Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 37.02080°N / 118.4214°W
Additional Information Elevation: 14058 ft / 4285 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Split Mtn is technically one of the easier of the California 14ers, but still a serious effort requiring some 7,500ft of gain from the nearest trailhead. It lies along the Sierra Crest, at the southeast end of one of the highest portions of the High Sierra encompassing the Palisade range, home to 6 other 14ers. Split Mtn can be easily recognized from US395 by the East Couloir that splits the twin summits. The north summit is the high point. It is also easily identified from the Big Pine area and highway 168 leading to Glacier Lodge.

The easiest route is via the class 2 North Slope and Red Lake on the east side. There are many other routes to the summit of varying technical difficulties. There are snow/ice routes on the east side in the East Couloir and St. Jean Couloir. There are also extended arete routes that rival Temple Crag for the longest such climbs in the Sierra. The west side is a jumble of spires, aretes and gullies that make routes difficult to describe and impossible to follow.

Secor claims Split is the easiest 14er after Whitney, but that claim is hard to justify unless only considering Sierra peaks (White Mtn in the Inyos, 14 mi roundtrip on a dirt road is the easiest 14er) and further considering only technical difficulty (Mt. Muir, just off the Mt. Whitney Trail is far easier, but has a class 3 rating for the portion just below the summit). And Mt. Langley via Old Army Pass (or New Army Pass) and the SW Slope is also much easier than an ascent of Split Mtn.

Getting There

This is the hard part. Of all the California 14ers, Split Mtn has the most difficult access, which may or may not require 4WD with good clearance, depending on road conditions and how much you care about the underside of your vehicle. There are two ways to reach the Red Lake Trailhead, the first being that most often used:

From Big Pine on US395, head west on Glacier Lodge Rd, which heads to the Big Pine Creek Trailheads. Steve Eckert provides comprehensive directions from here at:

A second approach, purported to be shorter and easier (but I haven't actually tried), is via the Tinemaha Campground several miles south of Big Pine.
Oct, 2002: I have seen at least two posts from folks attempting this route this summer, both giving it up as a waste of time and going the first route.
Jul, 2003: ScottyS adds the following upon successfully negotiating the Tinemaha route in 2002:
Last year I successfully navigated the Tinemaha Campground route in a Subaru Legacy at night. I didn't even attempt the McMurray route.
Beta --- Basically, continue past the gravel plant (after Tinemaha) taking the north fork in the road along the edge of the hill. The road bends north around the hill and ends up in a gravel pit. After the curve and before the pit look for a light track turning left (west) through the sand to a fenceline about 100yds off the gravel road. Follow the track for about 1/2 mile along the fenceline (heading directly towards the mountains) until reaching the road from McMurray Meadows. Turn left (south) and proceed to the trailhead. It takes very little time to reach the fenceline road from HWY 395, and the only slow part is driving that 1/2 mile of exposed course alluvium.

See the attached additional information for more comments and details.

Red Tape

Everything you need to know about permits and regulations can be found on the Eastern Sierra - Logisitcal Center page.

When To Climb

Climbing season is generally June-Oct, though ambitious climbers can undertake an ascent anytime of year.


On the east side, most parties choose to camp in the vicinity of Red Lake, at the base of Split Mountain's east face. This is a great location that makes for an easy hike to the summit the following day, and the sunrises on Split Mtn can be grand. Be sure to follow rules for camping away from lakes and streams in the Wilderness, and follow proper disposal procedures for human and food waste. Bears are definitely in this area, so be sure to follow good food storage practices - use a bear canister if you have any doubts about your ability to keep food away from bears and marmots (also a hungry pack of these in the locale).


"'To the north of this gap the crest rises into a huge mountain with a double summit ... which I called Split Mountain.' (Bolton C. Brown, 1895, in SCB 1, no. 8, May 1896: 309.) The Wheeler Survey called it 'Southeast Palisade' and it was also known as 'South Palisade,' although it is not actually part of the Palisades. Theodore Solomons used the latter name on his 1896 map."
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada

Mountain Conditions

Eastern Sierra Road & Trail conditions, plus permit information

Inyo NF online

White Mountain Ranger Station: 798 North Main Street, Bishop, CA 93514. (619) 873-2500

External Links

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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ScottyS - Jul 21, 2004 1:28 pm - Hasn't voted

Untitled Comment

Sounds like an adventure, Matthew! Sorry my directions were insufficient. If the "pipe" is indeed covered now, then the Meadows road is likely the way to go in a low-clearance vehicle. However, in the interest of distance, if I was driving a high-clearance machine, I would still go for the "fencline" road. Of course, the biggest question would still be "is the Red Lake trail worth all of this?" Of course not ;-)

Matthew Holliman

Matthew Holliman - Jul 21, 2004 2:07 pm - Hasn't voted

Untitled Comment

Well, I took your directions, the ones from, and the ones from, and although all were accurate, I still failed. I was quite impressed that you found the road at night. I made it to the end of the mine road, headed down a couple of wrong options, walked around with my headlamp for a bit looking for the fence, before the absurdity of the situation hit me and I gave up.

