OverviewWatchtower stands guard on the northern flank of magificant Tower Peak overlooking Tower Lake. It may be considered a subpeak of Tower as it resides down the ridgeline from the higher peak. However, the dramatic near vertical west face of Watchtower has earned the peak a name, and deservedly so.
The peak is located in the Hoover Wilderness Area, just over the northern boundary of Yosemite National Park. (Tower Peak straddles the Yosemite/Hoover boundary.) This is a very beautiful area, with the nearby scenic sister lakes of Dorothy, Helen, Ruth, Stella, Bonnie, Harriet and Cora Lakes. All of these lovely lakes are within a couple of miles of each other and worthy of a visit in and of themselves.
Watchtower can be climbed via an easy Class 2 scramble from Tower Pass, the saddle between Tower Peak and the Saurian Crest. However, there are also numerous technical routes up the west face for those ambitious enough to haul climbing gear 16 miles to reach the peak.
Getting ThereThe closest trailheads to Watchtower are the Leavitt Meadows Trailhead or Leavitt Lake.
From the Leavitt Meadows trailhead, follow the West Walker River trail south all the way through Tower Canyon to Tower Lake. (16 miles total)
From the Leavitt Lake trailhead, follow the Leavitt Pass trail south 3.8 miles and follow the trail split (PCT) east down through Kennedy Canyon. After 4.5 miles you'll reach the trail junction near Lower Long Lake. Continue SE towards Piutt Meadows. From there, follow the West Walker River trail north up through Tower Canyon to Tower Lake. (16.5 miles total)
Red TapeFree wilderness permits are required for overnight stays in the Hoover Wilderness Area.
Call the Summit ranger station at (209) 965-3434 near Pinecrest ahead of time and they will prepare a permit for you in advance, or the Bridgeport Ranger Station at 760-932-7070 if traveling from the east.
Bear cannisters are required by federal law in most areas of Yosemite National Park. Keep in mind that Watchtower and Tower Lake are located in the Hoover Wilderness Area. Bear cannisters are not currently required in the Hoover Wilderness Area.
Click here for current information.
When To ClimbThe climbing season varys each year depending on how much snow the area receives during the winter months. Hwy 108 closes during the winter, making winter access more difficult. So typically the most popular time to climb the mountain is from June through October.
CampingThere is a very good campsite at the north end of Tower Lake, near the outlet stream. If that is occupied, there is a smaller campsite near the tarn above and to the west of Tower Lake. There are also several excellent campsites at the north end of Mary Lake on the south side of Tower Pass.
Mountain ConditionsCall the Summit ranger station for current conditions. They can be reached at (209) 965-3434.
Hwy 108 road conditions.
Yosemite Conditions website.
- Leavitt Meadows Pack Station
Web site provides directions to the trailhead at Leavitt Meadows Pack Station and rates for pack (horse) trips.
- Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park web site.