The North Ridge on Richardson Peak is an enjoyable climb. You'll have to ascend a bit of loose sand/scree to gain the saddle on the north side, whether approaching from the east or the west; however from the saddle it is mostly a scramble up to the summit on good quality rock. There are a few short, low class 5 sections of 8-10ft but the exposure is minimal and a rope should not be required for anyone that is comfortable on such routes.
If approaching from Bear Lake, note that you can easily traverse from the pass south of Bear Lake to the saddle on the North Ridge to avoid losing elevation.
The summit block is easy to reach though there is a little work required to ascend the boulder at the very top. The boulder stands about 5 feet high. A horn offers a very good hand hold and there is a marginal toe hold that will help you gain the summit. It's slightly intimidating as you would not want to fall off balance here.
The USGS marker sits atop the boulder. There is no summit register on Richardson Peak.
There are several possible trailheads to begin your trip, each somewhat equidistant from the peak. Selecting a trailhead will depend on the season and your overall itinerary.
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 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 where you'll leave the PCT and hike off-trail. Head due west past Otter Lake towards Richardson Peak. (3 miles).
3) Kennedy Meadows Resort
is located off of CA Highway 108, just west of the Sonora Pass. The trailhead is located at the end of the parking area for the Kennedy Meadows Resort. Overnight parking at the resort lot is $5/night and can be paid at the resort lobby. Alternatively, free parking is available at the signed forest service "trailhead" parking lot, which is located about 3/4 mile from the trailhead.
Kennedy Meadows also operates a pack (horse) station. They will let you park overnight for free (and shower for free upon return) if you pack in with them one-way*. They also have rental cabins, a supply store, small restaurant and saloon. You can hike the (29 miles)
to Richardson Peak, or have Kennedy Meadows drop you there.
Follow the Huckleberry Trail until you reach the cut off for Brown Bear Pass (11.8 miles). Take the Brown Bear Pass trail east over Brown Bear Pass and Bond Pass until you reach the PCT (7.3 miles). Head south on the PCT until you are west of Otter Lake (7.5 miles). This where you'll leave the PCT and hike off-trail. Head due west past Otter Lake towards Richardson Peak (3 miles).
4) The Leavitt Lake trailhead
is only accessible with an SUV with high clearance and 4-wheel drive. Leavitt Lake road is located 3.8 miles east of the Sonora Pass off of CA Hwy 108. It's 3 miles to Leavitt Lake over very rough terrain and a couple of stream crossings. Free parking is available on the north side of the lake. Follow the Leavitt Pass trail south, up and over Big Sam, for 10 miles until you reach Emigrant Pass. Near Grizzly Meadow, take the trail split to the southeast that leads over Bond Pass to the PCT (3.5 miles). Head south on the PCT until you are west of Otter Lake (7.5 miles). This where you'll leave the PCT and hike off-trail. Head due west past Otter Lake towards Richardson Peak (3 miles). (24 miles total)
* Call well in advance to reserve horse and guide if you decide to pack in with either one of the pack stations.
No special gear is required for this route.