Tallest mountains in California
California is one of the most visited states in the United Staes. Home to the world-famous Disneyland Amusement park and lots of other man-made tourist attractions, it is not surprising to see millions of tourists booking a flight to California for their vacation. With famous natural playgrounds, superb dramatic scenery and landscape, there are a lot of places to see in California.
California is not regarded as the Golden state for fun; apart from the places you can visit as a tourist, there are incredibly tall beautiful mountains you can hike. As a matter of fact, there is no way one can discuss tallest mountains in the United States without California popping up. This is because California is home to the tallest mountain in the United States -Mount Whitney. It is also home to a lot of tall mountains and they would be discussed in this article.
- Mount Whitney
It is a fact that Mount Whitney is not just the tallest mountain in California but also the tallest mountain in the United States. Because of this reason, the Mountain’s elevation is always being reevaluated with newer and modern Tech. The mountain’s elevation is currently officially recorded as 14,505 ft (about 4,421m).
Aside from being the tallest mountain in the United States which makes it almost compulsory for hikers to ignore, it also provides opportunities for skiing and snowboarding. This is because of its fair share of snow yearly.
There are several routes you can take when hiking the mountain. The most commonly used ones are:
- Whitney Portal: this is the easiest and most used trailhead. The route leads to the Mountaineer’s route and the Mt. Whitney trail.
Note: bears are known to pop up on this route. There is a season when bear activity is high on the route. During that ‘bear season’, it is advised to ensure you do not leave food in your vehicle.
- Onion Valley: this route leads to two frequently used trails. The first is the John Muir trail and the other is the ‘Trail Crest’.
- There are other routes that give access to the mountain but are mainly being used by backpackers.
Note: there is a quota that determines the number of people who can hike the mountain per year. Permits are required before a hiker is granted access to hiking the mountain.
Campground: there are several camps along the different trails leading to the summit of the mountain.
- Mount Whitney trail has two commonly used camps. They are Outpost camp and Trail camp. Of the two camps, Trail Camp is the most visited (used).
- There are camping facilities at different locations in the area. They include Upper Boy Scout Lake, Lower Boy Scout Lake, and Iceberg Lake. There are no toilet facilities but special rules are made for people who need to use the Toilet.
Wildlife: wildlife activity is pretty high in the area. There are reported sightings of bears and Marmots
- Mount Williamson
At a massive 14,379 ft, Mount Williamson is the second highest mountain in California. However, it is the sixth highest mountain in the United States. Even at that height, it still commands a fair share of hikers regularly. The mountain brings back the nostalgic feeling of the popular movie Lord of the Rings.
Climbing the mountain is not so difficult at all. It can be hiked successfully even my amateur hikers. There are different routes with which you can access the mountain.
- West face route: this is the standard route of getting to the mountain. While getting to the summit is fairly easy with this route, getting down is another matter.
- There is another route at the Shepard Pass trailhead. Using this route is quite tasking because it is longer than the standard route. There are many instances where the trails double back on itself.
Campground: there are several sites and spots you can set up camp along the Shepard Pass trail. The most popular spots are the Anvil Camp and the Mahogany Flat campsite.
Wildlife: if you are lucky, you might come across herds of bighorn sheep in the area.
- White Mountain Peak
White Mountain Peak is the highest summit in Mono Country. At an elevation of 14,252 ft, it is the third highest mountain in California.
The mountain is not only used by hikers, but mountain bikers also use the mountain.
There are some routes you can use when hiking the mountain. The most commonly used ones are:
- South Face from Nevada: the trails start at the Westgard pass.
- South face from California: this route leads to the Barcroft gate Trailhead.
White Mountain Peak is difficult to climb because it is a desert mountain which means it is bare of Trees and wind barrier or breakers. Hence, hikers can be slowed down by the strong wind, rain, and lightning if it does rain and Snow storms during the winter season.
- Hikers can set up camp almost anywhere on the routes to the mountain although some hikers prefer to camp a little high up the mountain in order to acclimatize. However, no camping is allowed within the boundaries of the Bristlecone Pine forest.
- Hikers who are using the Barcroft gate trailhead have access to defined campsites with fire rings along the route.
Note: You need to have a campfire permit before you can start a fire for your camp.
