High Level Details:
~13 Miles Round Trip (The National Park Website says it is 14 miles, but my GPS said it was less)
~3,300 feet total elevation gain for trip
Trailhead elevation: 8,133 feet if starting at Mahogany Flat Campground
Highest Point on the trail: Telescope Peak, 11,049 feet
Estimated Time to complete: 7-9 hours
No water source along the way, so bring plenty of water for 7-9 hours
Dog friendly? Unfortunately, no dogs allowed on trails in the National Park
Primarily, there are two camping locations that are relatively close to the trailhead. You could camp at Wildrose Campground or Mahogany Flat Campground. Both of these sites are first-come-first-served campsites. Wildrose is open all year, and on the National Park Website it says that Mahogany flat campground is only open March-November. However, the campground was still open when we went this December, so we stayed there. They haven't really gotten any snow yet this season so I am guessing that is why the campground is still open. There is no camping allowed at Charcoal Kilns.
The Trailhead starts at Mahogany Flat Campground, you will need good 4WD vehicle to drive up to Mahogany Flat Campground, otherwise, park at Charcoal Kilns (this adds an extra 3 miles to your total trip). I'd say if you are in really good shape, you could probably hike this in 4-5 hours no problem. If you are in "medium shape" maybe plan for about 7 hours. If you are not in very good shape, plan for 9 hours. The hike is very straight forward, there is a clear path the whole way. You will go uphill about 1300' for the first 2 miles and then it will flatten out (more or less) for a bit. At around 5 miles you will reach some switchbacks... this is the "final push". Then when you come over the saddle you will see the summit of Telescope Peak. The views from the trail are breathtaking the entire way, and the views from the summit are even better. You can see Badwater Basin and the Sierra Nevada all at the same time. I'm told, on a very clear day you can even see the summit of Mount Whitney from the top of Telescope Peak. Be prepared for cold weather if you are going in the winter, and call ahead to check if there is snow.
For a full detailed trip report, check: www.shedreamsofalpine.com