West Vidette is located just north of the Kings-Kern Divide in Kings Canyon National Park, and only two miles south of the popular John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails. Though it is not the tallest peak in the area, West Vidette’s position offers outstanding views in all directions. Notable peaks visible from the summit include Mount Stanford, Mount Ericsson, Table Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Mount Brewer, Mount Clarence King, Split Mountain, Mount Gould, University Peak, Mount Keith, and many others.
Together, West Vidette and nearby East Vidette
guard the entrance of an incredibly scenic canyon containing the Vidette Lakes. Reaching the canyon is easy, and despite the close proximity to the popular and sometimes crowded John Muir Trail, there is a good chance of finding solitude at the lakes just one mile away. The approach from trailheads in Onion Valley is also extremely rewarding, passing by Kearsarge Lakes or Center Basin en route to your destination.
West Vidette Summit Vista (click to view labeled peaks)
Center Basin Route Map
Unless climbing West Vidette during a through hike covering at least a portion of the John Muir Trail, the peak is best approached from Onion Valley in Inyo National Forest or Roads End in Kings Canyon National Park. Onion Valley is the more scenic and popular option.
(36.77247° N, 118.34091° W)
Turn west off Highway 395 in the center of Independence onto Onion Valley Road (also labeled Market Street). Follow Onion Valley Road 13 paved miles to reach the trailhead at the end of the road.
(36.79616° N, 118.58342° W)
Turn east off Highway 99 in Fresno onto Highway 180 towards Kings Canyon National Park. Simply follow the highway 92 miles all the way to Roads End in the back of the canyon (37 miles past the park entrance). Take care not to miss the left turn 21 miles from Highway 99 to stay on 180. If coming from the south, Highway 180 is best reached by using Highway 137 or 198 to connect to Highway 63 northbound in Visalia.
Whether approaching from the east or the west, most ascents of West Vidette pass through Vidette Meadow and up Vidette Creek to climb the summit from the east, and this is approach option that is described here. Mileages listed are for the northeast chute.
|Onion Valley via Kearsarge Pass||9.9 miles one-way||5,700 feet|
+2,350 feet on return
|This is the usual approach, as it involves the most on-trail travel in the shortest distance and has excellent scenery throughout. The trail is well marked at the junctions encountered. From Onion Valley follow the trail over Kearsarge Pass. Once entering Kings Canyon National Park at the pass, the trail descends slowly at first and then more steeply past Bullfrog Lake to Vidette Meadow. For comments on the route from Vidette Meadow, see the text immediately below this table.|
|Onion Valley via University Pass||8.8 miles one-way||6,400 feet|
+3,050 feet on return
|University Pass is a good option if a loop trip is desired or if climbing West Vidette with peaks near Center Basin (I favored doing this loop in a counterclockwise direction in order to glissade down University Pass). Center Basin offers solitude and is incredibly scenic, but the route over the pass can be tedious, more so than it appears on the map. This is done in all seasons, but perhaps most easily done when snow covers much of the huge talus on the north side of the pass, likely before late July. Follow the Robinson Lake trail from Onion Valley Campground first to Robinson Lake, then over the snow and talus to the pass. An ice ax and maybe crampons will be required if snow is present. Once at the pass a loose scree chute leads down to Center Basin, where you pick up the original but now unmaintained John Muir Trail before connecting with the existing JMT. Head northwest on the trail to Vidette Meadow, crossing Bubbs Creek just west of Vidette Creek or further west at the log crossing described below.|
|Bubbs Creek Trail from Roads End||14.1 miles one-way||7,500 feet|
+0 feet on return
|The route from Roads end is very straightforward, with no major obstacles and bridges over Woods Creek two miles into the route. The scenery is nice but not as spectacular as the other options, however, as 10 miles of the route follows Bubbs Creek from Kings Canyon to Vidette Meadow. Simply follow the signs to Bubbs Creek, pass Junction Meadow, and then the route below from Vidette Meadow.|
For the easiest crossing of Bubbs Creek, depart the John Muir Trail on the east side of the creek draining Bullfrog Lake and head south towards Bubbs Creek. Follow Bubbs Creek a couple hundred yards further east and you will come to a large log spanning the creek
, with some rocks on the far side. Using this log to reach the south side of the creek should keep the crossing dry and easy, even in times of very high water.
Once on the south side, continue further east alongside the creek until reaching a small cabin at the base of the slope to the south. From the cabin there are two options. Continue along Bubbs Creek until reaching Vidette Creek and following it to Vidette Lakes picking up use trails on and off along the way, or alternatively head upslope directly from the cabin 30-50 yards and search for the primary use trail uphill to your right, west of the cabin (it cannot be seen from the cabin itself). Either option results in easy cross-country travel to Vidette Lakes, even if occasionally losing the use trails.
