Milestone Mountain is located in the heart of the Sierra’s most spectacular subrange--the Great Western Divide--along the border of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Because of its remote location, getting there is the biggest challenge. Milestone is located approximately 23 miles from the trailhead at Shepherd Pass or 23 or 29 miles (depending on the approach) from the Road’s End trailhead at Kings Canyon.
This aptly named southern Sierra landmark with its distinct, monolithic summit was first climbed in 1912 by Francis Farquhar, William Colby, and Robert Price via the class 3 Southwest Ridge from Milestone Bowl. Today, despite its remoteness, Milestone is climbed fairly frequently via the class 3 East Ridge Route, originating from Milestone Basin, and the Northwest Face Route. In addition, there are:
* A class 3traverse to Midway Mountain (which largely overlaps the East Ridge Route);
* A II, 5.6 route originating from Milestone Pass; and,
* A I, 5.7 route originating from the notch just north of Milestone Mountain (see the traverse to Midway Mountain route description).
Climbers are rewarded with impressive views of the Kaweah Range, Kings-Kern Divide, and Whitney region.
Milestone Mountain is a Mountaineers Peak in the SPS Peaks register.
For the Northwest Face route, take Highway 180 from Fresno. Continue on Highway 180 through Grant’s Grove for approximately 30 miles until reaching the trailhead where the road ends in Kings Canyon (Road's End Trailhead). Start hiking on the Bubbs Creek trail for 4 miles. Continue south up Sphinx Creek trail and over Avalanche Pass for 12 miles. Hike another 10 miles up Cloud Canyon until reaching a creek flowing into Colby Lake from the east. Leave the trail and hike up slabs and ramps that loosely follow the creek. The creek forks after a tenth of a mile. Take the north fork of the creek until reaching Lake 11,522. Follow the lake around the northern shore until reaching the base of Milestone Mountain below the Northwest Face.
For Road's End Trailhead entry, climbers must either pay a $10 entrance fee for Kings Canyon National Park or present an annual National Parks Pass. In addition, overnight wilderness visitors must obtain a wilderness permit at the trailhead or pay $15 and reserve a permit in advance. Information on permit reservations is available online.
Overnight visitors approaching from the Shepherd Pass Trailhead must obtain an Inyo National Forest wilderness permit. Permits may be obtained at the Mt. Whitney Ranger Station, located in Lone Pine, California. Permits may also be reserved in advance by paying a $5/person fee. Information on permit reservations is available online.
Advance permit reservations are recommended since many trailheads, including the Road's End and Shepherd's Pass Trailheads, are subject to use quotas that are often filled many months in advance.
When To Climb
The best time to climb is July -October, depending on snow conditions. Winter climbs are difficult because of the mountain's remote location. Highway 180 in Kings Canyon National Park past Grant's Grove is closed in the Winter.
Colby Lake, elevation 10,584, makes a fine base camp to climb the Northwest Face route. Cedar Grove, located 5 miles from Roads End trailhead, has several campgrounds. There is also camping available in the Milestone Creek Basin for the East Side approach.
""An obvious descriptive name; it first appears on Hoffmann's map of 1873. 'Mt. Langley ... is known by a minaret, or obelisk, that seems to stand on the north edge of its summit. It is known among mountain prospectors as Milestone Mountain.' (Elliot, Guide, 51.) The name 'Langley' was given in 1881 by someone with the Langley party on the summit of Mount Whitney, probably Capt. Michaelis. (See Midway Mountain.) Langley's name was later applied to the peak where it is now.
'We were soon upon a plateau, and passed from this to a bowl-shaped mountain. And since this plateau and bowl have once been part of Milestone, Prof. Dudley named them Milestone Plateau and Milestone Bowl.' (W. F. Dean in MWCJ 1, no. 1, May 1902: 16.) The bowl was mistakenly spelled 'Bow' in articles and on the USGS Mt. Whitney 30' maps, 1901-21. It was changed to 'Bowl' on the sixth edition, 1927. Milestone Plateau has never been named on the maps."
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada
A report of a climb of Milestone and Midway and a trip to the area.