Wildlife: Hares can be spotted in the area.
- North Palisade
North Palisade, at 14,248ft, is the fourth highest mountain in California. The mountain is popular among rock climbers because it is one of the most difficult to climb. In fact, all the routes leading to the summit of the mountain is difficult and physically tasking.
The easiest route to get to the summit is the 4th class route from the west (The LeConte Route). The most commonly used routes are:
- 4/5th class route
- U-Notch + Clyde Variations
Campground: Camping is permitted anywhere in the wilderness but you must have a permit.
- Mount Shasta
California certainly delivers when it comes to amazing landscapes. Mount Shasta is a jaw-dropping snow-covered mountain that rises majestically at an elevation of 14,179 ft. This makes it the fifth highest mountain in California.
Mount Shasta is a volcanic mountain and is regarded as being potentially active. It dominates its surroundings so much that it regularly attracts poets, hikers and tons of tourist. The mountain is also popular for hosting backcountry skiing events.
There are no restrictions or quotas for climbing the mountain however, hikers have to obtain a wilderness pass and summit permits from the rangers’ station in Mount Shasta. Hikers can also obtain self-issued permits at any of the mountain’s trailhead.
Climbing the mountain is a whole different affair. While there are over 15,000 attempts to climb to the summit of the mountain, only a third of these attempts are successful year round. This is because avalanches and very dynamic weather conditions are experienced on the mountain.
Note: All the routes leading to the summit require hikers to equip themselves with ice ax and crampons. Amateur hikers might need ropes which would be held by the most experienced hiker in their group.
Here are the most commonly used Routes:
- Southwest route: this leads to the commonly used Bunny Flat Trailhead. The Bunny flat trailhead houses some popular trails. Some of them include;
- Avalanche Gulch: this is the easiest route to climb the mountain. It is particularly preferred by people who have no experience of hiking.
- Green Butte Ridge
- West face gully
- Sargents Gully
- East route: this route leads to another trailhead – Clear Creek Trailhead. Clear Creek Trailhead is a good place to start a hike and it offers awesome views to hikers during the hike. The trailhead leads to three trails and they are also generally used:
- Clear Creek trail
- Wintun Ridge
- Wintun Glacier – this is the most difficult trail on this trailhead.
- North and Northeast Route: the route leads to three trailheads. They are
- Brewer Creek Trailhead: the trailhead leads to the Hotlum Glacier trail (Rated difficult to hike) and the Hotlum-Wintun Ridge.
- Coquette Falls: there are two trails on this trailhead. Whitney-Bolam Ridge and Bolam Glacier.
- North Gate Trailhead: the trail here is the Hotlum-Bolam Ridge
Campground: there are several campgrounds around the area hikers can use. Some are at different trailheads, others are at strategic places
There are regulations hikers have to follow even when they are camped. There are human waste bags hikers are expected to collect at any of the trailheads they use.
- Mount Russell
Mount Russell is the seventh highest mountain in California with an elevation of 14,094 ft. it was named after an American geologist – Isreal Cook Russell.
Mount Russell is close to the tallest mountain in California i.e. Mount Whitney and hence, sees a significantly small amount of traffic.
Note: Hikers need to obtain a special Whitney Zone permit before they are allowed to climb the mountain.
The mountain can be climbed from May to October. Anybody deciding to hike the mountain at any other month needs to be an Experience mountaineer because there is a lot of snow. Lots of snow leads to an increased chance of falling into snow traps.
Campground: Camping can be done in suitable areas in the John Muir Wilderness.the wilderness surrounds the mountain.
Wildlife: Bears are very active in the area. Also, aggressive Marmots are always being reported in the area.
- Split Mountain
This is the last mountain on the list. Standing at 14,064 ft, Split Mountain is the eighth highest mountain in California.
Climbing the mountain is relatively easy. The most commonly used route and by far the least technical is the North Slope route (rated Class 2).
Campground: Camping is allowed in the Red Lake vicinity. The most important thing to remember when setting up camp is to put as much distance between your camp and the lake or steam.
Wildlife: Bears and Marmots are very active in the area.
California can certainly not be overlooked when talking about tourism. While there are lots of activities and landmarks worth checking in the Golden State, the Mountains can also not be overlooked.