From Vidette Lakes, there are several options to climb to the summit.
|Northeast Chute – Class 2|
This is a broad chute that leads from the lower Vidette Lakes to the saddle north of West Vidette. The chute is very obvious as you approach Vidette Lakes from the north. In early season the chute makes for a nice snow climb, and it is filled with loose rock later in the year. There are no difficulties encountered from the top of the chute to the summit.
|East Slopes and South Ridge – Class 2|
To reach this route, begin heading upslope as you pass the waterfall draining the lakes at 3300 meters. There is a decent sized flat area at 3560 meters (11,680 feet) about 0.3 miles southeast of the summit. It is not obvious on maps, but there is an easy 300-400 foot chute here leading to the saddle south of the summit. From the saddle, follow the ridge north, switching from the east and west sides of the ridge as obstacles are reached.
| ||East Face – Class 3|
There are several chutes on the lower portion of the east face. Secor mentions climbing one that heads diagonally to the right, but there are other options as well. Select your path of choice and continue on good class 3 terrain up the east face directly to the summit.
Sunset on the Videttes and Deerhorn Mountain
There are no fees if starting from the Onion Valley Trailhead in Inyo National Forest. Roads End lies in Sequoia National Park, however, and an entrance fee is required. The Sequoia and Kings Canyon fee page
has full details.
No permits are required for day trips but overnight trips require one throughout the year. For trips out of Onion Valley in Inyo National Forest permits can be picked up at the White Mountain Ranger Station in Bishop or the Mt. Whitney Ranger Station in Lone Pine. Quotas
are in place May 1 through November 1. Check the Inyo National Forest wilderness permit website
for the most current information and reservation availability. There is a high quota for this trail, but reservations are still recommended as this is a popular PCT and JMT resupply point. In Kings Canyon National Park, the Bubbs Creek Trailhead has quota of 25 people per day in place from late May through late September each year. Outside the quota season permits can be self-issued anytime at the Roads End Permit Station, otherwise they must be obtained from the same location during open hours. Check the Sequoia and Kings Canyon permit page
for full details on hours, the reservation process, and reservation availability.
Bear canisters are required, both in Onion Valley and this area of Kings Canyon National Park. There are bear boxes in the area
in Kings Canyon National Park, but they are for PCT and JMT through hikers only.
Fires are prohibited everywhere in Onion Valley and above 10,000 feet in Kings Canyon National Park. Vidette Meadow is at 9,500 feet.
|Inyo National Forest Wilderness Permit Office|
351 Pacu Lane, Suite 200
Bishop, CA 93514
Wilderness Information Line: (760) 873-2485
Permit Reservation Line: (760) 873-2483
|Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks Office |
47050 Generals Highway
Three Rivers, California 93271
When to Climb
The roads to the trailheads are not plowed in winter, consequently spring through fall are the most realistic times for a visit. In early season snow is present at higher elevations, but those familiar with snow conditions should not have any difficulties. If planning a winter ascent, Onion Valley would have the better approach.
Camp at Golden Bear Lake in Center Basin
Backcountry camping options are abundant at the many lakes or streams from either trailhead. Excellent options include Kearsarge Lakes, Vidette Lakes (very scenic), along Bubbs Creek, or Center Basin (also recommended) among many others.
Roadside camping is not allowed at Roads End, but dispersed camping is permitted not far away outside the park in Sequoia National Forest if approaching from the west. If starting in Onion Valley there are many scenic dispersed camping options along Onion Valley Road.
There is an established campground in Onion Valley, as well as Upper Grays Meadow and Lower Grays Meadow on Onion Valley Road. Reservations are available and recommended. The Inyo National Forest Camping page
has further details.
In Kings Canyon there are four established camping locations (Sheep Creek, Sentinel, Canyon View, and Moraine) with over 300 total sites available. All but Sentinel are open on an as needed basis, making it sometimes difficult to spread out even when usage is low. Each campground has full amenities, costs $18/night, and all sites are first-come, first served. The Sequoia and Kings Canyon Campgrounds page
also lists other sites in the area.
“ ‘Two of these promontories, standing guard, as it were, the one at the entrance to the valley and the other just within it, form a striking pair, and we named them the Videttes.’ (C. B. Bradley, SCB
2:272). The usual spelling of the word is ‘vedette,’ and the meaning is ‘a mounted sentry placed in advance of an outpost’.” – Erwin Gudde, William Bright, California Place Names (2004)
East and West Vidette from Mount Rixford