Mount McKinley is an obscure peak in the western San Gabriel Mountains overlooking the Big Tujunga drainage. Its principal claim to fame (and the reason people climb it) is that it’s the second highest peak on the equally obscure Sierra Club Lower Peaks Committee (LPC) list . The peak may be considered the high point of the Yerba Buena ridge which itself is one of many subsidiary ridges of the Mendenhall Ridge. A saddle between the higher unnamed peak on the Mendenhall Ridge and Mt McKinley gives the peak a prominence of about 240 feet.Likely named for the 25th President (similar to other McKinley peaks in Southern California), there’s no real evidence why this bump earned its own unique identification. Mount McKinley can be hiked as a solo ascent or as part of a multi-peak day hike along with Mendenhall Peak (LPC) and/or Iron Mountain #2 (HPS). Most of the trails and roads are mountain bike friendly and don’t be surprised to see running clubs using Mendenhall Ridge Road as a marathon training route.
The peak can be approached from the east, west, and south with the latter being the shortest approach.
East: Via the Mendenhall Ridge Road. The approach is in the vicinity of Indian Ben Saddle and Iron Mountain #2 (junction of 3N32C and Mendenhall Ridge Road.) The Iron Mountain #2 page describes three different routes to this area and access to the Mendenhall Ridge Road heading west.
West: Via the Mendenhall Ridge Road. Access to the west terminus of the road is from the Little Tujunga Canyon Road. About a mile east of the 210/118 junction, exit the 210 freeway at the Osborne exit and head north on Osborne which turns into the Little Tujunga Canyon Road. The gate (maybe locked or open) is about 7 miles up on the right.
South: Via the Gold Creek Road. The Gold Creek Road shares the trailhead with Trail Canyon Trail (Google incorrectly names it Gold Canyon Road). Use the directions found under the Iron Mountain #2 page described under “Route 2: Trail Canyon Trail”
East Route: From the saddle (junction of 3N32C and Mendenhall Ridge Road), head west for 3.1 miles (past Iron Mountain #2) to Iron Mountain saddle. The unmaintained Yerba Buena trail heads southwest here. Follow the overgrown and washed out trail for less than a mile to the saddle just north of Mt McKinley. The summit of Mt McKinley is a quick 250 feet up its north slope from here.
West Route: You have the option of using a mix of road and cross country (shorter but more gain) or road and old trail to reach the saddle north of Mt McKinley. From the gate, hike to the saddle (6.8 miles, water tank) between the Mendenhall Saddle and Iron Mountain Saddle for the shorter route or all of the way to Iron Mountain Saddle (8.7 miles). If choosing the former, climb up the ridge and head east along the ridge top. The ridge is relatively easy to hike with only a couple of brushy spots. After traversing the ridge for a mile, drop down the old firebreak that ends at the saddle north of McKinley and continue following the ridge to the summit. For the longer route, take the abandoned Yerba Buena trail from Iron Mountain Saddle as described in the East Route description above.
South Route: From the Gold Creek / Trail Canyon trailhead, head up the road staying left at the junction with the Trail Canyon trail which almost immediately heads off to the right. Continue up this overgrown road for 4 ¼ miles to Gold Creek Saddle (water tank) and turn right on the Yerba Buena trail coming in from the northeast. This badly overgrown trail traverses to the saddle just north of McKinley peak, a short scramble away. There are several ridge line opportunities to bypass the road or trail once the top of the Yerba Buena ridge is reached.
The peak is best hiked in the cooler months of the fall, winter, and spring. Snow is infrequent but not unknown at these altitudes. No permits are required for day hiking but overnight camping (in developed areas) requires fire and stove permits. The closest campsites are Lightning Point (Mt Gleason) and Tom Luca (Trail Canyon). With the exception of Trail Canyon, there is no water along any of these routes.