Center Peak is an often overlooked peak in Kings Canyon National Park. Its location in Center Basin gives it easy access from the John Muir Trail and gives its summit great views of the region. It offers a variety of routes varying in difficulty.
While it is considerably shorter than many nearby peaks, it is still a worthwhile climb. Because of its location directly in the middle of the basin, away from all other peaks, it appears massive from its base. The rugged north face towers over Golden Bear Lake, making for a scenic camping area. From the summit you are surrounded by massive peaks, making for a fantastic view.
The shortest route to the peak is from the Onion Valley Trailhead. From Highway 395 in Independence turn onto Onion Valley Road and travel approximately 14 miles to the road's end. Follow the trail to Robinson Lake. From there you must travel cross country up the canyon and over the class 2 University Pass. From the top of the pass, Center Peak comes into view and is only a couple miles away. Use caution when descending University Pass; the west side is very steep and loose.
If you wish to remain on trail, you can take the Kearsarge Lakes Trail from the same trailhead. It connects with John Muir Trail which runs only about a half a mile of easy walking away from Center Peak. The trail is easy to follow and fairly gentle. There are several good places to camp from Kearsarge Lakes to anywhere in Center Basin.
For a trailhead in Kings Canyon National Park, go here.
Bear canisters are required in the area. Containers are located at Kearsarge Lakes and some points within Center Basin. Also check fire restrictions, as they can change depending on the conditions and time of year. Generally, there are no fires above 10,000 feet. There is no camping at Bullfrog Lake and a two night limit at Kearsarge Lakes. Of course there is a small fee for a permit, from $5-$15 per person depending on where you enter.
When To Climb
The peak is generally climbable July-October depending on past snowfall. To get a feel for snow levels look here. Always check conditions before heading out.
There is a campground at the Onion Valley Trailhead. Information about all Onion Valley Campground and other Inyo National Forest Campgrounds can be found here.
Kings Canyon National Parks campground info can be found here.