Smith Peak, located on the south side of Hetch Hetchy Resevoir in Yosemite National Park (YNP), is the highest peak in the Hetch Hetchy area and a great place to enjoy this now submerged "other Yosemite Valley." The sheer rock walls of Yosemite granite offer a much different view when filled by water as opposed to grass, trees, and cars. A bonus is that the summit offers a multitude (about 10?) of great campsites that are much more inviting for overnight stays than the summits of say Half Dome, Clouds Rest, or Mount Dana. Two reasons to do this hike are: (1) a reason to visit Hetch Hetchy and (2) the ability to get the entire summit (if you're lucky) for a reasonably large group on an overnight trip.
There is one primary hiking trail from Cottonwood Meadows to the summit. You can reach Cottonwood Meadows from either the Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station (at 4,600' and 7.5 miles to summit) or the Hetch Hetchy Campground (also about 7.5 miles including 1-2 miles of road hiking). During May 2001, some route finding was necessary along the the trail from the Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station due to overgrown brush, effects of old fires, and loss of trail in two meadows. See the topo map under the "Getting There" section for more information.
Head towards the Big Oak Flat entrance to YNP on CA SR-120 and just west of the entrance station take Evergreen Road north following the signs for Hetch Hetchy. You can start your hike at the Hetch Hetchy Ranger Station, however, more parking is available farther north at the Hetch Hetchy Campground.
PARK ENTRANCE FEE: Yosemite National Park is part of the US NPS and an entrance fee is charged. The most common way to enter the park is by vehicle for a $20 entrance fee good for 7 days. Check the NPS web site for the latest fees. As with all US National Parks, you also have the option of purchasing an annual National Parks Pass.
OVERNIGHT TRIP PERMIT: If you are planning an overnight trip, you will need a Wilderness Permit since YNP has a trailhead-based quota system in place. At least 40% of the permits are available on a day-of or day-before basis. See the YNP Wilderness Permits Page for more information on how to reserve these permits by the Internet, phone (209-372-0740), or mail. While the permit itself is free, if you wish to make an advance reservation, there is a non-refundable $5 per person processing fee.
MATHER RANGER STATION UPDATE (Ref: Morgan): Due to security concerns, parking at the Mather Ranger station is restricted (May, 2003). Rangers will direct you to park only in specific areas and will issue an overnight parking permit. This may or may not affect other approaches to the peak--check with the rangers. Also, the Mather Ranger Station has no bear boxes or running water--for those amenities, you must drive 8 miles further on Evergreen Road, to the HH backpackers camp.
When To Climb
Generally, people hike this peak between May and October.
There are a variety of camping options including Cottonwood Meadows, Smith Meadows, and the Smith Peak summit (highly recommended). See the "Red Tape" section regarding the free wilderness permit that is required for overnight trips in YNP.
Morgan adds: "In my limited experience, the most popular camping option for Smith Peak is in Smith Meadows, from which people dayhike the peak. Another option is the nameless meadow at 6100 feet, south of Smith Meadows. In my opinion, this was the prettiest of the three (the other two being Cottonwood and Smith meadows)."
Check the Official YNP Conditions Update webpage for the current weather and road closure status. This page also has a link to the National Weather Service 3-day and extended weather forecast which are published twice daily (4am and 4pm PDT).
- Yosemite Concession Services Corporation
YCCS is a concessioner in Yosemite National Park that provides lodging, shopping, tours, and other activities.
- Yosemite Online
The website for The Yosemite Association, a not-for-profit educational organization, dedicated to the support of Yosemite National Park through a program that includes membership, book publishing and sales, outdoor seminars, and visitor services.
- May 24-25, 2003 backpack
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