For alpine routes in the Sierra Nevada, North Peak's accessability from the road makes this a popular peak for climbing ice couloirs. It is easily reached in a few hours from the trailhead and is known as one of the most prestine areas in the Sierra Range. The approach is easy as compared to most other ice climbs in the area, the climbing is enjoyable and never too severe and it can be linked with Mt Conness' North Ridge to make for a spectacular traverse.
Other less technical routes, such as the Southeast Chute, the Southwest Face and the Northwest Ridge allow hikers and climbers of all skill levels to also enjoy this peak. Spring skiing is also popular on the slopes and chutes of North Peak, as well as those on nearby Mount Conness and the Conness Glacier.
From Hwy 395 and the town of Lee Vining: Turn west on Hwy 120 (Tioga Pass) and continue up the Lee Vining Grade, past Ellery Lake, looking for the turn off to Saddlebag Lake on your right (if you come to the Tioga Pass Resort, you've gone to far.) Turn right (north) toward Saddlebag Lake and continue up the paved/dirt road for two miles to its end at the lake. As one nears the lake, the trailhead parking lot and the group camping area will be the first turn-off on the right. The campground is the second right hand turn-off.
From Hwy 120 at Crane Flat: At the Crane Flat Chevron Station, turn left (north) and continue on Hwy 120 through Tuolumne Meadows and out the east Yosemite Park entrance. Continue down Tioga Pass and look for the Saddlebag Lake turn off, on the left, a few hundred feet past the Tioga Pass Resort.
Approach: From the hiker's parking lot, follow the trail that crosses Lee Vining Creek below the spillway and continue along the west shore of Saddlebag Lake. At the north end of the Lake, several trails fork off that lead to the many routes of North Peak.
From Spring skiing, to climbing the ice couloirs in the Fall, North Peak and the surrounding areas offer numerous adventures for the backcountry traveler during most of the year.
When the Tioga Pass road opens in Spring, skiers travel crosscountry to ski the slopes and chutes of North Peak. Later, when the Saddlebag lake road opens, climbers and hikers can more easily access the the peak for rock/snow scrambles and snow climbs up the couloirs. In late Summer and Fall, when the snow in the couloirs has hardened into alpine ice, climbers have relatively easy access to some of the finest moderate ice climbs in the High Sierra.
1)Camping and camp fires are prohibited in the Harvey Monroe Hall Research Natural Area, which includes the Conness Lakes basin and extends approximately two miles east from the White Mountain crest/Yosemite Park boundary. 2) Permits are not required for day use and there is no trailhead quota in effect for this area. 3) Wilderness permits are required for overnight visits to the Hoover Wilderness. Permits can be obtained at any Inyo National Forest ranger station, or at the NFS kiosk at Saddlebag Lake from 7:00 am - 11:00 am, Fridays and Saturdays during the regular season. 4) Follow all backcountry camping regulations, which include camping at least 100 feet from trails and water sources.
Source: Mono Basin Visitor Center (USDA Forest Service). Lee Vining, CA. (760) 647-3044
Because of the relatively short approach required to climb North Peak, the most convenient camping is in one of the many nearby campgrounds.
FC/FS = first-come, first-served
SADDLEBAG LAKE AREA:
-Saddlebag Campground - 22 sites, FC/FS
-Sawmill Campground (walk-in) - 12 sites, FC/FS TIOGA PASS AREA:
-Tioga Lake Campground - 13 sites, FC/FS
-Ellery Lake Campground - 13 sites, FC/FS
-Junction Campground (at the junction of Hwy 120 and Saddlebag Lake road) - 12 sites, FC/FS TUOLUMNE MEADOWS AREA:
-Tuolumne Meadows Campground - 300 sites (approx. 11 miles from the North Peak trailhead) LEE VINING CANYON:
-Lower Lee Vining Campground (non Forest Service)
-Cattleguard Campground (non Forest Service)
-Upper Lee Vining 1 (non Forest Service)
-Upper Lee Vining 2 (non Forest Service)
-Big Bend Campground Note: Most, if not all, of the Lee Vining Canyon campgrounds sit in aspen groves along Lee Vining Creek and are especially nice during the Fall season. During the Summer, mosquitos can be an issue.