One of just two SPS listed peaks in the Emigrant Wilderness (Leavitt Peak
, on the wilderness' northeastern boundary, is the other), Black Hawk Mountain overlooks the Kennedy Meadows/Mosquito Pass area in the Sierra. It isn't the highest point in this area--a handful of unlisted peaks east of here are actually higher, including Relief Peak, Mole Mountain, and Kennedy Mountain--but Black Hawk Mountain is the listed peak, and as such, commands excellent views over much of the surrounding wilderness. A number of Yosemite peaks, including Mt. Lyell
and Mt. Maclure
, are plainly visible off in the distance. Black Hawk Mountain itself can be easily seen from some spots along Highway 108, particularly as the road gains elevation to the east of the Kennedy Meadows turnoff. The peak is unusual in that the summit is comprised of volcanic rocks, which just rise above the surrounding granite cliffs and slabs.
Because of the moderate distance and elevation gain from the nearest trailhead (approximately 11-12 miles one way, and roughly 4800ft gain RT), Black Hawk Mountain is quite commonly dayhiked; it would make an excellent acclimatization hike. It is also frequently enjoyed as an overnight backpack trip.
The peak is a walk-up by its easiest route, a straightforward hike from Mosquito Pass
. The peak's north slopes/cliffs
offer a more interesting scramble; class 2 options reportedly exist here, but it is very easy to get off route and on to harder terrain, especially when descending this way. Black Hawk Mountain's west ridge
is class 2. The peak has also been climbed from the northwest via Lewis Lakes and Blackhawk Lake; this route spends a lot of time on granite slabs, and is reportedly rather fun. It is class 2 with good routefinding, with some optional third class, and is likely the most direct route to the summit from the trailhead.
Black Hawk Mountain is most easily approached from Kennedy Meadows
, located a few miles west of Sonora Pass on Highway 108. Follow the trail out of Kennedy Meadows resort up past Saucer Meadow (not easily spotted from the trail, at least without some imagination) and Lunch Meadow (a large sagebrush-covered open expanse). The summit is hidden from view by a sea of intervening granite, but is located roughly south/southwest of Lunch Meadow.
One of the joys of hiking in the Emigrant Wilderness is a relative paucity of restrictions. A wilderness permit is required for overnight stays, but as of this writing, there is no quota on overnight users. The permit can be picked up from the Summit Ranger District office
, located on the south side of Highway 108, in the town of Pinecrest. Dayhikers are not subject to any restrictions.
Backpackers normally park in the trailhead parking lot, about 0.5 mi down the road from the Kennedy Meadows resort; dayhikers may park either here, or for free in the lot by the Kennedy Meadows store. fedak
notes that overnight parking is also allowed in the resort parking lot, but this costs $5/night; pay at the store or resort front desk.
When To Climb
The road to Kennedy Meadows is generally open May through November. At other times of year, you would face probably a week long ski tour to access this area; you will find few winter ascents of the peak recorded in the register! There can be much snow here in early season; you will likely have to cross patches even in mid or late season.
As with much of the Emigrant, the combination of streams and open granite makes for many appealing backcountry campsites. Popular settings include the shores of Summit Creek and Lunch Meadow, as well as off-trail at Lewis Lakes.
Camping outside the wilderness is permitted at the trailhead parking lot. Several forest service campsites are also found along Highway 108; of particular merit is Pigeon Flat, located a couple of miles east of Dardanelles, which offers several walk-in sites. More information about this can be found from Stanislaus National Forest
Current conditions may be found from the Stanislaus National Forest
. In general, your best bet for up-to-date information is probably to call the Summit Ranger District at (209) 965 3434.
Recent trail conditions for the Kennedy Meadows area may be found in the Stanislaus National Forest trailhead status report