Parsons Peak is located in Yosemite National Park near the northern end of the Cathedral Range. Nearby peaks of the Cathedral Range includes Mt. Lyell, Mt. Maclure, Simmons Peak, and Fletcher Peak. Yosemite National Park is one of the crown jewels of the National Park system and coming up with words to describe this fantastic area is difficult.
Parsons Peak is a great place to get away from the crowds in Yosemite and the hike is not technical in the summer. The summit of Parsons Peak straddles the county line separating Tuolumne and Madera counties. North of the summit 800 ft is another boundary and that is where the Mariposa County line meets Tuolumne County. Most people climb Parsons Peak so that they can visit this highest point in Mariposa County at 12,040 ft. More information about County Highpoints can be found at County Highpoint Organization
The hike in from Tuolumne Meadows follows the John Muir Trail for 5.6 miles along the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. This part of the hike is incredibly beautiful as you can imagine with anything named after John Muir. The next part of the hike gains about 1,900 ft in 4.2 miles up to Ireland Lake. The final 2.2 miles gain another 1,300 ft to the summit of Parsons Peak.
The normal trailhead for accessing Parsons Peak is located in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. Tuolumne Meadows is on Hwy 120 and Hwy 120 bisects Yosemite from east to west.
From the eas, access is from Hwy 395 near the town of Lee Vining. Drive west on Hwy 120 over Tioga Pass at 9,941ft. Tioga Pass is also the entry point for Yosemite National Park. Continue west on Hwy 120 down to Tuolumne Meadows. Turn left to the lodge and the Ranger Information booth. Continue past the Ranger Information booth to the last parking area on the left before the lodge. There is space here for about 100 cars to park.
From the west you have a variety of roads you can use to access Yosemite. The important connection you want to make is to get on Hwy 120 heading east and follow it up to Tuolumne Meadows.
Other trailheads can get you to Parsons Peak, but I will leave that to others to post those Route Reports. I chose the Tuolumne Meadows trailhead because I wanted to dayhike Parsons Peak. Other trailheads would involve multiday hikes.
Parsons Peak is in Yosemite National Park and there is some red tape.
First, you have to pay the $20 access fee to enter Yosemite. Fees
Second, you have to determine whether you are spending the night either before or after your hike. Camping or Lodging
Fourth, if you are going to be backpacking and camping in the Yosemite, you need a permit. Permits
P.O. Box 577
Yosemite National Park, CA 95389
Visitor information & Headquarters
When To Climb
Tioga Pass and Tuolumne Meadows are closed for much of the year due to snow. The typical season is open from July 1st through the end of September. Early in the season there may be lots of snow at Ireland Lake and up to the summit of Parsons Peak.
For backpacking and camping, take the following link for information and to get a permit. Bear canisters are mandatory for backpacking in Yosemite and you can rent these in the park. Follow these links for more information. Bear Canisters
Do not attempt this climb if thunderstorms are in the forecast.
Early in the season there may be lots of snow at Ireland Lake and up to the summit of Parsons Peak.
"Edward Taylor Parsons (1861-1914), a director of the Sierra Club for nine years; member of the outing committee for 13 years; photographer of many of the club's early trips. The peak was named by R. B. Marshall of the USGS about 1909; it is on the third edtion of the Mt. Lyell 30' map, 1910. It was first climbed by Parsons' widow, Marion Randall Parsons, sometime before 1931. In 1915 the Sierra Club built the lodge on its Soda Springs property on the north side of Tuolumne Meadows. (SCB 10, no. 1, 1916: 84-85.) The lodge was sold to the National Parks Service in 1973.
There are memorials to Parsons by John Muir and William E. Colby in SCB 9, no. 4, Jan. 1915: 219-24. [see links below]"
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada
"Because Edward Taylor Parsons had been active in outings clubs in the Pacific Northwest, he had first-hand experience with mountain outings before the Sierra Club had conducted any. When he learned about the Sierra Club aftter settling in San Francisco about 1900, he told William Colby about the outings conducted by Oregon's Mazamas. Colby was impressed, and proposed to the board that the Sierra Club should also conduct outings. Parsons subsequently assisted William Colby in establishing the Sierra Club's outings program, the first one being in 1901.
Born in 1861, Parsons received a degree from the University of Rochester in 1886, and became one of the first salesmen for the Sherwin-Williams Company.
Parsons was an active mountaineer and conservationist, also, and wrote about his experiences, illustrating many of his articles with his photographs.
He married another active and remarkable Sierra Club member, Marion Randall Parsons, in 1907, who he had met on the 1903 Sierra Club outing.
At the time of his death in 1914 he was a long time member of the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club, and had served along with William Colby and Joseph Le Conte on the Outings Committee, and also chaired the Le Conte Memorial Lodge Committee beginning in 1904. His wife, Marion, was elected to take his place and served as the club's first woman board member for twenty-two years, until 1938.
After his death, the Sierra Club organized a fund-raising campaign, and purchased some property at Soda Springs in Tuolumne Meadows. The Club's primary purpose was to preserve the landscape from domestic livestock and such, but it also built a small lodge named for Parsons. In later years, the Club sold its property to the National Park Service for inclusion in Yosemite National Park, but Parsons Lodge still stands as a historical monument to this Sierra Club leader.