Kuna Crest is located in Yosemite National Park south of Tioga Pass and divides Lyell Canyon from the Parker Pass Creek drainage. It is bounded on the south by Kuna Peak
(Yosemite’s third highest) at the park’s eastern border and stretches northwest to Mammoth Peak
4.5 miles away. Kuna Crest North is one of two peaks along this ridge without an official name assigned by the USGS. Visits begin in the Parker Pass Creek drainage, a unique area due the color and composition of the surrounding peaks giving this area a different feel than much of the rest of the park.
Otherwise known as Point 12,170, Kuna Crest North offers outstanding views across the Yosemite high country. The vista includes Mount Conness, Mount Dana and Mount Gibbs, Tuolumne Meadows, and the Cathedral Range from Mount Lyell in the south to Amelia Earhart Peak in the north. Reaching the summit requires modest effort and is possible to do in a half day effort. Beautiful lakes and meadows highlight the journey, and the trip can easily be extended further south to traverse the ridge from Mammoth Peak
in the north to Kuna Crest South
above Helen Lake.
The Parker Pass Creek Drainage from Kuna Crest North
Meadow near Kuna Lake
The most common approaches to Kuna Crest North begin from either the Mono/Parker Pass Trailhead on Tioga Pass Road or from roadside pullouts west of the trailhead for a cross-country approach.
Mono/Parker Pass Trail
(37.89079° N, 119.26236° W)
From either the east or the west, follow Highway 120 to Yosemite National Park directly to the trailhead (1.4 miles west of Tioga Pass and 5.6 miles east of Tuolumne Meadows Campground).
Kuna Peak Route Map
Trip statistics from Mono/Parker Pass Trailhead:
4.7 miles one-way, 2700 feet total elevation gain plus 200 feet on the return
There are numerous routes feasible to reach the summit of Kuna Crest North, mostly involving trail followed by class 1-2 cross-country terrain.
One option is to ascend from Tioga Pass Road directly up the north side of Mammoth Peak (class 2-3 according to Secor). From Mammoth Peak, it is an easy class 1-2 walk south along the crest to Kuna Crest North.
Another good option is via Kuna Lake. Unfortunately it is not technically challenging, but this route provides a scenic rest location at Kuna Lake near the midpoint of the ascent and has excellent views of the summit. From the trailhead, hike south along the Mono/Parker Pass Trail almost 2 miles until shortly after the trail reaches Parker Pass Creek. You can cross Parker Pass Creek from just about anywhere (some easy wading may be required) and continue upslope through the forest to the stream draining Kuna Lake. Follow the stream to a large, picturesque open meadow and then to Kuna Lake. Climb the easy talus slopes east of the lake towards either the saddle south of Mammoth Peak or climb Mammoth Peak first. It is a straightforward walk south to Kuna Crest North from either the saddle or Mammoth Peak.
Return the way you came, or pick an alternative route down the west slopes via Bingaman Lake or Spillway Lake.
For a longer outing, continue south along the ridge to Kuna Crest South. Aside from reaching another peak, this option has the added bonus of passing beautiful Helen Lake. Travel is generally easy and never exceeds class 2. See the Kuna Crest South
page for additional description.
Mount Dana and Mount Gibbs from Kuna Crest North
The trailhead lies in Yosemite National Park and an entrance fee is required. Please see the Yosemite Fee page
for full details.
Permits are required for overnight trips, though most parties will chose to dayhike this peak unless part of a longer trip. Permits can be picked up at the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center near the trailhead during open hours. Check the Yosemite Permit page
for full details on hours, the reservation process, and reservation availability.
Bear canisters are required throughout Yosemite National Park.
Fires are prohibited above 9,600 feet. The NPS does not permit camping in the Parker Pass Creek drainage (see Camping section below).
Yosemite National Park Wilderness Permit Office
PO Box 545
Yosemite, CA 95389
Phone: (209) 372-0740
Fax: (209) 372-0739
When to Climb
Tioga pass is not plowed in the winter, and overnight parking is not permitted after October 15. As a result, spring through fall is the most realistic time for a visit. In early season expect snow at the higher elevations.
Camp near Kuna Creek
The mileage and elevation gain for this summit are very moderate, and few will be backcountry camping unless beginning a longer outing. Note that the NPS does not permit camping in the Parker Pass Creek drainage as this is the water supply for facilities in the Tuolumne Meadows area (i.e. it is safe to drink unfiltered). If staying overnight for a view of the sunset/sunrise, or beginning a longer trip, there are plenty of locations along the ridge crest (bring water or melt snow) and Kuna Creek Basin to the south is extremely scenic.
Roadside camping is not permitted in Yosemite. Established Tuolumne Meadows Campground
in Yosemite has just over 300 sites. Reservations are recommended, though half of the sites are first-come, first-serve. There is also a walk-in backpackers’ camping area within the campground.
Inyo National Forest hosts a few first-come, first-serve campgrounds just east of the park near Tioga pass, and more numerous sites in Lee Vining Canyon. Those near Tioga pass tend to fill up quickly. The Inyo National Forest Camping page
has further details. Dispersed camping is permitted throughout most of Inyo National Forest.
Kuna Crest North is not an officially USGS named peak, and might be more identifiable to some as Point 12,170 on the 1994 USGS Vogelsang Peak Quad. The peak takes its name from the Kuna Crest, which stretches from Kuna Peak to its terminus at Mammoth Peak. Aside from Kuna Peak itself, there are only two points along Kuna Crest with an excess of 300 feet of prominence (Mammoth Peak falls just short of this threshold). As a result, the peaks are known locally as Kuna Crest North and Kuna Crest South.
"Kuna Peak was named by Willard D. Johnson, USGS, about 1883. (Farquhar: J. N. LeConte.) 'Kuna Peak ... is probably named from the Shoshonean work Kuna
, usually meaning ‘fire’ but appearing in the Mono dialect of the vicinity with the signification of ‘fire-wood.’’ (Kroeber, 45.))" – Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada (2004)
The Cathedral Range from Kuna Crest North (click to view labeled peaks)