Kuna Peak is the third highest peak in Yosemite National Park, on the park's southeastern border at the junction between the main crest of Sierra Nevada and Kuna Crest, a high spur ridge extending west to massive Mammoth Peak, visible from Tuolumne Meadows. Kuna Peak is the highest point of Kuna Crest, but it is flanked by lesser peaks of almost equal height (Koip Peak, only a mile to the east, is 40 feet lower). As a result, it is difficult to see Kuna Peak from most vantage points. Understandably Kuna Peak is one of the least known, yet relatively accessible high peaks in Yosemite. The summit of Kuna Peak is a thin ridge bounded by vertical cliffs on north and south sides, but it is easily climbed (class 2) from the east via Koip Peak. The west side of the summit is rated class 3.
Kuna Crest is a popular ski-touring area of moderate difficulty. It is on the main ski-touring route between Mammoth Lakes and Yosemite Valley. The moderate slopes of Kuna Crest and Koip Crest as well as their high elevation are ideal for snow accumulation. The large and deep Kuna-Koip glacial bowl north of the summit looks like fantastic ski terrain as well. However, the summit of Kuna Peak is not well known as a climbing destination, summer or winter; you'll find plenty of solitude on this mountain. In addition, the summit views of Mount Lyell group is especially magnificent.
West side: the trailhead on Tioga Pass Road (Highway 120) is signed "Mono Pass Trail", a few miles east of Tuolumne Meadows or west of Tioga Pass (east entrance to Yosemite National Park). Take Mono Pass Trail southward, switch to Parker Pass Trail (right fork) after about two miles. From Parker Pass Trail you can approach the west side of Kuna Peak by taking a branch trail to Spillway Lake and continue upstream cross-country to Helen Lake. Or you can continue south on Parker Pass trail which leaves Yosemite National Park at Parker Pass, approaching Koip Peak and the east side of Kuna Peak.
East side: the trailhead is in Parker Canyon, reached by a dirt road off Highway 158, the June Lake Loop. Take the north intersection of Highway 158 and US Highway 395, proceed west a few miles then turn right for Parker Canyon. Take Parker Pass trail from here until reaching Parker Pass, then follow directions above.
Backcountry camping permits required if you're staying overnight on this hike (fee is only charged for reservations; first-come first-served permits are free). Ragardless of where you camp in the wilderness, if you're using the Tioga Pass Road trailhead, get your permits at the "Wilderness Permits" office at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. If you're using the trailhead in Parker Canyon, go to the Mono Lake Visitor Center in Lee Vining for permits.
When To Climb
Kuna Peak can be climbed in winter or summer, but in summer the access is shorter. Between October and May Tioga Pass Road is closed for winter, so you will have to cross-country ski from Yosemite Valley or Lee Vining in order to take the west side approach. However, due to the endless talus fields of sharp metamorphic rock, it may be preferrable to climb when there is snow cover.
Backcountry camping in prohibited in the Parker Pass creek drainage, which encompasses the entire route of this hike within Yosemite National Park. Many hikers camp just outside the park east of Parker Pass. Backcountry camping requires a free permit (see Red Tape section for details).
Fee campgrounds are available along the major approach roads, such as the Tioga Lake, Ellery Lake, and Lee Vining Creek campgrounds on Highway 120 east of Yosemite, Saddlebag Lake campgrounds on Saddlebag Lake Road (turn off hwy 120 1 mile east of Yosemite National Park), and Silver Lake, June Lake campgrounds on Highway 158 near the eastern trailhead.
You can also stay in cabins in Yosemite National Park along Tioga Road, around Tuolumne Meadows. Commercial lodging can be found at the Tioga Pass resort just outside Yosemite National Park, and in the towns of Lee Vining (closest), June Lake, or Mammoth Lakes (furthest).