From Lone Pine Peak’s blocky granite summit, you’ll score pulpit-in-cathedral views of the jagged mountains of the Sierra, including a full third of California’s Fourteeners—and you’ll likely have those vistas all to yourself. Although visitors to the town of Lone Pine often gaze up at this peak towering 9,000 feet above the desert floor and mistake it for its taller and more famous neighbor (Mt. Whitney, the state’s highest), it sees a fraction of the traffic of the crowded Whitney Trail.
The Meysan Lake Trail starts right next door and will feel like the best-kept secret in the range as you climb steeply to campsites at Grass Lake. Pitch a tent here, just below the Northwest Slope route, your access to the 12,944-foot summit. From the Whitney Portal Road near the southern end of the Mt. Whitney Campground, walk down the emergency access road into the campground, and turn left at a small sign for “Meysan Lakes”.
Follow the campground road south, cross a wooden bridge over Lone Pine Creek and continue to a T-intersection. (Note: This is your last chance for a covered restroom or a water tap.) Turn left and follow the paved road into the summer homes area for about 300 yards until you reach a “Y” in the road, veer right and follow the road another 300 yards up a steep incline.
The top of this incline terminates at another T-intersection. Turn right, and follow the paved road for about 150 yards to where the road terminates at another T-intersection. A wooden “Foot Trail Meysan” sign on the opposite side of the road marks the start of the Meysan Lake Trail.
After leaving the trailhead, the route quickly gains elevation as it climbs past Jeffrey pine, pinyon pine and white fir, which is later replaced by foxtail and limber pine. Depending on time of year, the roar of Meysan Creek creates the soundtrack as you leave the forest and near Grass Lake. Shaded camping can be found around Grass Lake for the overnight traveler.
When Grass Lake comes into view, leave the trail and start a cross-country route, skirting the lake on its western shore. (Listen for the deep and booming hoots of the sooty grouse.) The granite blocks on the southern shore offer a great lunch stop while providing some of the best views of Mt. Irvine, Mt. Mallory, Mt. LeConte and Lone Pine Peak.
Climbing the wide chute to the southeast is the crux of this hike, gaining nearly 1,800 feet in just over half a mile. Most, if not all, of the troublesome scree and talus can be avoided by skirting the rock bands along the left edge of the chute. Once you gain the summit plateau, hike northeast 0.6 mile to the summit. To avoid the slew of false summits, stay low on the shoulder until the real summit comes into view.
GUIDEBOOK The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails, by R.J. Secor ($33, mountaineersbooks.org)
PERMIT Required (free in person, $5 in advance, see Contact)
CONTACT Mt. Whitney Ranger District, (760) 876-6200; fs.usda.gov/inyonationalforest-home
SEASON Although Lone Pine Peak can be summited in all seasons, the best months for hiking are from June to October.
-Mapped by David Bosman “EnFuego”