15 Miles White Mountain California 14er Day Hike
As summer alpine and hiking season comes to an end with the impending winter season, I wanted to post about one more California 14er that I had the pleasure of hiking and summiting this summer. This will bring my tally up to 4 total California 14ers off the bucket list. Only 11 more to go (ha!). It's one of my goals to climb them all one day...
While, not my favorite 14er, it was definitely the easiest of all the ones I have done to date. We were able to hike the peak in a half day since the trailhead starts at around 12,000'. I still think the hike is definitely worth doing because it gives you a cool perspective of all the Sierra Nevada from its summit since the White Mountain Peak is actually parallel to the Sierra Nevada on the Inyo-White Mountain Range. Some quick facts and trail details to get us started:
High Level Trip Details:
- ~15 Miles Round Trip
- ~3,400 feet total elevation gain for trip
- Trailhead elevation (12,000 feet)
- Highest Point on the trail (White Mountain Summit! 14,246 feet)
- Time to complete in a day: 7-9 hours, unless you are just a hardcore badass
- No water along trail, so bring plenty of water for a full day
- I've read online this trail is dog friendly as long as your pooch is leashed, but I didn't see any dogs when we did the hike
When to Go:
- September is my favorite time of the year to backpack or hike peaks in the Sierra Nevada. The weather is perfect and there are less mosquitos (which can be really bad when it is warm)
- You could also plan to go in July and August, but expect the weather to be a bit warmer (with a chance of relentless mosquitos)
- June and October are hit or miss in the Sierra Nevada. If we had a big snow year in California, there may be too much snow on the trail in June. Alternatively, in October, we start to get our first snowfalls of the season. Be sure to call the ranger station before heading out on weather and snow updates.
How To Get There:
- Getting there is easy, type White Mountain Peak California into google maps if you're a gps kind of person (I know I am). Alternatively, take US-395 to Big Pine, turn east onto CA-168 toward the White Mountains and Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. After 13 miles, turn left onto White Mountain Road. The pavement ends just after Schulman Grove and then turns into a 4WD road for the remaining 17 miles until you reach the Trailhead at Barcroft Gate.
- WARNING: the 4WD road wasn't (at least when we went) too high clearance, but the rocks on the road were small and sharp. The below advice is based on experience (detailed more in the trip report). Make sure to do the following if you go on this trail:
- Drive slowly!
- Make sure your car has a spare tire, and you know how to change it
- Bring a "fix-a-flat" can as backup and redundancy to your spare tire
- Put extra water and supplies in your car in-case something happens and you are unable to get your flat fixed
- As and added plus, take a vehicle with good tread and tires
- No permit needed for a day hike. If you camp at trailhead and want a campfire, you will just need to fill out a campfire permit.
And on with the trip report...
We drove up most of the way after work on Friday night before our hike and camped at Grandview Canyon Campground which is about 20 miles from the trailhead. The Campground is at 8,500 feet of elevation so we were hoping it would help us to acclimate a bit if we slept there the night before. The campground doesn't take reservations, but we didn't have any issues finding a site to sleep at. Alternatively, you could continue on to the trailhead or look for some BLM land to camp at, but this seemed like our best option and we didn't want to drive the 4WD portion of the trail in the dark.
The next morning we woke up around 5 AM - 6 AM and drove on to the trailhead where there were already many other cars parked. Our drive up to the trailhead was uneventful and we got to the trailhead around 8 AM. On other trip reports I had read about how marmots were causing issues with chewing through cables on cars, but we never had this problem. Just be warned.
The trail is essentially a road most of the way, so it is pretty easy to follow
Marmot spotted sunbathing and dreaming about his next car-wire dinner.
Even though the trail was straight-forward, the terrain and landscape was still very beautiful! At some point you will pass a research station, but just keep on hiking.
Our trail went on mostly effortlessly except that I definitely could feel the altitude weighing down on me about half way through the climb. So even though the terrain was easy, the altitude made the traveling fairly slow.
The giant Sierra Nevada Mountains looming in the background. We look like ants.
You can see the White Mountain summit in the distance for a long time. Below is Ashima pondering our long ascent.
The last bit of the trail is pretty steep and I was definitely very slow on this part because I was starting to get a pretty bad headache and nausea from the altitude. So I just took it a few steps at a time. Slowly but surely.
When we did finally make it to the top, we ate some lunch and enjoyed the summit views. You can see almost the whole stretch of the Sierra Nevada from up there and the Owens River Valley. It was fun trying to name the peaks we knew from the other side.
Signed the summit register, took some summit pics.
And the power pose to finsih...
Then we began the long trek down. I thought I would be pretty fast coming down, but the altitude really did me in for the rest of the hike and it was slow going coming back.
All in all, the hike was great. It took us about 8 hours to complete and mostly because altitude sickness kept us from going any faster. Definitely be prepared for altitude sickness since the hike starts at 12,000', but the trail was mellow enough that the altitude sickness seemed manageable.
Last but not least, we ended up getting a flat tire on our drive out from White Mountain trailhead about a mile into the 4WD road. We ended up using the fix-a-flat spray can we had in the car and were able to make it back (very very slowly) all the way to Bakersfield, California. Those fix-a-flat cans are only rated to about 100 miles, but it held up the whole way back. Regardless, I am now a believer in fix-a-flat cans and we take one with us everytime we go on weekend trips (along with other car necessities). Don't head out on this trail without some backup.
We are beggining to be pro's at fixing flats. We had a similar experience with our trip to New Zealand, which you can read more about here: New Zealand North Island Adventures
Hope you have a chance to check out White Mountain.
Michael has hopes to come back and mountain bike the trail... maybe we will write a post about that adventure when it comes. :)