Kennedy Mountain is located near the upper reaches of the Monarch Divide between the middle and south fork of the Kings River in Kings Canyon National Park. The nearest trailheads are less than 6 miles away by air from the summit, yet the terrain rises nearly 7,000 feet over that short distance. Routes to the top are over 20 miles roundtrip, and this coupled with the elevation gain makes the journey a demanding activity. Though the outing is long and steep, reaching the summit is not technically challenging. The usual route involves mostly class 1 travel followed by a short and scenic class 2 scramble from Kennedy Pass. Kennedy Mountain is included on the Sierra Peaks Section SPS List
, and consequently is sometimes climbed with nearby Mount Harrington
which shares the trailheads.
Kennedy Mountain’s position well off the Sierra Crest provides it with exceptional vistas in all directions. Views from the summit include Mount Goddard, the Palisades, Split Mountain, Mount Brewer, Mount Silliman, the Kings River Drainage, and the Coast Ranges opposite the Central Valley.
Kennedy Mountain Summit Vista (click to view labeled peaks)
Deer Cove Trail Route Map
Kennedy Mountain is usually accessed from the Deer Cove Trailhead in Sequoia National Forest or Lewis Creek Trailhead in Kings Canyon National Park. Both trailheads are in close proximity to each other, making a partial loop trip possible.
Deer Cove Trailhead
(36.80385° N, 118.71378° W)
Turn east off Highway 99 in Fresno onto Highway 180 towards Kings Canyon National Park. Simply follow Highway 180 for 84 miles to reach the trailhead (29 miles past the park entrance and 1.7 miles past Grizzly Falls). Take care not to miss the left turn 21 miles from Highway 99 to stay on 180. If coming from the south, Highway 180 is best reached by using Highway 137 or 198 to connect to Highway 63 northbound in Visalia.
Lewis Creek Trailhead
(36.80021° N, 118.69059° W)
Follow the directions above to Deer Cove Trailhead, but continue another 1.4 miles east to reach Lewis Creek.
Most parties ascend Kennedy Mountain from Kennedy Pass which is reached via long class one approaches described below. The options join at Frypan Meadow, and end with a short ½ mile 600 foot climb of the class 2 southeast ridge from the pass.
|Deer Cove Trailhead||10.7 miles one-way||7,700 feet|
+700 feet on return
|The Deer Cove Trailhead is a popular option for overnight outings, as it lies outside the national park boundary and is not subject to quota restrictions. The trail begins in forest, passing Deer Cove Creek after 1.8 miles at elevation 5600 feet. The area around Deer Cove Saddle has been affected by forest fire, and as a result the views here tend to be more open. Continue on the main trail past Wildman Meadow (which has an established horse camp) until reaching Frypan Meadow 6.5 miles from the trailhead at 7800 feet. Keep right at Frypan Meadow, following the trail to Kennedy Pass where a short and very scenic class 2 scramble takes you along the southeast ridge to the summit.|
|Lewis Creek Trailhead||10.3 miles one-way||7,700 feet|
+850 feet on return
|Lewis Creek is a similar option, though less open to views than the approach from Deer Cove. There are two creek crossings en route that may require wading or determination during the peak spring runoff (Comb Creek 3.3 miles from the trailhead at 6100 feet, and Lewis Creek 4.5 miles from the trailhead at 6700 feet). After 6.1 miles the trail reaches Frypan Meadow, joining the route described above from Deer Cove.|
Meadow on Kennedy Mountain
To reach either trailhead you must pass the Kings Canyon National Park entrance station on Highway 180 where an entrance fee is required. The Sequoia and Kings Canyon fee page
has full details.
The Deer Cove Trailhead lies in the Monarch Wilderness of Sequoia National Forest, and no quotas or permit requirements apply. Technically if you are spending the night in the National Park a permit is still needed, however, and one can be obtained from the national forest in person, by mail, or by fax. See the Sequoia National Forest permit page
for full details. In Kings Canyon National Park, Lewis Creek Trailhead has quota of 25 people per day in place from late May through late September each year. Outside the quota season permits can be self-issued anytime at the Roads End Permit Station, otherwise they must be obtained from the same location during open hours. Check the Sequoia and Kings Canyon permit page
for full details on hours, the reservation process, and reservation availability.
Bear canisters are not required, but proper food storage is important. Others likely have had different experiences, but I have consistently seen more bears in Kings Canyon than anywhere else in the Sierra. There is a bear box located in Frypan Meadow to the east side of the trail.
Fires are prohibited above 10,000 feet in Kings Canyon National Park. If camping without a permit, a California Campfire Permit
is still required for a stove or campfire.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks Office
47050 Generals Highway
Three Rivers, California 93271
Current ConditionsCurrent NOAA / National Weather Service Forecast
When to Climb
The road to Roads End is not plowed in the winter, consequently spring through fall are the most realistic times for a visit. In early season snow is present at higher elevations, but those familiar with snow conditions will not have any difficulties. Summer months bring heat to the lower elevations of the hike, making an early morning start worthwhile.
Most groups on an overnight trip to Kennedy Mountain will chose to backcountry camp near Frypan Meadow. Other options include both Wildman Meadow and East Kennedy Lake.
Roadside camping is not allowed in Kings Canyon National Park (Lewis Creek Trailhead), but it is permitted at Deer Cove Trailhead in Sequoia National Forest. In addition, dispersed camping is allowed throughout the national forest, including a handful of roadside turnouts with fire rings west of Deer Cove.
Inside the park there are four established campgrounds (Sheep Creek, Sentinel, Canyon View, and Moraine) with over 300 total sites available. All but Sentinel are open on an as needed basis, making it sometimes difficult to spread out even when usage is low. Each campground has full amenities, costs $18/night, and all sites are first-come, first-served. The Sequoia and Kings Canyon Campgrounds page
also lists other sites in the area.
"The peak and canyon may have been named for a USGS employee during the 1903 survey for the Tehipite
30' map; both names are on the first edition, 1905. The other 'Kennedy' names were added when the 15-minute quad was published in 1953." – Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada (2004)
The View North Across Tehipite Valley from the Kennedy Mountain Benchmark