Grizzly Peak is an ancient volcanic steam vent. The lower portion of the mountain is covered with a sandy light gray colored volcanic ash. The summit is crowned with interesting formations and arches
of redish brown volcanic rock.
Grizzly Peak can be easily climbed when passing by either Bond Pass or Emigrant Pass near the eastern boundary of the Emigrant Wilderness Area. There is not a lot of traffic in this region so the mountain is infrequently climbed. However, it offers beautiful views of the many other peaks in the surrounding areas of Emigrant, Hoover Wilderness and northern Yosemite.
The summit can be reached in less than an hour from the base from nearly any side via an easy class II scramble.
Other peaks in the nearby vacinity include Molo Mountain
, Big Sam
, Quartzite Peak
, and Bigelow Peak
, which can make for a great weekend of peak bagging.
Emigrant Wilderness Overview
What was formerly the Emigrant Basin was designated as the Emigrant Wilderness Area (EWA) on January 4, 1975. The 113,000 acre EWA is about 25 miles in length and up to 15 miles in width. It is bordered by Yosemite National Park on the south, the Hoover Wilderness Area on the east, and State Highway 108 and the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness Area on the north.
The EWA does not have the dramatic scenary of Yosemite Valley, however it also does not have the crowds that Yosemite has during the summer. The glaciated lanscape is consistent with that found in the backcountry of beautiful northern Yosemite. The northeastern third of the Wilderness is dominated by volcanic ridges and peaks; the remaining areas consist of many sparsely vegetated, granitic ridges interspersed with numerous lakes and meadows. There are over 100 lakes and 22 named peaks within the EWA. Elevations range from below 5000 feet near Cherry Reservoir to 11,570 feet at Leavitt Peak, but the elevation range of most of the popular high use areas is 7500 to 9000 feet. Precipitation averages 50 inches annually, 80 percent of it in the form of snow. Snowpacks typically linger into June, sometimes later following very wet winters. Summers are generally dry and mild, but afternoon thundershowers occur periodically and nighttime temperatures could dip below freezing anytime.
Grizzly Peak is located in the remote western region of the Emigrant Wilderness Area on the boundary of the Hoover Wilderness Area. It can be easily tied in with climbs of other nearby peaks and reached from several different trailheads depending on your plans. Trailhead options are listed below.
1) Kennedy Meadows Resort
is located off of CA Highway 108, just west of the Sonora Pass. The trailhead is located at the end of the parking area for the Kennedy Meadows Resort. Overnight parking at the resort lot is $5/night and can be paid at the resort lobby. Alternatively, free parking is available at the signed forest service "trailhead" parking lot, which is located about 3/4 mile from the trailhead.
Kennedy Meadows also operates a pack (horse) station. They will let you park overnight for free (and shower for free upon return) if you pack in with them one-way*. They also have rental cabins, a supply store, small restaurant and saloon.
Follow the Huckleberry Trail past Relief Reservoir, then take the trail split to Brown Bear Pass. Continue on this trail past Emigrant Meadow Lake and Grizzly Peak Lakes
until you reach Grizzly Peak. (17 miles total)
2) Leavitt Meadows Pack Station
is located on CA Hwy 108, just west of I-395. Free parking is available in the trailhead parking area near the campground, north of the pack station. You can hike to Grizzly Peak, or have Leavitt Meadows Pack Station drop you off on horse back. Rates for horses are available on their web site*.
Follow the West Walker River trail south 7.2 miles until you reach the signed junction of Fremont Lake. Branch west onto the Fremont Lake trail and stay on it for 6 miles until you reach South Long Lake. Take the Emigrant Pass trail for another 5 miles. Grizzly Peak will come into view to the south. (18.5 miles total)
3) The Leavitt Lake trailhead
is only accessible with an SUV with high clearance and 4-wheel drive. Leavitt Lake road is located 3.8 miles east of the Sonora Pass off of CA Hwy 108. It's 3 miles to Leavitt Lake over very rough terrain and a couple of stream crossings. Free parking is available on the north side of the lake. Follow the Leavitt Pass trail south, up and over Big Sam, for 10 miles until you reach Emigrant Pass. Grizzly Peak is just another mile to the south. (11 miles total)
* Call well in advance to reserve horse and guide if you decide to pack in with either one of the pack stations.
Wilderness permits are required for overnight stays in both the Emigrant Wilderness Area
and Hoover Wilderness Area
Emigrant permits are free. Call the Summit ranger station at (209) 965-3434 near Pinecrest ahead of time and they will prepare a permit for you in advance.
The Hoover Wilderness has a quota system. See their web site or call the Bridgeport Ranger Station at 760-932-7070 for specific details. Generally, the quota system is in effect during the summer months and does not apply to the Leavitt Lake trailhead. Permits are free unless you wish to confirm a reservation, in which case it will cost you $3 per person. They allow 50% of the quota access to the trailheads without a reservation on a first come first serve basis. A paid reservation guarantees that you won't be turned away. Applications are available on their web site.
When To Climb
The climbing season varys each year depending on how much snow the area receives during the winter months. Hwy 108 closes during the winter, making winter access more difficult. So typically the most popular time to climb the mountain is from June through October.
There is reasonably good camping available at nearby Grizzly Peak Lakes
(1 mile away) or Grizzly Lake (1.2 miles away). There is also very good camping at Emigrant Meadow Lake
(2.5 miles away), and excellent camping on the north and eastern shores of Snow Lake
(2 miles away).
Grizzly Peak Lakes and Grizzly Lake were stocked with Rainbow trout long ago, but I don't believe they currently hold any fish. However, there is excellent fishing for large Rainbows in both Snow Lake and Emigrant Meadow Lake.
Note that fires are not allowed above 9,000 feet in the Emigrant Wilderness Area, which would make fires illegal in all but Snow Lake.
Call the Summit ranger station for current conditions. They can be reached at (209) 965-3434.
The following links provide additional information on local conditions.
Hwy 108 road conditions
of the Stansislaus National Forest.
"The peak may possibly have been named during the 1891-96 survey for the Dardelles
30' map; it is on the first edition, 1898. The meadow and lake first appear on the Tower Peak
15' map, 1956. (StNF, TNF)
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Neveda