Keyes Peak is located in a scenic but remote area of northern Yosemite National Park overlooking Grace Meadow and Jack Main Canyon. This area borders the alpine/sub-alpine zone and is dotted with beautiful conifers, meadows, wildflowers and clear mountain streams.
Even though the peak sits a mere 1.5 miles from the Pacific Crest Trail, it is seldom climbed. The summit log indicates that Keyes Peak receives fewer than 1 ascent every 5 years. That is likely due to the great distance from the peak to the nearest trailhead, and the number of more notable peaks in Yosemite that are easier to reach. So if you're seeking solitude and a relatively easy peak to climb, Keyes may be just the thing for you.
The peak can be climbed via fairly easy Class 2/3 scrambling from just about every side. The most probable routes to the summit are listed below. They are all Class 2/3 scrambles.
1) SW Ridge from Grace Canyon
2) NE Ridge from the saddle at Saurian Crest
3) East slope from Tilden Creek
There is also the possiblility for some technical rock routes up the west face, though I doubt many people will be willing to haul climbing gear so far for this peak.
Keyes Peak is geologically interesting in that the southern half of the mountain is granitoid rock whereas the northern half (and actual summit) is metamorphic rock. The contrast in color between the 2 types of rock is striking.
Keyes Peak is located near the northern boundary of Yosemite National Park. Although it is located just a mile and a half off of the Pacific Crest Trail, it is a hike to get there and would most likely be climbed during a multi-day backpacking trip. The closest trailheads are the Leavitt Meadows Trailhead, or Leavitt Lake.
From the Leavitt Meadows trailhead, follow the West Walker River trail south until you reach the Cascade Creek trail. Follow the Cascade Creek trail until it joins the PCT. Continue on the PCT past Dorothy Lake pass and the trail junction for Bond Pass. Follow the stream coming down from Keyes Peak due east across Grace Meadow. (18 miles total)
From the Leavitt Lake trailhead, follow the Leavitt Pass trail south, up and over Big Sam, for 10 miles until you reach Emigrant Pass. Take the trail split to the south. Near Grizzly Meadow, you can take 1 of 2 routes that lead to Bond Pass. The Bond Pass High trial is a bit more scenic. Or you can take the trail that borders Summit Meadow. Continue east over Bond Pass until you reach the PCT. Head south on the PCT for 1 mile. (16 miles total)
Free wilderness permits are required for overnight stays in Yosemite National Park.
Call the Summit ranger station at (209) 965-3434 near Pinecrest ahead of time and they will prepare a permit for you in advance, or the Bridgeport Ranger Station at 760-932-7070 if traveling from the east.
Bear cannisters are required by federal law in most areas of Yosemite National Park. However, they are not currently required in the area around Keyes Peak under an elevation of 9600 feet. Please check here for the current requirements as conditions change over time.
There is very good camping available at the south end of Dorothy Lake. Alternatively, you can camp just about anywhere near the stream in Grace Meadow, or near Tilden Creek on the east side of the peak.
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.
"Colonel Forsyth named the peak in 1912 for his son-in-law, Lt. Edward A. Keyes. (Farquhar: Benson.)"
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada
There are numerous other peaks that can be bagged while in this remote area of northern Yosemite. Forsyth Peak, Saurian Crest, Tower Peak, Watchtower Peak and Quartzite Peak are all within a 4-mile radius of Keyes Peak, which can make for a great weekend of peak bagging.