Although the road is rockier, I think the boulders may be slightly smaller on the fenceline road than the section of McMurray Meadows Road after the pipe, so the shortcut may be preferred for lower clearance vehicles. But I don't think I'd have wanted to take a car with less clearance than my Subaru on either option.

And I'd have to agree that it'll be a while (perhaps never) before I slog up that trail again!

Brian Kalet

Brian Kalet - Jun 20, 2005 10:26 pm - Hasn't voted

Untitled Comment

I got to the Red Mountain Lake Trailhead in a 2005 Ford Focus ZX4 SE (ground clearance = 6.2 inches) by taking the Tinemaha route. I don't recommend subjecting low clearance vehicles to this, but high clearance is not required. From trailhead to north end of Fish Springs Road and 395 took 38 minutes.

Matthew Holliman

Matthew Holliman - Jul 21, 2004 9:59 am - Hasn't voted

Untitled Comment

Some additions/clarifications to the drive to the Red Lake TH:

I tried the shortcut at night, using Scotty's directions and the 15', but had no luck finding the road. In my opinion, a 7.5' and/or GPS may be necessary to negotiate this at that time of day--although they're accurate, I found the written directions alone to be insufficient. I eventually gave up, and headed back to Big Pine to take the McMurry Meadows Road (this little diversion cost me an hour).

The McMurry Meadows Road is easy to follow, especially with the Forest Service directions (the Bishop ranger station office has a good information sheet on the Red Lake/Birch Lake trailheads). The road may have been improved compared to past trip reports; the infamous pipe is now mostly buried under gravel, and there were no fords required at the stream crossings. The road is nonetheless quite rough for about a mile or so after the pipe, with some large rounded rocks buried in the road, but it was passable by a Subaru Forester (7.5" ground clearance). This is the worst section of the road.

I was able to find the infamous shortcut on my way back in daylight, using the reverse directions from This shortcut was also negotiable by my Subaru. Below are GPS waypoints I took on the return for the shortcut:

TOPO! GPS Data Format Deg NAD83 ElevFeet UTC-Time
MINE,37.05293,-118.29803,4981,07/20/2004,04:09:19,MINE (END OF PAVED ROAD)
SHRTCT,37.05788,-118.31368,5407,07/20/2004,04:08:09,SANDY TRACK TO SHORTCUT
MCMURR,37.05698,-118.32660,5604,07/20/2004,04:05:51,MCMURRAY MEADOWS ROAD
RDJNCT,37.04848,-118.32642,5573,07/20/2004,04:05:06,ROAD JUNCTION
TH,37.03530,-118.35888,6613,07/20/2004,04:03:21,RED LAKE TRAILHEAD

To reach the mine, follow the paved road (Fuller Road) out of Tinemaha campground. At the mine, the pavement ends and the road turns to a good graded dirt road, which winds its way west around the base of a hill. The road peters out amidst piles of gravel, but a sandy track (see map below) leads shortly to a very rocky "road"--this rocky track might also be followed directly from the mine road. The rocky "road" runs alongside a fence, but the fence isn't too useful as a landmark for finding the track (especially at night), as it doesn't start until a little way along the track.

By the way, the drive to the trailhead from Big Pine took 60 minutes at night (stuck behind a slow car for the last few miles), while the drive back to Big Pine in daylight via the shortcut took 45 minutes. Both drives were more exciting than the climbs. I would probably just take McMurry Meadows Road again if I were heading to the trailhead at night.

donS - Jul 7, 2009 3:23 pm - Hasn't voted


The dirt road approach really isn't that complicated (in daylight anyway). Exit 395 at S. Fish Springs Rd. Take a left on Tinemaha Rd, to the campground. Then a right on Fuller Road, going past the gravel mine. there are a couple forks, but they all basically rejoin each other in a mile or so. if you hit a locked gate, no big deal, just follow the road along the fence line till you can get through. I know it sounds complex like a lot of turns, but basically if you just look up and see the peak and canyon, then aim for that point you will arrive. you dont need 4wd, just some clearance... a subaru should be able to make it with careful driving. 20min highway to trailhead going fast in a truck, prob double that time if your going carefully in a lower vehicle.

