Royce Peak is located just over French Canyon, between the North Lake trailhead and the Pine Creek trailhead. Royce Peak's remote location makes it a very long day hike, but it can be easily done as part of an overnight. The easiest route up is a class 2 traverse from the saddle between Royce Peak and Merriam Peak, which can be approached either from the east or west. From the tallest of the three summits on Royce one commands a view of a 10 square mile area. Stretching from Bear Creek Spire in the North to Mt Darwin in the South, Mt Tom in the East and Mt Hooper to your west.
The two main trailheads for the approach to Royce Peak are Pine Creek trailhead and North Lake trailhead. The Pine Creek trailhead can be reached by taking Highway 395 just North of Bishop and turning off toward the Pine Creek Pack station. The North Lake trailhead can be reached by taking 395 just South of downtown Bishop, and turning onto Highway 168. Take 168 for about 18 miles toward Lake Sabrina. Just before Lake Sabrina turn off on a dirt road that winds up the hillside past North Lake.
From Pine Creek hike up the trail toward Pine Lake, until the trail comes to a minor junction at Honeymoon Lake. From here continue South to Pine Creek Pass, from here one can base camp and make a summit attempt on Royce Peak. From North Lake take the Piute Pass trail up over the pass. From Humphry's Basin one can either hike up over Carol Col or various passes to the north, or one can follow the trail down into Puttee Canyon until it reaches the junction with French Canyon. Continue up French Canyon until you find a suitable campsite to make your summit attempt. In French Canyon one obtains a view of the 400ft+ Royce Falls that cascades down from the lowest Royce Lake.
Overnight permits are required if one desires to stay anywhere within the John Muir Wilderness area. These can either be picked up in Bishop or Lone Pine at the local ranger stations. Bear Canisters are also required when starting out from both trailheads.
For permits and conditions contact the USFS Ranger Station in Bishop at 760-873-2500. Inyo National Forest
When To Climb
Climbing between June and October(first snow) is the best time. In the Eastern approach to the saddle lies a permanent snow field. In late June the snow field melts away enough so that one may beable to climb the basin without crampons or ice axes. Prior to snow melt, ice axe and crampons may be needed to ascend this section to the saddle. Snow melts fast on the rest of the approach. In winter months snow shoes or cross-country skis would be needed for the long approach to the base. Ice axes and crampons would be needed for a winter summit attempt.
Camping is allowed anywhere in the backcountry and around the mountain with proper overnight permits from the USFS.