OverviewPeak 8506 dominates the skyline above the Squaw Valley. However, despite being an obvious landmark, it is not officially named. Located just west of Silver Peak, the summit can be reached within a couple hours.
Despite being located in a mountain wilderness, the peak is located just outside the Granite Chief Wilderness boundary. Getting to this peak requires some routefinding. The Granite Chief trail can be taken for the first 2+ miles and first 1,040 feet, but the rest of the way requires some moderate bushwhacking. Fortunately, the top of Peak 8506 is not far away from the trail, and the likelihood of getting lost is low.
Once at the summit, you will find great views toward the Granite Chief Wilderness, including Granite Chief, Needle Peak, and Lyon Peak. There From are also excellent views of Lake Tahoe, as well as views east towards Mount Rose and north towards the Castle Pass area. Finally, there are immediate views towards Tinker Knob and the mountain along the ridge between Peak 8506 and Tinker Knob.
Getting ThereThe Peak 8506 trailhead is the same starting point for Granite Chief. From Truckee or Reno, you take Interstate 80 to CA State Route 89 going south for 8.5 miles to Squaw Valley Road. Follow Squaw Valley Road Westward for a couple miles until you hit the center of the village. Take a right at the sign for the Olympic Valley Inn. Follow it past the entrance to the Inn. There is an parking area on the right right next to an unmarked trail.
RoutesThere are basically two route options to Peak 8506. Both require off-trail hiking and route-finding. However, both can be done in three or four hours.
For both trails, start by taking the trail from the parking lot for only a few minutes. Follow the trail as it heads to the left where it winds around and eventually hits a sign pointing towards the Granite Chief Trail. Follow the trail as it skirts up towards Peak 8506, which is in sight only part of the way. Continue up the trail as it enters an open slope. Here there will be the first wide open views of the mountains to the west, including the tram that heads up to the Alpine Meadows ski lift area as well as Granite Chief in the distance. Continue north up the trail further until you get to a cross over point at an elevation of approximately 7300', seen in the photo below.
From here, the two route options diverge.
Once at the rock cliffs in the photo, turn right and head up the steep slope. This involves gaining more than 800' of open forest and scree slope to the ridge between Peak 8426 (to the south) and Peak 8506 (to the north). The route to the ridge is very steep and can get overgrown. Be very careful on the way up. Once at the ridge, head left (north) towards Peak 8506 and descend down almost 200 feet. There are a bunch of large rock cliffs blocking the slope up to Peak 8506. Head below them up a steep slope. Eventually you will hit a large treeless meadow. The summit comes into view. There are basically two summits, close to the same height. It appears that the summit with the large stick with prayer flags is the true summit.
The total distance to the summit via this route is about 3 miles. Elevation gain from the trailhead to the summit is approximately 2,450 feet.
For the 2nd route, instead of turning right, continue up the Granite Chief Trail as it heads west below the rock cliffs. After about 1/4 mile, you will be at a point just above the cliffs. Notice on the right side of the trail is an open spot heading up the mountain side. It is shown in the photo below.
Head up the steep slope to the top of the ridge. It will take a good 30 minutes or so to get up there. Peak 8506 is to the northeast. That might prompt you to head to the right. However, a better option is to simply stay straight. If you head too far right, you reach the edge of the mountain, and have to bushwhack. The best option to is to go as high as you can go, and then head back east towards Peak 8506. Once on top of the ridge, the route is self explanatory. Head eastward up the open meadow to the summit.
The total distance to the summit via this route is about 3 1/4 miles. Elevation gain from the trailhead to the summit is approximately 2,250 feet.
Regardless of the route you take on the way up the mountain, it is generally safer to descend via Route 2. Be careful in routefinding, but head generally south-southwest. Do not head too far west. As long as you are losing elevation, and following the path of least resistance, you should find your way back to the Granite Chief Trail.
Another option for the descent is to include Silver Peak 8,424' via a traverse. In total, this only adds a little over a mile to the total hike. The traverse is a bit tricky, but not too difficult. Here is a trip report describing the route.