Steve Pratt

Steve Pratt - May 28, 2013 5:08 pm - Hasn't voted

Route warning

Coming down the north slope: Stay full to the left to return to the John Muir trail or full right to return to Red Lake. In between, there is a very cliffy chasm which drains to the north of Tinemaha. In our early season descent we found a snowfield at the bottom of the slope leading to a significant cornice which was not visible from above. Not a problem in good conditions, but in poor visibility this hazard has true death fall potential. Need to avoid snowfields on the north slope unless you can see the entire runout.


Diesel - Aug 7, 2013 4:36 pm - Hasn't voted

Read all you can about this hike before you proceed

I hiked this on 7/28/2013. I can tell you for sure, as accessible as this Split Mt. might look, it was a pain to make it to the trailhead and also to the top. I ran into a lot of conflicting info from the start. Fist of all, the Fuller Rd is the way to go. Take it until the asphalt ends. Follow the dirt road to the first split that has a sign NO PASSING PRIVATE PROPERTY. Make a right there and follow the road. Without a GPS I've never made it. I made the mistake of taking McMurry Rd back to the street and I drove for almost an hour and 30 minutes. That road it is in a way worst shape then Fuller Rd, at least for a sedan. I also need to point out I drove a sedan Nissan Sentra.

lifer99 - Jul 2, 2015 9:00 pm - Hasn't voted

Beautiful Hike, Easy Drive from South

We had a wonderful hike up to Red Lake, then to the crest of the Eastern Sierras. Driving in from the South, pick up your permit at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitors Center a couple of miles south of Lone Pine. There is a kiosk outside with a lockbox and you can request your pass to be left there at night (paid reservations only I think). Continue up 395 and turn left onto Fish Springs Rd., then left again onto Tinemaha Rd. The paved road winds through a campground and becomes Fuller Rd. The pavement ends at the site of an unfenced commercial mining operation, and the good gravel road easily winds North then West along the base of a large red mound then meandering mostly North of Fuller Creek. The dirt road is a little rough with round rocks studding many spots at least 4" high but easily driven over with a standard ground clearance car. At GPS coordinate 37.057053, -118.326544 on Google Maps, take a sharp left turn to the South and you will be on the McMurry Meadows Rd. which is the same as the way in from Big Pine. Continuing South, turn right at the Tinemaha Creek Rd. and follow the Forest Service signposts to the Red Lake trailhead. This way will easily save you 2 hours vs. driving up to Big Pine and taking McMurry Meadows Rd. We did this at midnight in a crewcab truck and had no trouble going in or out. The actual trailhead is at the North fork of the last bit of dirt road ending at GPS coordinates 37.036612, -118.360028 on Google Maps. The trail begins going uphill West along a group of low trees near a creek then switchbacks a few times before heading South West high above Red Mountain Creek. If you were unfortunate enough to go to the other trailhead at the end of the South fork (which has a nice overhead sign announcing you are at Red Lake Trailhead), you will add several hours of bouldering along the creek before being forced to bushwack up the 45 degree hillside to rejoin the real trail. With 40 pound packs, we made it to Red Lake in 9 hours. Coming down was about the same amount of time, with the last 3 hours using headlamps at night.


austinorville1 - Jun 11, 2016 6:44 pm - Hasn't voted

Road as of 6/4/16

The road up to the red lake trailhead is easily doable if you have a 2wd high clearance vehicle or a 4wd anything. It isn't a flat road without rocks but if you trust your driving it should be easy. The hike up is hard and will take time so leave at a reasonable time. At the end of the road it splits left and right. Take the right split and at the end before the spring is where the trail up to red lake starts.


allisondianee - Jul 27, 2018 3:33 pm - Hasn't voted

Road and trail as of 7/2018

Road was easy enough with a high clearance vehicle, I don't think you would need a 4wd vehicle. We posted a link to our driving directions and pictures of the road in our trip report: >> Make sure when you are at the trailhead to NOT take the trail at the sign, instead look for a trail just a bit north of the trailhead. This will keep you out of the canyon (and prevent you from bushwhacking) >> from TH to Red Lake took us about 6 hours, from Red Lake back to TH took us about 4 hours >> Didn't end up summiting that day, but we made it to 12,700 in about 4 hours from Red lake, so maybe 5-6 hours from Red Lake to Summit had we made it the whole way. Beautiful area!

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