OverviewThimble Peak is located above the Kirkwood Ski Area in Alpine County, California near Carson Pass. Thimble Peak is adorned with rocky spires and stands out among its neighbors in the area. The summit area provides several opportunities for rock climbing with various degrees of difficulty. The primary approach is from the north, and involves mostly pleasant hiking.
Though not as popular as its neighbor to the north Thunder Mountain 9410', Thimble Peak does see hikers eager for some extra mileage.
The true summit is a rocky spire that involves exposed class 3 climbing. Views from the summit area are tremendous, with the Sierra Nevada encircling the peak, mostly on the north, south, and east sides. The mountains get lower further west.
Thimble Peak sees plenty of snow, especially on its east side, where the Kirkwood Ski area enjoys a long ski season, typically ending in May. The best time to hike Thimble Peak is probably early July through mid-to-late October.
Getting ThereReaching the lofty summit of Thimble Peak typically requires approaching from the north. The best route to the summit is from the Thunder Mountain Trailhead or the Horse Canyon trail, which approach from the northwest side of the peak. There are several options to approach from trailheads to the northeast, such as Caples Lake or Woods Lake. These approach Thimble Peak via the southeast side. This side is very rugged, and at the easiest requires difficult class 3 climbing.
From Reno/Carson City to the north, drive south on Highway 395 to the junction with Highway 88. This will take you into California. Once on Highway 88 it is about 28 miles to Carson Pass (which is the trailhead for Round Top, Red Lake Peak, and a few other peaks in the area). Continue past Carson Pass. You will reach Kirkwood in about 5 miles. 1.7 miles past Kirkwood there is small trailhead on the left side of Highway 88. The trailhead has a sign with a trail map, and clearly marks the area as the "Thunder Mountain Trailhead".
This is the primary approach for Thimble Peak. Although, one can choose to hike the steeper and longer Horse Canyon Trail which heads up the southwest side of Thunder Mountain and connects with the route to Thimble Peak. The Horse Canyon trailhead is reached just off the south side of Highway 88 about 2 1/2 miles further west of the Thunder Mountain Trailhead.
Route InformationDirect Route from Thunder Mountain Trailhead
The most direct route to Thimble Peak is to take the Thunder Mountain Trail directly south from the trailhead. The entry to the trail is clearly marked. The first mile or so is in the forest, with some views further up. Soon you reach an overlook and a big rock. The trail heads uphill to the right of a rock formation and up to a saddle between Thunder Mountain 9410' and Martin Point 9250'. The full north face of Thunder Mountain comes into view.
Follow the trail as it heads up towards the north face. The trail crests at about 9,330' and then descends to the back side of the summit ridge. Once at this point you can make a quick trip up the Thunder Mountain in a little over 3/4 miles round trip, or continue on to Thimble Peak.
The route is quite obvious. There are a couple buildings dedicated to the ski slope on the east side of the hill at Kirkwood. The ridge rolls up and down slightly towards the summit and the northeast face of the peak. Once you pass the 2nd building you can either climb the crest of the ridge, or walk cross-country along the right side. If you are used to scrambling, I recommend just climbing the crest of the ridge. Once over the top of hill above the 2nd building, it is fairly simple and straightforward to reach the false summit, which involves some light scrambling. The actual summit (not visible at all during the entire hike until you reach the false summit) is just behind it, and requires difficult class 3 climbing with near total exposure due to steep drops on all sides. Climbing to the summit is recommended only for those without a fear of heights. Descend the way you came. It is about 10 miles round trip with a one-way elevation gain of about 2600'. (It is 10 3/4 miles round trip if combining with Thunder Mountain, which only adds about 200' total gain to the trip)
Horse Canyon Trail
You can also choose to park at the Horse Canyon Trailhead on the south side of Highway 88 about 2 1/2 miles or so past the Thunder Mountain Trailhead, and east of Silver Lake. Head up the trail for about 2.2 miles where it connects with a trail on the south side of Thunder Mountain. From the trailhead it is about 5 1/2 miles one way to the summit of Thimble Peak with an elevation gain of about 3100'.
Thimble Peak can be approached from Woods Lake or Caples Lake trailheads. Both of these trails head towards the southeast side of Thimble Peak. From Woods Lake, the trail heads to Round Top Lake, and then follows up towards Fourth of July Peak. Once atop Fourth of July Peak, you can follow up to Peak 9795 and Melissa Coray Peak. Thimble Peak is just 1.3 miles past Melissa Coray Peak, making for a one-way hiking distance of about 5 3/4 miles. The problem is that this side of Thimble Peak is rugged and difficult Class 3 climbing should be expected to reach the summit. Elevation gain one way is about 2600'.
From the Caples Lake trailhead, the trail heads to Emigrant Pass and involves about the same hiking distance as from Woods Lake, albeit with less gain - closer to 2,000'. This approach has the same issue with ruggedness to reach the summit.
Red TapeParking at the Thunder Mountain Trailhead requires no permits or fees. The same appears to be the case for the Horse Canyon Trailhead. To park at Caples Lake or Woods Lake, there is a $5.00 day use fee.
CampingCamping information for the area is provided on the Mokelumne Wilderness SP page and others SP pages in the Mokelumne Wilderness.
External LinksCarson Pass Management Area
El Dorado National Forest Highway 88 Hiking Trails