backpacker friendly.
Approached from the west are also possible, most logically starting out of Lake Edison. There are several options for reaching either Second Recess north of Mount Hilgard or Hilgard Creek to the south, but these are longer than the eastern approaches.
Mosquito Flat Trailhead (37.43516° N, 118.74710° W)
Turn south from Highway 395 onto Rock Creek Road at Toms Place, approximately 15 miles south of the Highway 203 intersection to Mammoth Lakes (23 miles northwest of Bishop). Follow Rock Creek Road 10 miles southwest to the trailhead parking area at the end of the road.
Pine Creek Trailhead (37.36110° N, 118.69184° W)
Turn west onto Pine Creek Road (signed for Rovana) off Highway 395 approximately 10 miles northwest of Bishop (28 miles south of the Highway 203 intersection to Mammoth Lakes). Follow Pine Creek Road 10 miles west to the trailhead parking area.
Lake Edison (37.36735° N, 118.98340° W)
From the Central Valley make your way towards Prather and continue east on Highway 168 towards Shaver Lake and then Huntington Lake, following the obvious road signs. At Huntington Lake, turn right onto well designated Kaiser Pass Road and follow it another 17 miles to an intersection where the road splits to Lake Edison. Turn left at the intersection and follow the road another 6 miles to Lake Edison.
Red TapeWilderness Permits:
From the east the routes to Mount Hilgard begin on Inyo National Forest land (although the peak itself is in Sierra National Forest). No permits are required for day trips but overnight trips require one throughout the year. Permits for Italy Pass or Little Lakes Valley (Mosquito Flat Trailhead) can be picked up at the White Mountain Ranger Station in Bishop or the Mammoth Ranger Station in Mammoth Lakes. Quotas are in place May 1 through November 1. Check the Inyo National Forest wilderness permit website for the most current information and reservation availability. If approaching from the west in Sierra National Forest check the Sierra National Forest permit website for the most current information.
No bear canisters are required, but proper food storage is a must.
Fires are prohibited above 10,000 feet.
|High Sierra Ranger District Office|
29688 Auberry Rd
Prather, CA 93651
|Inyo National Forest Wilderness Permit Office|
351 Pacu Lane, Suite 200
Bishop, CA 93514
Wilderness Information Line: (760) 873-2485
Permit Reservation Line: (760) 873-2483
Current ConditionsCurrent NOAA / National Weather Service Forecast
When To ClimbSpring through fall is the normal season for visits to the summit of Mount Hilgard as the roads to Mosquito Flat and Lake Edison are not plowed in the winter. Pine Creek trailhead is lower elevation (7400 feet) and far more accessible than any of the alternatives in the offseason and would be the best choice if targeting an unusual winter ascent. Contact the Inyo National Forest office in Bishop as needed for road conditions. In some years snow may be present at higher elevations well into spring.
CampingMt. Hilgard in the John Muir Wilderness. Overnight camping is permitted throughout the region with backcountry permits. There are many nice sites all along Lake Italy. There are also sites in Little Lakes Valley such as those around Dade Lake, Treasure Lakes, and Gem Lakes. The Little Lakes Valley sites seem to be more popular as they are closer to the Mosquito Flats Trailhead.
Rock Creek Camping
Etymology“‘Above the valley [of Bear Creek], a bare slope flanks the base of the ridge of peaks of which Mount Hilgard is the most northern. These are several in number. Mount Hilgard from the west is a striking mass, strongly suggesting Castle Peak in Tuolumne County. It was thus named at the suggestion of an admiring former pupil of Professor Hilgard, Mr. Ernest C. Bonner, who accompanied me on one of my outings.’ (Theodore S. Solomons: Manuscript, 1896, p. 66.)
‘The rocks of the First Recess, which opens southward just above the valley, have striking individuality. The granite is very pure and creamy in appearance. Mount Hilgard, named in honor of Professor Hilgard of the University of California, stands at the head of this splendid side gorge.’ (Theodore S. Solomons: Unexplored Regions of the High Sierra, in Overland Monthly, January, 1897, p. 74.) From this it appears that the name was originally given to the mountain shown on the U.S.G.S. map (edition of 1912) as Recess Peak.
Eugene Woldemar Hilgard (1833-1916); native of Bavaria; professor at University of Mississippi, and at University of Michigan; professor agriculture at University of California, 1875-1903; professor emeritus, 1903-1916.
Climbed by Charles F. Urquhart, July, 1905, probably the first ascent. (Letter from George R. Davis to Walter L. Huber, September 14, 1916.)”
– Francis P. Farquhar, Place Names of the High Sierra (1926)
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