Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 37.63440°N / 118.25701°W
Additional Information Elevation: 14246 ft / 4342 m
Sign the Climber's Log


White Mountain Peak, located northeast of the city of Bishop on US-395, is the third highest peak in California and the highest outside of the Sierra Nevada. It is part of the Inyo-White Mountains which are composed of some of the oldest sedimentary rocks in California with fossils nearly 600 million years old. The White and Inyo Mountains to the south are in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada which creates a striking desert-like appearance and the perfect conditions for the world's oldest living trees, the Ancient Bristlecone Pines. Methuselah, the oldest of these trees, is over 4,700 years old and tree-rings have been used to create a record dating back over 8,600 years. These trees are viewable off of White Mountain Road (see below). The summit provides excellent views of the Eastern Sierra Nevada as well as Owens Valley. The approximately 7 1/2-mile (one-way) South Face route (class 1) is the most popular one and follows a 4WD road to the summit making it the easiest route to the summit of any California 14er, a fact supported by the many mountain bike and now unicycle ascents. The trailhead is the Barcroft gate at 12,000', so for despite some inevitable elevation loss during the hike, making for a gentle ascent. A more challenging route is the 10-mile class 2 West Ridge Route (9,000 foot elevation gain) which may be gained from Jeffery Mine or Milner Canyons (See Erik Siering's June 3, 2000 DPS Trip Report). The importance of taking sufficient water for the West Ridge, particularly during the summer months, cannot be underestimated. Non-winter ascents generally take several hours to a day, however, many beginners underestimate the need to acclimatize.



Getting There

SOUTH FACE FROM CALIFORNIA: The trailhead for this route is the Barcroft gate on White Mountain Road. From California's Owens Valley, take US-395 to Big Pine and drive east on California Highway SR-168 into the White Mountains. In 13 miles you will reach Westgard Pass and the junction with White Mountain Road. Turn north (left) on to White Mountain Road and drive north until you reach the Barcroft gate, driving past Schulman Grove, Crooked Creek, and Patriarch Grove. The pavement ends just after Schulman Grove (about 9.5 miles from Westgard Pass), and is replaced by a gravel 4WD (at least high clearance) road for the remaining 17 miles. Although a high ground clearance 4WD vehicle isn't strictly necessary for this last portion of the road, it certainly makes life go much faster. Low ground clearance cars, e.g. Acura Integra, have been known to take "at least an hour" for the last 17 miles (ref: 2ndage) while Toyota Tundra trucks with the TRD Off-Road Package have been known to tear up the road at 40+ mph. Also see the reference to the VW Passat in the June 16, 2001 summit log. SOUTH FACE FROM NEVADA: Connect with California Highway SR-168 west off of Nevada Highway SR-266 at the town of Oasis. Drive over Gilbert Pass and into Deep Springs Valley before arriving at Westgard Pass and the marked intersection with White Mountain Road. Take this north and follow the directions above (from California). ROAD MAPS: UC WMRS Road Access Relief Map: including US-395, Bishop, Big Pine, SR-168, White Mountain Road, and Barcroft gate.



Red Tape

No permits or entry fees are required to climb, hike, ski, or mountain bike this peak.



When To Climb

Generally, people climb June to October, but ascents are possible year round. White Mountain Road and others are not plowed during the winter and may be gated when blocked by snow. If you choose to do the South Face when the road is blocked with snow, it's an additional ~26.5 mile ski approach to Barcroft Gate for the final 7 miles to the summit. Contact the White Mountain Ranger Station (see the Mountain Conditions section below) for the latest weather and road conditions. Winter condition notes from smeek12: I just got back from White Mountain, March 30th (2004), and the total round trip distance for the South side was 52 miles, even though the rangers told me 44. Also, pay close attention to the roads-the signs are terrible and are often contradictory to each other. I would've gotten lost if I didn't have my GPS. I also climbed the west ridge last February, and it cost me a full day to figure out where to start-all maps I have seen are outdated. Updated maps of the dirt roads can be found at a restaurant/convenience store in the town of Chalfant. I didn't catch the name of this store, but the town is very small, and the store is on the north end of town on the east side of the 6.




Due to the high summit elevation, many people coming from Owens Valley like to spend a night sleeping at high enough elevation to properly acclimatize. While there are restrictions against camping (and stove use outside of vehicles) within the boundaries of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest straddling White Mountain Road, camping is allowed outside of the this area with a campfire permit that is available from USFS field staff and ranger stations (see Mountain Conditions below for contact info). Some popular options for those using the South Face route include: Barcroft gate trailhead (12,000'): There is space to pitch a tent and a couple of fire rings. No reservations are needed for camping but a campfire permit is required and available from USFS office in Bishop. (Ref: cdickinson) Grandview Canyon campground (8,500'): No reservations Fossil, Juniper, Pinon, and Poleta group campgrounds (7,200'): Reservations available via National Recreation Reservation Center, Online, Phone: (877) 444-6777.



