OverviewState Peak is an extremely remote peak anchoring the southwestern end of the Cirque Crest (along with nearby Dougherty Peak) between the south and middle forks of the Kings River in Kings Canyon National Park. The most reasonable approach involves over 32 miles and 11,000 feet total elevation gain round trip and promises both wild scenery and solitude over much of the route.
Though the climbing is short the time, distance, and elevation gain lead to State Peak being seldom visited. The scenery is superb, however, with gigantic meadows and secluded lakes passed en route and a view from the summit that is beyond impressive for a relatively unknown 12000 foot Sierra summit. The view across the Muro Blanco to Arrow Peak and up the Kings River to Taboose Pass is stunning enough reward on its own, but it is topped off by a vista including the entire Palisades from Mount Agassiz in the north to Split and Cardinal Mountains in the south.
Many who make the trek do so in part due to the peak’s inclusion on the Sierra Club’s Sierra Peaks Section SPS List. Nearby peaks that might also be climbed with State Peak include Goat Mountain which shares some of the approach and Marion Peak which is equally remote. State Peak and Marion peak are connected by a fantastic traverse on the Cirque Crest, which can go from class 2 to class 4 depending on how close you stick to the ridge (only two very short sections any higher than class 3).
State Peak is most easily approached on the Copper Creek Trail in Kings Canyon National Park. Approaches from nearby Deer Cove or Lewis Creek trailheads area entirely feasible if joining with other destinations on Kings Canyon’s north rim, but they aren’t very direct without some effort to get over or around Dead Pine Ridge. It isn’t uncommon for folks to climb State Peak via the northeast ridge by doing the traverse from Marion Peak in which case using the Taboose Creek trail may be feasible.
Copper Creek Trailhead (36.79616° N, 118.58342° W)
Turn east off Highway 99 in Fresno onto Highway 180 towards Kings Canyon National Park. Simply follow the highway 92 miles all the way to Roads End in the back of the canyon (37 miles past the park entrance). Take care not to miss the left turn 21 miles from Highway 99 to stay on 180. If coming from the south, Highway 180 is best reached by using Highway 137 or 198 to connect to Highway 63 northbound in Visalia.
Trip statistics from Copper Creek Trailhead:
16.5 miles one-way, 9500 feet total elevation gain plus 2100 feet gain on the return
The ascent on the approach takes off with vengeance from the Copper Creek Trailhead adjacent to the overnight parking area at Roads End. While the trail is well maintained all the way to State Lakes, the lower portion (first couple of miles) can be hot and dusty in the summer months.
From Roads End ascend 5500 feet in only 6.6 miles to the pass heading into Granite Basin. The trail passes several seasonal streams midway through the hike. A bear box and good campsites are available at the stream crossing 3.4 miles and 2800 feet above the trailhead (at BM 7825 on the attached route map). Relief comes with a short descent and then mostly level terrain as you approach the mammoth meadow at the north end of the basin. The basin is full of camping options, or continue on to Granite Pass.
The trail crosses over Granite Pass 9.3 miles from the trailhead and then drops 1100 feet past more meadows and then into the forest along Dougherty Creek. Bear right past a couple of trail junctions (the first coming in from Kennedy Pass, the second from Simpson Meadow) as signs begin to direct you to State Lakes.
After reaching the lowest of the State Lakes (now 14.7 miles from Roads End) depart and head cross-country to the northeast towards Lake 10960 east of State Peak. The cross-country travel isn’t particularly difficult other than coming after already having ascended 7000 feet from the trailhead. No bushwacking involved.
The easiest route up State Peak follows class 2 chutes up the left side of the southwest face. Cross over the outlet stream of previously mentioned Lake 10960 a quarter mile before reaching the lake and follow the broad slope to the southwest ridge where the summit comes into view. It is just another short distance of class 2 to the summit.
It is worth stopping by Lake 10960 for the view and a rest, however. From the lake, cliffs line the bottom of the northwest face. There are many options up the northwest face or you can follow the west ridge. Breaks in the cliffs on the face are easier the further north (left) you go, and good options can be found in the class 2-3 range. Once through the initial section at the bottom follow your choice of class 2 or 3 to the top. Alternatively I took a chute from the lake outlet directly to the west ridge, which looked to be simple class 3. Most of the ridge is indeed class 2 with a few bits of class 3 thrown in, but sticking to the ridge soon leads to a class 4 downclimb followed by more obstacles. When the option presents itself, easiest to cross over the ridge and continue to the right of it as chutes in the southwest slope head up the face.
Copper Creek Trailhead and State Peak lie within Kings Canyon National Park and an entrance fee is required. The Sequoia and Kings Canyon fee page has full details.
No permits are required for day trips but overnight trips require one throughout the year. Copper Creek has quota of 20 people per day in place from late May through late September each year. Outside the quota season permits can be self-issued anytime at the Roads End Permit Station, otherwise they must be obtained from the same location during open hours. Check the Sequoia and Kings Canyon permit page for full details on hours, the reservation process, and reservation availability.
Bear canisters are not required, but proper food storage is a must! I have consistently seen more bears in Kings Canyon near Roads End than anywhere else in the Sierra. This includes FIVE separate bear sightings in one trip when I visited State Peak (ok… that is a bit unusual though). There is a bear box along the trail at BM 7825, immediately past and upslope of where the trail crosses the last major stream from Mount Hutchings.
Fires are prohibited above 10,000 feet and in Granite Basin.
Current ConditionsCurrent NOAA / National Weather Service Forecast
When to ClimbThe road to Roads End is not plowed in the winter, consequently spring through fall are the most realistic times for a visit. In early season snow is present at higher elevations, but those familiar with snow conditions should not have any difficulties. Summer months bring heat to the lower elevations of the hike, making an early morning start worthwhile. Early morning starts also bring the added bonus of shade along the exposed trail until the sun rises over the ridge to the east (shade would be present in late afternoon too).
Backcountry camping is possible at Tent Meadow near BM 7825 where a bear box is available. Granite Basin is maddeningly scenic and with its colossal meadow, and there are similar but smaller versions immediately north of Granite Pass. Any of the lakes west or southwest of the peak itself make nice locations, and there is even a slab just a few feet below the summit just the right size for a bivy!
Roadside camping is not allowed at the trailhead, but dispersed camping is permitted not far away outside the park in Sequoia National Forest.
Inside the park there are four campgrounds (Sheep Creek, Sentinel, Canyon View, and Moraine) with over 300 total sites available. All but Sentinel are open on an as needed basis, making it sometimes difficult to spread out even when usage is low. Each campground has full amenities, costs $18/night, and all sites are first-come, first-served. The Sequoia and Kings Canyon Campgrounds page also lists other sites in the area.