Like its shorter neighbour across Styx Pass, Mercur Peak, Bartlett Peak straddles the border between the northwestern reaches of Yosemite National Park and the Emigrant Wilderness. It is the prominent summit seen when ascending Cherry Creek Canyon--itself a highly worthwhile scramble in its own right--or when hiking through Lord Meadow. Compared to other areas in the Sierra, this is a relatively lightly visited region, but it possesses great beauty nonetheless. A trip here in spring when the creeks are flowing and snow lingers on the abundant granite is likely to be a memorable one.
Like much of the surrounding terrain, Bartlett Peak is made up of exfoliated granite, making for some surprisingly intricate route finding on the approach at times. The reward for this effort is a superb panorama of Cherry Creek Canyon to the northwest, Lord Meadow and the east fork of Cherry Creek below you to the north, Boundary Lake to your west, as well as many of northern Yosemite and Emigrant's high peaks to the east/northeast.
As of June, 2003, there was no summit register; instead, a large cairn greets you at the top. A google search
seems to suggest that the peak is not climbed often. This is a shame, as the views are stunning, and the route-finding is quite enjoyable too.
Bartlett Peak is most easily approached from Boundary Lake, which also straddles the Yosemite/Emigrant border (presumably, hence its name). This lake is typically reached via the Kibbie Ridge trail; hike along the ridge over Styx Pass, to meet a ducked but unsigned trail east of Styx Pass. If you suspect you've missed the turn-off for Boundary Lake, you can hike cross-country to the low point along the ridge west of Bartlett Peak; cross-country travel is easy in this basin, and chances are good that you'll stumble across the trail anyway.
Any other approach to the peak would likely require several days of hiking.
The Kibbie Ridge trail begins at Shingle Springs, which itself is reached from Cherry Lake--in actuality, a dam of Cherry Creek, courtesy of Hetch Hetchy Water & Power. Cherry Lake is reached via a well-signed, scenic 24-mile drive from Highway 120 through Sierra low country, which can be especially pleasant in spring when wildflowers are blooming. The turn-off for the lake (Cherry Road, Forest Service road 17) is located 13.6 miles east of Groveland, just past a bridge over the South Fork Tuolumne River.
From Cherry Lake, pass over the dam on a gravel road, following signs for the Kibbie Ridge trailhead. Follow the road to its end at Shingle Springs; the road becomes progressively poorer the further you drive, with the last couple of miles being a rough dirt road. This is passable to most passenger cars, but if yours is the exception, parking is available in several spots along the road up to that point.
A wilderness permit is required for overnight stays. This can be picked up from the Groveland Ranger District office
, located on the south side of Highway 120, roughly eight miles east of Groveland.
Although the Kibbie Ridge trailhead is signposted as belonging to the Emigrant Wilderness, the trail skirts the Yosemite park boundary and is subject to usual Yosemite trailhead quota requirements; the quota here is 25 per night as of June, 2003. Most of this quota is intended to assuage overuse in Kibbie Lake, and I'm informed by a ranger that even if quotas are met--in my experience, highly unlikely, even on holiday weekends--the tendency is to be somewhat liberal in giving out permits if you say that your eventual destination is the Styx Pass area/cross-country.
When To Climb
The road to Shingle Springs is generally open May through September. At other times of year, you will have to park at Cherry Lake, adding another five miles or so on to your hike. Because of the low elevation, summer months can be hot, so early season (May/June) is probably the best time to visit.
The combination of lakes, streams, and open granite makes for many appealing backcountry campsites. Popular settings include the shores of Boundary Lake, located just below the peak, as well as alongside the east fork of Cherry Creek in the beautiful valley below. This is a relatively lightly visited area, so there are few restrictions on legal campsites.
Camping outside the wilderness can be found at Cherry Lake, at the Cherry Valley campsite. More information about this can be found from Stanislaus National Forest
Current conditions may be found from Yosemite
or the Stanislaus National Forest conditions page
. In general, though, your best bet for up-to-date information is to call the Groveland Ranger District at (209) 962 7825.
Snow information for Kibbie Ridge can be found at the CDEC website
. Note that the Lower Kibbie Ridge station (6700 ft) tends to become snow-free roughly 1-2 weeks earlier than much of the rest of the ridge higher up. The Sasche Springs station (7600 ft) is a better predictor, but this data is collected manually once a month.
Because of its relatively low elevation, this region tends to be snow-free fairly early in the season. During early season trips (May/early June), you'll likely encounter some snow along the forested trail leading up to Styx Pass, but the pass itself, the basin below, and the peak can often be largely snow-free even by this time.
Recent trail conditions for the Shingle Springs area may be found in the Stanislaus National Forest trailhead status report
"The origin of the name is not certainly known, but I think it quite likely that the peak was named for George True Bartlett by Col. W. W. Forsyth, acting superintendent of the park from 1909 to 1912. Bartlett was an artillery officer, and a classmate of Forsyth at West Point. Although in different branches of the army they had parallel careers, being promoted to higher ranks at the same time. (Heitman, 196.) The peak was named on the third Dardanelles 30' map, 1912. The creek was first named on the Pinecrest
- Peter Browning, Yosemite Place Names