Over a distance of only 4.5 miles, Spanish Mountain rises over 8,200 feet above the Kings River making Kings Canyon the deepest of any canyon in North America. The peak is located in the southern reaches of Sequoia National Forest in the western Sierra Nevada and is the highpoint of 15 mile long Rodgers Ridge. On a clear day the views from the summit are extensive. Notable landmarks in sight include Mount Goddard to the northeast, North Palisade and Split Mountain on the Sierra Crest to the east, Mount Brewer to the southeast, the Kings River Drainage to the south, and the Coast Ranges opposite the Central Valley rise to the west. Reaching the summit is easy technically, with straightforward class 1 and 2 routes from almost any angle on the north, east, and west sides.
Spanish Mountain is included on the Sierra Club’s Sierra Peaks Section SPS List
, and as a result it is sometimes climbed with nearby Tehipite Dome
(also on the list and 6 miles to the east).
Looking East over Geraldine Lakes from Spanish Mountain
Rancheria Trail Route Map
Spanish Mountain is best accessed from the Rancheria or Crown Valley Trailheads or the Spanish OHV Route in Sierra National Forest. The first two options are accessible by 2WD cars. The OHV Route requires four wheel drive and is not recommended for full size vehicles due to tight maneuvering.
To reach the trailheads from the Central Valley follow CA Highway 168 to the town of Shaver Lake and turn right onto Dinkey Creek Road. After 12 miles, turn right onto McKinley Grove Road. Follow McKinley Grove Road 14 more miles to reach an intersection with Courtright Way. Keep right to stay on McKinley Grove Road, where signs keep you pointed towards Wishon Reservior. Cross over Wishon Reservoir Dam and reach a fork in the road 6 miles after the Courtright Way turnoff (32 miles total from 168 and 3 miles past Wishon Reservior).
Crown Valley Trailhead
(36.95849° N, 118.96801° W)
Three miles past Wishon Reservoir bear right at the fork in the road. Continue on McKinley Grove Road another 1 mile to the trailhead.
(36.97548° N, 118.95607° W)
Three miles past Wishon Reservoir bear left at the fork in the road. 1.7 miles from the fork turn left and pass an open gate. As you pass the gate the pavement ends and you reach the trailhead 2.3 miles from McKinley Grove Road. There are bear boxes (but no facilities) and ample space for parking and camping at the trailhead.
Spanish OHV Route
(36.95069° N, 118.96741° W)
Three miles past Wishon Reservoir bear right at the fork in the road. Continue on McKinley Grove Road another 1.7 miles to the beginning of the OHV route. The OHV portion is another 5 miles will take up to another 2 hours to complete each way. The coordinates listed above are for the beginning of the OHV Route.
The routes for each trailhead are summarized in the table. There are also class 2 routes (shown on the route map) that head up and down the northeast slopes to Geraldine Lakes and out in the direction of Tehipite Dome
|Crown Valley Trailhead
|8.0 miles one-way
|This is perhaps the most common route to the summit. The trail ascends and passes creeks until reaching a private inholding at Statham Meadow where you bear right at a junction. From Statham Meadow until past Spanish Lake the trail is faint and use trails make it difficult to follow. Once past the last of the lakes the route climbs to a saddle above Geraldine Lakes and a class 1 use trail continues up the north slopes to the summit.
|9.7 miles one-way
+500 feet on return
|The Rancheria Trailhead is a good option if also climbing Tehipite Dome with Spanish Mountain. The trail to Spanish Mountain travels through the forest passing creeks at regular intervals. Pass through several well-signed intersections until you reach the junction just east of Wet Meadow where you turn south towards Spanish Lakes. This section has a lot of downed trees making following the trail a bit more difficult. You reach two marshy lakes at 8,632 feet where you turn east at an intersection and join the route from the Crown Valley Trailhead. Follow the trail up the ridge to the class 1 use trail that reaches the summit.
|Spanish OHV Route
|2.1 miles one-way
|The Spanish OHV Route is rated as “more difficult” by the NFS. The route has a dusty loose surface which can make traction difficult. It requires careful wheel placement around rocks, and full size trucks and SUV are not recommended due to limited maneuverability between fallen and standing trees. The five mile drive takes up to 2 hours and ascends 2,400 feet. There is an excellent description of the complete OHV route in Backcountry Adventures Northern California by Peter Massey and Jeanne Wilson. The hike follows easy class 1 and 2 cross country terrain up the western ridges and slopes to the summit.
Spanish Mountain is in Sierra National Forest on the John Muir Wilderness boundary. No permits are required for day trips but overnight trips will be in the wilderness and require one throughout the year. Quotas are in place year round
. Permits can be obtained from the High Sierra Ranger District office in Prather year round seven days a week or at the Dinkey Creek Visitor Information Station during the summer season. Check the Sierra National Forest website
for the most current information.
As of 2009, after September 15th the forest service would leave permits in a night dropbox outside the office in Prather if you call to request it on the day of the pickup.
No bear canisters are required, but proper food storage is a must.
Fires are prohibited above 10,000 feet (the very summit of Spanish Mountain).
High Sierra Ranger District Office
29688 Auberry Rd
Prather, CA 93651
Dinkey Creek Visitor Information Station
Dinkey Creek Road
When to Climb
Fall is a great time to visit Spanish Mountain, when snow may be affecting higher elevations and you will likely find lots of solitude. Spring and summer are also good times to visit. McKinley Grove Road is not plowed to the trailheads, so winter would be problematic.
Upper Geraldine Lake and Spanish Mountain's Southeast Ridge
There is plenty of space for roadside camping at the Rancheria Trailhead (two bear boxes, no water or facilities), and it would be a better roadside choice even if starting at the Crown Valley Trailhead. The closest established campground is Lily Pad
at scenic Wishon Reservoir, followed by Buck Meadow
Campgrounds along McKinley Grove Road (these are 4 miles past and immediately past McKinley Grove respectively).
Backcountry camping is possible near small streams you cross starting from either trailhead, and at Spanish and Geraldine Lakes. If driving the OHV route, there are several sites along the route from Lost Meadow to before Garlic Meadow.
“ 'The Spanish mined there years ago. The actual existence of a mine was more or less legendary. The mountain was named by Silas Bennett, a pioneer of the '70s, in 1879.' (Farquhar files: S. L. N. Ellis, interviewed by Versteeg before 1925.) All the features except Little Spanish Lake are named on the first Tehipite
30' map, 1905.” – Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada (2004)