Mt. Prater lies along the Sierra Crest to the northwest of Split Mountain (one of the California 14ers). From the summit, the spectacular 360 degree view includes Mts. Bolton Brown, Birch, and The Thumb, and the Palisades to the north, the Owens Valley and Mt. Tinemaha to the east, Split Mountain’s north slope to the south, and a great view of the countless lakes and mountains of the inner Sierra to the west.
The standard route (South Slope from the East) is via Red Lake to just above the Split/Prater saddle, down to the true saddle, and then up the southern slope of Mt. Prater. This route is Class 2 although some may consider the last portion getting to the area just above the Split/Prater saddle as Class 3. Other routes to the summit can be found along the ridge from Mt. Bolton Brown or up from the basin to the Split/Prater saddle.
In conjunction with a climb of Mt. Prater, other mountains in the area to consider climbing would be Split Mountain
, Mt. Tinemaha
, Mt. Bolton Brown
, The Thumb
, and Birch Mountain
Mt. Prater is included on the Western States Climbers’ Emblem Peaks list and the Sierra Club’s Sierra Peaks Section list.
This may be the most difficult part of climbing Mt. Prater. To access the Red Lake trailhead, you will need a high clearance vehicle. 4WD is probably not necessary under normal conditions, but is recommended. In addition, be prepared for scratched paint as the road is narrow and overgrown in some portions and the desert shrubs will add some nice pin-striping to your vehicle if you come into contact with them.
The usual route to drive to the Red Lake trailhead is to turn west on Crocker Street out of Big Pine off Hwy. 395. Comprehensive directions from this point can be found at climber.org
The drive from Big Pine to the trailhead will take approximately one hour.
Everything you need to know about permits and regulations can be found on the Eastern Sierra – Logistical Center
page. Basically, permits are not required for day hikes. However, any overnight camping does require a permit. These are typically easy to acquire as the Red Lake trailhead does not get a lot of traffic.
When to Climb
The usual climbing season is June – October, although it may be climbed anytime during the year.
If you are climbing via the Red Lake trailhead, the best place to camp is probably Red Lake. There are established campsites here with easy access to water and great views. This is an active bear area and although bear canisters are not required (though recommended) as of the date of this writing, along with the bears, there are plenty of other critters waiting for a free meal, so protect your food accordingly.
Mt. Prater is named in honor of Alfred Prater and his wife who are believed to have made the first ascent of the mountain in 1928.
Links to two trip reports by Bob Burd:
Trip Report # 1
Trip Report # 2