Mountain Conditions

White Mountain Peak is essentially an exposed desert mountain, with no water or shade along the way to the summit. This also means there are no trees or other natural barriers to block the wind. You should be prepared for a windy day any day and although it doesn't rain much, people have been known to get caught in rain and lightning. Also be prepared for sudden snow storms beginning in October. For up to date weather information, check the following: White Mountain Summit research station report (updated every 10 minutes) Barcroft Observatory Dome ZenithCam shows live images of the south face of White Mountain Peak from 12,720 feet (3877 meters). (Thanks forjan). Webcam from Dyer NV elementary school (updated once per hour) White Mountain Ranger Station: 798 North Main Street, Bishop, CA 93514. (760) 873-2501 / 2503. Winter visitors should check the CalTrans (California DOT) web site: Mountain Highway Conditions by highway number Mountain Highway Conditions by map Mountain Pass Closures

Miscellaneous Info


University of California White Mountain Research Station USEFUL TRIP REPORTS: Erik Siering's June 3, 2000 Ascent via Milner Canyon and the West Ridge ANCIENT BRISTLECONE PINE FOREST LINKS USDA FS: Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest GORP: Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest



External Links

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

Viewing: 1-8 of 8

gimpilator - Mar 11, 2012 9:58 pm - Hasn't voted

Primary Image

It looks as though the signature image of this page was deleted. My guess is that it was one of Aaron Johnson's.


braindancer - Jul 22, 2014 9:32 pm - Hasn't voted

Note on the drive up

N.B.: when driving up to Barcroft gate, do NOT follow Google Maps' advice and take a "shortcut" via Silver Canyon Road. It is *extremely* rough with creek crossings and hairpin turns on loose gravel. We barely managed to go up this road in a 4x4. White Mountain Road is much, much nicer.


Diesel - Sep 20, 2014 4:23 pm - Hasn't voted

Silver Canyon Road

Your are definitely right. Nobody should take this road. I took this road going down from White Mountain. It was an absolute pain. I have no idea as how would someone drive up this road. You must be a very good driver. Going down, the first 5-6 miles are absolutely horrendous. At one point, in a hairpin left turn driving down, the car slid to the right although I was barely moving. I thought I was a gonner. From mile 6 to 10 the road is so-so. After that, to the main street, it is in good condition. I see how someone would get tricked into driving up this road believing it is a good option. That until reaching a point where is probably impossible to turn around. Time-wise it took me to drive down as much as it took me to drive up on the main access road by Ancient Bristlecone Forest. The Silver Canyon road is only 15 miles, but there is no time savings. It would also be very dangerous if not impossible to drive, either up or down, on a sedan. You mention the water crossings but to me they were the least of the worries.

lindakimble - Sep 1, 2014 3:11 pm - Hasn't voted

White Mountain Notes

OK, when you read the note that White Mountain Road is much better than the alternative, just realize that White Mountain Road is still pretty bad. This "gravel" road is really just a rocky, dirt road. Take a truck or SUV with a tall profile to traverse this road. While we saw people going really fast on this road, we also saw the same people destroy their tire and get a flat. We took it at 10 miles an hour, and it took 1.5 hours each way to traverse the dirt section alone. If you plan to take this road easy for your car's sake, add 2 to 2.5 hours time to get to the trailhead from civilization. We agree this is an "easy 14er" but that does not mean it was easy. We are seasoned hikers with a lot of high altitude experience and were plenty tired by the end of the day. This may be due in part to the quick elevation gain you get from driving up. Acclimating would have helped.


RaymondShevsky - Sep 4, 2016 4:17 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: White Mountain Notes

Drove the road yesterday in a high clearance Ford Escape, averaged 15 mph and took about an hour each way. I think that was prudent: any faster and we'd have risked a flat tire, as we had regular & not off-road tires with some mileage. Lots of sharp rocks. 4wd totally unnecessary. Did see some brave souls in a minivan!


Diggler - Oct 20, 2016 9:20 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: White Mountain Notes

Congrats! Modified page wording slightly. Better safe than sorry. Glad you made it up there (beautiful area)!

Digonnet - Jul 15, 2022 3:58 pm - Hasn't voted

Remember to mention elevation changes

In this post, the south route is listed only as being 7 miles long. Three comments. The main one: when climbing mountains, most people in the world care MOSTLY about the elevation change (unless the distance is inordinately long): in one day many people can walk 10-12 miles round-trip with a few hundred feet of elevation change, while far fewer can walk 4000 feet of elevation change over ANY distance. Please add the elevation change to this route. (We could guess that it is the summit height minus the elevation at the gate, but we would be off by 800 feet—and why guess?). Second, do mention whether the distance is one way or round-trip. I know that most people cite one-way distances; but some prefer to use round-trip distances. So unless it is specified there is always a small doubt... Third: the distance, measured on Google Earth, the most accurate tool I know of as a physicist to measure common distances on the ground, is 7.65 miles one way, not 7. I will also add that the elevation gain is 3000 feet and the elevation loss is 450 feet, one way.


Diggler - Aug 2, 2022 9:42 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Remember to mention elevation changes

Thank you for you input- your points are well noted. I would make a few replies to your comments. 1) Most people in the world do not care about climbing mountains, & thus, do not care about silly things such as elevation change; that being said, even among those people who are interested in such undertakings, I would hesitate to make assumptions about things such as believed importance given between elevation change & length. Since sustaining notable foot injuries, length is definitely a far greater challenge to me than elevation gain; & even before, when I was in exceptional shape, despite 8,000'+ elevation days in the mountains, the overall length was a greater consideration to me; a well-respected former colleague of mine had a mug that said "Never assume anything." I concur with this notion. That being said, it is good to note elevation change for a given route- done. Same thing with clarifying whether a route is one-way or round-trip- that lack of distinction has driven me crazy in the past! Done. The last thing is that being a physicist holds no relation to being an authority on using software to accurately define distances :) Thank you for your input- I will make changes accordingly, & people will surely benefit from it!

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Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.

Inyo-White MountainsMountains & Rocks
The Top 10Mountains & Rocks
California 14ersMountains & Rocks
Contiguous US 14ersMountains & Rocks
Contiguous US Highest 150Mountains & Rocks
California Fifty FinestMountains & Rocks
California ThirteenersMountains & Rocks