Black Mountain is the largest mountain in view at the Virginia Lakes Trailhead, with the exception of Dunderberg Peak. The largest lake of the bunch is at the southeastern foot of the peak, and the area is frequented by plenty of anglers. The upper part of the peak is composed of dark metamorphic and volcanic rock, and none of the routes to the top are overly difficult. According to the USGS, the trailhead is at 9,810', making this a very convenient area to get up to some altitude. This peak is a frequently toured on skis in the winter and spring.
The Virginia Lakes Trailhead is accessed via Highway 395. Inbound from the north (Bridgeport area) or the south (Lee Vining or Mammoth Lakes), proceed to the top of Conway Summit , and turn westbound on Virginia Lakes Road, and proceed to the end of the road. Shortly before the end, the road turns to dirt/gravel, but it is a good road, suitable for low-clearance vehicles. There is a large parking area here at a turnaround loop.
No permits are required unless you enter the Hoover Wilderness and stay overnight. There are no use fees except in the Trumbull Lake Campground, there are no summit fees, and no parking pass is required. Generally there is prodigious snowfall and the road is not maintained or cleared in the winter months, so the approach is 6 miles further during this period.
When To Climb
The spring, summer, and fall are the best times to climb here, in the spring expect hordes of vicious mosquitos, trailing off as summer progresses, and finally disappearing after the first freeze in the fall, which can occur as early as September. In the winter, if you make the extra effort to appraoch the area, there are numerous grand ski descents to be had on the peaks in the area.
I recommend camping on the adjacent USFS land rather than the Trumbull Lake Campground
which charges $9 per night for a patch of dirt and a vault toilet. Shortly before you arrive at the trailhead you will pass the Green Creek road, a dirt road that leads through a bunch of good free campsites on the way to the Green Lake Trailhead. I have camped here before, at over 9,000', it's good for acclimation.
The NWS weather
is pretty reliable and detailed, and is worth checking out. I am not aware of any cams in the area. If desperate for info, checkout the Bridgeport Ranger Station
site and see if they can help.
GasolineCaution -- Extremely high fuel prices in Bridgeport!
Unreasonably high fuel prices in Bridgeport motivated me to add this section. There are 2 filling stations in Bridgeport, and both are owned by the same shyster. The fuel prices are often a dollar or more per gallon higher than surrounding areas. With this in mind, I want to recommend to everyone using a trailhead in the Bridgeport area to fill up well before you arrive.
If arriving from the north, fill up in Minden/Gardnerville, or next best, at Topaz Lake. Coming in over Tioga, Lee Vining is also expensive, but (slightly) less than Bridgeport. From the south, Bishop is the best bet, but Mammoth is 40 - 50 cents per gallon less than Bridgeport. Coming over Sonora Pass, I guess you're out of luck unless you buy enough in Sonora to get over and back.
If you for some reason do find yourself in need of fuel in the Bridgeport area, Mono Village (at Upper Twin Lake) has fuel for 20-30 cents cheaper than in town.
While the fuel prices are a rip-off, other merchants in town are more reasonable, especially restaurants.