HIKE TO: White Mountain Peak TRAIL: White Mountain Trail/Road MILES: 14.8 miles out and back TIME: 7:11 hrs (6:16 hrs of moving time) DATE I WENT: 6/27/20 DIFFICULTY: moderate ELEVATION: 14252 ft ELEVATION GAIN/ LOSS: 3485 ft HIKE PERMIT: no PARKING PERMIT: no LOCATION: White Mountains Wilderness Area/ Inyo National Forest
White Mountain Peak is California’s 3rd tallest peak and is considered to be California’s easiest 14er to hike. The 3485 ft elevation gain spread across about 7.5 miles makes the hike itself relatively easy; however, the trailhead starts at 11690 ft and ends at 14252 ft so the high-altitude trail should not be taken lightly. If you’re not acclimated, the altitude may affect you as it did with us at the beginning – mostly shortness of breath and a little sleepiness.
The possibility of thunderstorms in the Eastern Sierra is high in the afternoons in July/August; although this is not on the Eastern Sierra side, I would assume at 14k ft, your odds of catching a thunderstorm are just as high. I make it a point to summit by early afternoon.
Getting there: In my research, most people say you need a 4wd to get to the trailhead which is why I’ve put this off for so long. You do not need a 4wd to get here although it may help you get there faster. We made it just fine in an AWD SUV (which I do recommend) but we saw a normal sedan parked at the trailhead… so as long as you go slow on the dirt section, you’ll be fine. PS there are lots of marmots at the parking lot and along the trail.
Timing: We started the hike late at 9:20 am and summited at 1:30 pm, hung out for an hour, and finished at 5:30 pm.
The trail is a very direct and exposed, wide dirt road for most of the hike and starts off on an uphill but soon flattens out. At 1.9 miles, you’ll pass straight through the University of California WMRS Barcroft Facility – I heard this is where they used to test space monkeys but who knows.
The next several miles are long, straight, and flat. By noon, we reached 5.2 miles where the trail starts to descend just before you climb the steep switchbacks to the summit in front of you.
There was a small patch of snow on the trail 0.2 miles before the summit so we scrambled up the rocks recommended by other hikers we passed. 7.4 miles from the trailhead and we have arrived at White Mountain Peak, sitting at 14,252 ft.
The cool thing about the views from this summit is that you can see the Eastern Sierra mountain range! There’s a hut and summit sign-in book at the top… and even a little cell service!
This hike was my first time up at 14k ft in a few years so it was a special and proud moment, especially considering the strong winds we endured on this trail.
The winds this day was one of the highest I’ve experienced: 10-20 mph in the morning, 25-35 mph in the afternoon with gusts as high as 55mph… however, there was little winds at the peak.