Richardson Peak is located in a very remote area near the northwest boundary of Yosemite National Park. It is over 20 miles to the nearest trailhead and over 3 miles to the nearest established trail! The easiest approach is from the Pacific Crest Trail in Jack Main Canyon to the east of the peak. If you're looking for solitude, this is an ideal peak for you. Richardson Peak is probably one of the least frequently climbed peaks in Yosemite. Once you leave the PCT, it's highly unlikely that you'll run into anyone.
Notwithstanding the long approach, it is an enjoyable climb. The North Ridge in particular offers an enjoyable challenge; there are several short low class 5 sections with minimal exposure that are safe and fun. The South Ridge is a gentle slope of sand and scree that makes for an ideal descent route.
The summit block is the most interesting feature of Richardson Peak and provides a nice incentive to make the journey. It consists of a large boulder overhanging a granite pillar. A relatively easy but slightly exposed class 4 move is required to reach the top.
The 2 closest trailheads to Richardson Peak are:
1) Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is accessible off of Route 120 near the western entrance to Yosemite National Park. From Hwy 120, drive north on Evergreen Road. Turn right on Hetch Hetchy Road and drive for 9.1 miles until you get to the parking area at O'Shaughnessy Dam.
The Hetchy Hetchy Road is only open at certain times, usually 7am-8pm. Check the YNP website for current times.
Take the trail north through Jack Main Canyon until you reach the PCT. Continue north for 2.5 miles until you are west of Otter Lake. This is where you'll leave the PCT and hike off-trail. Head due west past Otter Lake towards Richardson Peak. (21 miles total)
2) Leavitt Meadows Pack Station is located on CA Hwy 108, just west of I-395. Free parking is available in the trailhead parking area near the campground, north of the pack station. You can hike the 25 miles to Richardson Peak, or have Leavitt Meadows Pack Station take you all or part of the way. Rates for horses are available on their web site*.
Follow the West Walker River trail south until you reach the Cascade Creek trail (10.9 miles). Follow the Cascade Creek trail and PCT to Dorothy Pass (2.5 miles). Continue south on the PCT for another 8 miles until you are west of Otter Lake. This is where you'll leave the PCT and hike off-trail. Head due west past Otter Lake towards Richardson Peak. (3 miles).
* Call well in advance to reserve horse and guide if you decide to pack in on horseback..
-North Ridge: Several short, low class 5 sections. Minimal exposure.
-South Ridge: Class 2 scramble, loose sand/scree.
-West Ridge: Class 2 scramble, loose sand/scree.
Free wilderness permits are required for overnight stays in Yosemite National Park.
Depending on your point of entry and which direction you are coming from, call one of the following ranger stations for wilderness permits.
Food Storage Bear canisters are required by federal law in most areas of Yosemite National Park, however they are not currently required in the area around Richardson Peak so long as you camp below 9600 ft. Please check here for the current requirements as conditions change over time.
The climbing season varies each year depending on how much snow the area receives during the winter months. Hwy 108 closes during the winter, making winter access from the north more difficult. The distance of Richardson Peak from the nearest trailhead adds complexity to winter climbing. So typically the most popular time to climb the mountain is from June through October.
There are no established campsites near Richardson Peak, though the surrounding area is pretty open and it should not be difficult to find a suitable campsite at any of the nearby lakes.
There is good camping at Wilma Lake and Dorothy Lake and primitive camping available at Peninsula Lake.
Shown on Wheeler Survey map, 1878-1879. “I was accompanied [June, 1879] by Mr. Thomas Richardson, who has a sheep range in Cherry Valley and vicinity, and who is perfectly familiar with the rugged country south of the Relief trail.” (Wheeler Survey: Report of Lieutenant M. M. Macomb, in Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers, U. S. Army, for 1879, Appendix F of Appendix OO, p. 257.)
-Place Names of the High Sierra (1926), by Francis P. Farquhar