The Southern Sierra's Domeland Wilderness is a spectacular landscape of awe-inspiring spires, pinnacles, and domes set amongst beautiful meadows and year-round streams. One of the Domelands' most prominent formations--and one of just a handful of officially named summits within the wilderness--is Church Dome, located on the western boundary of the wilderness.
Although poorly named--Church Pinnacles or Church Spires would be a more accurate name--Church Dome is an outstanding peak. The highest pinnacle is informally named the Taj Mahal, and finds significant appeal in its challenge: It is fifth class even by its easiest route, the impressively steep Northwest Arete (5.5, with a 5.7 summit block). The peak is host to some spectacular views from the top, too: Rockhouse Peak
to the north, Taylor Dome
to the west, and the rugged Spanish Needle
and Owens Peak
to the east.
If you have further information on additional routes on the peak, please post an addition and I'll incorporate it here.
The quickest approach is from the south, involving a short hike of roughly two miles and 1000' of gain. From Kernville, drive north 20 miles to the junction with the Sherman Pass Rd. Turn right and drive about 5 miles towards Sherman Pass, turning right onto Cherry Hill Rd (signed for Big Meadow). The first eight miles are paved before turning to excellent dirt (passable to all passenger vehicles). Continue on Cherry Hill Road past Big Meadow, and take a left on Forest Road 22S12, signed for Taylor Meadow. This road meets 24S13 at a 3-way junction; turn left here, following the signs for Domeland Wilderness trailheads. 24S13 continues past Rattlesnake Meadow to the trailhead, about a mile south of Church Dome. (Once on 24S13, there is an optional shortcut past Rattlesnake Meadow: Turn left on 24S33, and that road meets up with 24S13 again past the meadow).
The peak can also be approached from the vicinity of Manter Meadow, which can be easily reached from several trailheads located on the east side of Big Meadow. These are the same trailheads used to approach Rockhouse Peak or Stegosaurus Fin.
Red Tape / When To Climb
Permits are currently not
needed for overnight stays in the Domeland Wilderness, though a fire permit
is required for stoves or open fires outside developed campgrounds. The access roads close in winter sometime between October and December, opening after snowmelt in the early spring, typically sometime in May. Contact the Ranger Station in Kernville for road conditons and closures (they are reported to be more knowledgeable than their counterparts at the Lake Isabella Office, but don't count on much in the way of useful or accurate information nonetheless):
Kern River Ranger District - Kernville Office
105 Whitney Road
P.O. Box 9
Kernville, CA 93238
Monday through Saturday, 8:00am - 4:30pm
Camping is permitted at the trailheads and throughout the Domeland Wilderness; most meadows are used for grazing cattle in the spring and summer months.
With an approach of only two miles or so, there is little need to camp in the backcountry for this peak.
Trip Reports2005 SCMA trip report/photos