OverviewLittle though they might realize it, skiers owe much to Silver Peak, whose massif forms the southern half of a funnel that channels winter storms through a low spot in the Sierras to dump vast quantities of snow on Mammoth Mountain. To the north is Iron Mountain and the Minaret Range; in the middle the San Joaquin river valley. This convenient arrangement of geology can produce 60 feet or more of snow over a season at the Mammoth ski resort.
Silver Peak as seen from near Mammoth Lakes:
Storm funnel feeding the Mammoth ski resort -- formed by Silver Peak to the south and Iron Mountain/Minarets to the north:
Silver Peak, however, is not quite as popular as the ski resort – in all of 2011, just three people signed the summit register.
Getting TherePerhaps one reason that Silver Peak is not more frequently climbed is that the approach requires a long drive on a narrow bumpy road – you might enjoy the trip more if you view the drive as part of the adventure, rather than as just more highway miles to be burned through on the way to the trailhead. This road is described in great detail on this page at Climber.Org: Kaiser Pass Road.
The closest trailhead to Silver is the one to Devil’s Bathtub, near Lake Edison, at waypoint MONOTH as shown in the page above. Supplies, meals and limited lodging are available near the trailhead at the Vermillion Valley Resort.
You can also get meals, lodging and a soak at Mono Hot Springs, located as shown on the page for Kaiser Pass Road. When I drove by it looked like some people had parked at the bridge over the south fork of the San Joaquin River and were enjoying some free soaks just down the river.
Hiking routes/Trip reportsFrom the West
Secor describes the West and South slopes as class 2, and provides a brief description of approaches from Devil’s Bathtub and from Anne Lake. He also states that the northeast slope is a “brushy class 2-3”.
The shortest route is out of Lake Edison via Devil’s Bathtub. Round-trip appx 17 miles and 5,000’ total elevation gain: Silver Peak via Devil's Bathtub
SPS and Climber.Org reports (note there are various Silver peaks, all collected below)
Burd Report: Burd describes a loop trip – approaching via Devil’s Bathtub then returning via Rainbow Lake/Frog Lake/Onion Spring Meadow. However, even without climbing peaks along the way (Sharktooth and Cockscomb), the loop would be some 23 miles and almost 7,000’ total elevation. There is a rough 4WD drive road to Onion Springs Campground (waypoint ONION4 on the page for Kaiser Pass Road); if you arrange a car shuttle between Onion Springs and the Devil’s Bathtub trail that would save about 5 miles and a few hundred feet of elevation.
From the East
Hiking from the east, starting at trailheads near Mammoth Lakes, would be much more challenging than from the west. Two possible routes would be:
Lake Mary – Roughly 24 miles and 9,000’ total elevation round trip (Burd reported a summit register entry by Bob Sumner saying he took this route as a dayhike).
Reds Meadow – Roughly 34 miles and 9,000’ total elevation round trip
EtymologySilver Peak was not named, as you might think, after a claim or mining operation. “Theodore S. Solomons named Silver Creek in 1892 for its silvery appearance, and he later named the peak from the stream.” (Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada)
Devil’s Bathtub: Named because of its shape by George R. Davis, USGS, about 1907 (Browning, op. cit.).
Lake Thomas A. Edison: “Named in the early 1950’s when Mono Creek was dammed, flooding Vermilion Valley. That name was given the valley in September 1894 by Theodore S. Solomons and Leigh Bierce: ‘The middle portion of the creek flows through an extensive flat covered by a growth of tamarack and other trees, which give it a park-like appearance. This flat is at least five miles long by a mile in average width. From the color of its soil, we christened it Vermilion Valley’”. (Browning, op. cit.)
Kaiser Pass (Peak, Creek, Ridge, Meadow etc.):
“It is odd that such a widespread name…has no definite origin” (Browning , op. cit.)
“Named as early as 1862, perhaps for Elijah Keyser, a gold miner from Pennsylvania” (Bright, 1500 California Place Names)
External LinksSierra National Forest website
Permits are required for overnight camping but not day hiking. If it’s a holiday weekend you might want to call ahead to check availability. Permits can be obtained at:
High Sierra Ranger District Office
29688 Auberry Rd
Prather, CA 93651
Permits can also be picked up at the High Sierra Ranger Station, a few miles after Kaiser Pass.
Campfires are prohibited above 10,000’. The trailhead for Devil's Bathtub has bear boxes but not trash cans – so guess where the garbage winds up.
Kaiser Wilderness official site
To check if Kaiser Pass is open