There are 6 Trans-Sierra highways of which only three are all season roads. Highland Peak is a sharp summited peak located near Ebbetts Pass on California State Route 4, one of the trans-Sierra routes that is closed during the winter. There are a couple of 10,000 ft. peaks in the area that can be summited in a day or less (Silver Peak the most notable), but Highland is the highest and most enjoyable climb. It is a broken granite summit located south of the pass in the Carson - Iceberg Wilderness and is a nice side trip for those traveling the Pacific Crest Trail. From Highland Peak one can see Round Top to the north, Stanislaus Peak, Leavitt Peak and the Sonora Pass area to the south, and the Dardanelle Cones to the southwest. S.R. 4 is a very narrow and winding road making it much more lightly travelled than the other Trans-Sierra highways. This means Highland Peak is not as often visited as some of the other peaks just off Trans-Sierra roads.
The main trail head is the Pacific Crest Trail parking area on the south side of the road 0.5 mile east of the Ebbetts Pass summit. It is located approximately 60 miles east of Angels Camp, CA along California State Route 4. There is a second trail head (Noble Canyon Trail) near the Silver Creek Campground, approximately 5.5 miles east of the summit.
There are no permits required for day hiking in the Carson - Iceberg Wilderness or for parking at the trailhead. If one is camping, a Wilderness Permit is needed and can be ordered from any Stanislaus National Forest Ranger office or picked up at the Office in Hathaway Pines, or on line. Only one permit is needed for continuous trips passing through more than one wilderness area. If you plan on using a stove, even if on a day hike, a fire permit is required and can be picked up at any U.S. Forest Service office.The fire permit is good for the entire state of California. There are no wood fires allowed above 9000 ft.
The best time to climb is June (if the snow is not too deep) through September . State Route 4 is closed just west of Lake Alpine from the first significant snowfall in the fall to a spring opening. Memorial Day weekend is the usual target date for opening the pass. Some years it is earlier and some years later.
Camping is allowed in the Carson - Iceberg Wilderness with the proper permit. Use a bear proof canister in the backcountry. To the west of the summit are several Forest Service campgrounds that have free camping. The catch is there is no water available, so bring plenty. Down from the pass in both directions are regular Forest Service fee campgrouds. The closest being Lake Alpine to the west and Silver Creek to the east. There is also a store and restaurant fairly close to the west of the pass at Lake Alpine and Bear Valley.
Highway conditions for State Route 4 can be found online or by phoning the California Department of Transportation road condition line at 1-800-427-7623.
"'... we occupied the important points in the neighboring mass of mountains, that nearest the town [Silver Mountain City] being known as Silver Mountain. We named the loftiest point ... Highland Peak.' (Wheeler Survey, Report of Lt. Macomb, 1878, 142.)"
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada