Rockhouse Peak (Peak 8360+) is a prominent dome located approximately in the center of the Southern Sierra's Domeland Wilderness, a beautiful area of granite domes, spires, and outcroppings set amongst streams and expansive meadows. As one might expect given this location, it commands superb views over the Dome Land's granite expanses, with panoramas extending beyond the surrounding wilderness to Olancha Peak
to the north and towards Spanish Needle
and Owens Peak to the south. In fact, the view west from the summit is used as the cover photo for the USFS Domeland Wilderness map.
The usual route up the peak climbs the class 3 East Face, a short, easy, but enjoyable scramble. A talus-and-slab weakness in the North Face is described as class 2. The South Face presents some short technical climbs: a 2-pitch 5.7 route named "Immaculate Conception" for the clean rock, and a 1-pitch class 5 trough. There is much steep--even overhanging--rock on the South and West Faces, and scramble routes (class 4 or less) on these sides of the peak appear to be non-existent.
Rockhouse Peak is also referred to as Herlihy Dome by some guidebooks. However, the peak is unnamed on USGS maps. It is the northeasternmost of the twin summits located roughly 2.5 miles NNE of Taylor Dome.
Rockhouse Peak is most easily approached out of Big Meadow (7750'). To reach Big Meadow, follow Mountain 99 (Sierra Way) north out of Kernville alongside the Kern River to the Sherman Pass Road. Drive east on Sherman Pass Road for a few miles to a junction with Cherry Hill Road, which is signposted for Big Meadow. Drive south on Cherry Hill Road for several miles to the meadow. Cherry Hill Road is initially paved, but after a few miles turns into a good dirt road that should be passable to any passenger car. There are several unsigned junctions along the way; when in doubt, just follow the main road. For further details, including GPS waypoints, check out the climber.org directions to Sherman Pass/Big Meadow
. The drive can be quite beautiful in early season, with abundant lupines blooming along the roadside.
The dirt road circles Big Meadow, which has several trailheads, including ones for Taylor Meadow, Manter Meadow, Sirretta Peak. To reach Rockhouse Peak, take the Manter trail east through Manter Meadow and Little Manter Meadow. The trail is easily followed through the former, likely the result of cattle grazing in Manter Meadow during the summer, but can be difficult to follow in places after that. Past Little Manter Meadow, the faint trail heads east to a saddle, before dropping down to Rockhouse Basin. The saddle is the easiest place to leave the trail for the peak, which is located a bit less than a mile due north.
Rockhouse Peak can also be approached from the east via Rockhouse Basin, which may be reached via the PCT from Kennedy Meadows (S), or from the vicinity of the Chimney Creek Recreation Area. However, besides being longer, this option requires a ford of the South Fork Kern, and may thus be practical only in the fall.
A free campfire permit is required from the Sequoia National Forest if you plan on having a campfire; no wilderness permit is required. The nearest ranger office (the Cannell Meadow Ranger District office) is located in Kernville. For contact information, check the Sequoia National Forest website
When To Climb
The pleasant climbing season is fairly short. The Dome Land Wilderness is a low-elevation, semi-arid wilderness, and is best climbed in the spring (May) or fall (October) to avoid the brutal summer heat. Winter brings snow to the higher elevations of the wilderness, and the approach roads are gated shut until sometime in May, likely necessitating a long approach out of Kernville.
Several established campsites are found around Manter Meadow. However, the terrain is open, and one may camp almost anywhere.
Rockhouse is easily dayhiked, so there is no need to camp unless one wishes to climb the peak as part of a more extended tour of the wilderness.
Cherry Hill Road is gated shut during the winter, and is typically opened sometime in May depending on snow conditions; contact the Cannell Meadow Ranger District
for current road conditions.
The NWS Forecast
is the most reliable source of weather information for the Sierra.
"On the 1881 GLO plat the name 'Rock House Meadow' is in the N 1/2 of the NW 1/4 of sec. 34, T. 23 S., R. 35 E. The house is marked just below the meadow at the left edge of the section. The meadow and basin are named on the first Kernville
30' map, 1908." (Rockhouse Meadow, Basin)
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada
The peak is not officially named, but has come to be unofficially named according to the nearby meadow and basin.