Mt Kaweah is the highest point in the southwestern Sierras, higher than anything west of the Kern Canyon, including the entire Great Western Divide. This earns it a spot as one of the 15 Emblem Peaks on the Sierra Peaks Section Peaks List.
It has a commanding view of some of the finest high country around, and it's all wilderness - no cities, no roads, no power lines. As a class 1 peak it is technically a piece of cake, but provides a greater challenge than bagging some other class 1's like Whitney or Langley.
Mt. Kaweah is not climbed so frequently as some of the other "Emblems". It had, when I was there, 2 small summit register books, both over 10 years old, but less than half full - gone now. According to Bob Burd's Emblem Peaks List, the mileage and the elevation gain to reach Mt. Kaweah are both greater than for any of the other 14 emblem peaks.
Although it is not a point on the lofty western divide of the upper Kern River basin, it was long believed to be the source of the Kaweah River. Some people still refer to Mt. Kaweah as the highest peak of the Great Western divide, while that distinction more properly belongs to Midway Mountain at 13,666'.
The peak is a 3 mile hike off the High Sierra Trail, above Big Arroyo. The quickest way in is via the easy class 3 Glacier Pass, then over Blackrock Pass and down past Little Five Lakes. From the Sawtooth Pass trailhead in Mineral King, you can either go over Glacier Pass, or go north over Timber Gap, and connect to the Cliff Creek trail to Blackrock Pass. The route, west over Sawtooth Pass, down Lost Canyon and north up past Big Five Lakes to Little Five Lakes is also nice. Coming in along the High Sierra Trail from Giant Forest or Lodgepole would probably take a little longer, but I hear it's very beautiful.
Getting there is half the fun. The trip takes you over high mountain passes, past granite peaks and through valleys showing interesting geologic features and effects of glaciation. You end up in a beautiful, remote part of the wilderness. For the non-wilderness part of getting to Mineral King, see Steve Eckert's driving directions at http://www.climber.org/DrivingDirections/MineralKing.html. Remember to allow a full hour for the last 25 miles of the drive!
Glacier Pass could be dicey with a lot of snow on it, and it looks like it would retain snow later than usual in the season. Secor says it may be blocked by a cornice in the spring.
The usual Red Tape for Sequoia National Park wilderness areas applies here. It's all described at http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/wilderness.htm . You are required to have a wilderness permit, bear-proof food storage, and to practice minimum impact camping.
No fee is required to drive into the Mineral King area, but to enter the main park to get to the western end of the High Sierra Trail always requires a park entrance fee.
In 2007, quotas will be in place from May 25 to September 23. Quotas limit the number of people entering each trailhead on a single day. During this quota season, permits require a $15 wilderness camping fee.
When To Climb
Climb when the snow is consolidated, or gone. The trails I took were very steep,and I saw evidence of avalanche damage. It took me 3 days in September, so I imagine February would be pretty darn tough.
Mineral King is closed November 1 until late May - open for Memorial Day weekend, weather permitting.
It's nice to camp near a bear box, so you don't have to carry a bear canister. All the Bear Boxes I saw had a little map inside them showing where the established campsites in the immediate vicinity are located.
Get the full sized (2390 x 2054 Pixel)map of my route at http://langenbacher.org/Maps/KaweahTrip.jpg . It's a big file - 5.57 Megabyte. My route appears Violet (Mineral King to "Turnoff"), then Cyan (From High Sierra Trail to Mt. Kaweah), then Green (Mt Kaweah to High Sierra Trail), then Violet (Back to Little 5 Lakes), then Green (Little 5 to Mineral King). Definitely not the shortest route, but colorful!