Sequoia National Park: Lone Pine Peak via Meysan Lake Trail

Climb without crowds to the state's top mountain view on this 9.6-mile out-and-back in Sequoia National Park.
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Climb without crowds to the state's top mountain view on this 9.6-mile out-and-back in Sequoia National Park.

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"

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 15.5

Waypoints

LON001

Location: 36.589689, -118.230121

From the Meysan Lake parking area, follow the campground road south, cross a wooden bridge over Lone Pine Creek, and continue to a T-intersection.

LON002

Location: 36.588362, -118.229434

Turn left and follow the paved road into the summer homes area for about 300 yards until you reach a "Y" in the road.

LON003

Location: 36.588948, -118.226817

Bear right and ascend the hill.

LON004

Location: 36.588496, -118.224054

At the top of the hill, turn right, and follow the paved road to where the road terminates at another T-intersection.

LON005

Location: 36.587938, -118.225406

Meysan Lake trailhead: After leaving the trailhead, the route quickly gains elevation as it climbs past Jeffrey pine, pinyon pine and white fir.

LON006

Location: 36.56241, -118.240807

Pass nice secluded camp spots among the trees and rocks.

LON007

Location: 36.561023, -118.241644

The views open up at tiny Grass Lake, nestled among pines and clean alpine granite. Find quality campsites here, under the imposing east face of Mt. Irvine. Next day: In the morning, with a predawn start to beat near daily afternoon thunderstorms, head south to the class 2 talus chute on the peak's northwest side and climb it for 1,500 vertical feet.

LON008

Location: 36.555637, -118.234499

When the headwall eases, bear left toward the summit plateau.

LON009

Location: 36.556119, -118.232954

Bear left at the summit plateau and stay right to avoid the false summits on the ridge on the way to the top.

LON010

Location: 36.559239, -118.229091

Crest the first false summit.

LON011

Location: 36.56048, -118.22701

Crest the second and third false summits.

LON012

Location: 36.561859, -118.225937

Lone Pine Peak (12,944 ft.): From this 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.

Grass Lake and Peak 3,986

Location: 36.561756, -118.241301

Emergency Access Gate

Location: 36.589723, -118.229842

Start your hike here at the locked emergency access gate.

Lone Pine Creek

Location: 36.588931, -118.229671

Footbridge over Lone Pine Creek

Steep Incline

Location: 36.588956, -118.226645

Head right at the Y and climb the steep incline.

Y-Junction

Location: 36.588508, -118.223909

Either way will lead to the trailhead, but the road on the right is shorter.

Trailhead

Location: 36.58794, -118.225347

Meysan Lake trailhead

Snow Plant

Location: 36.587582, -118.224183

Lone Pine Peak

Location: 36.584037, -118.22583

Lone Pine Peak rises left of center.

John Muir Wilderness

Location: 36.582676, -118.226892

Overnight permits required beyond this point.

Sierra Wildflower

Location: 36.581651, -118.228608

Indian Paintbrush

Location: 36.579902, -118.229477

Meysan Creek

Location: 36.576206, -118.231119

Your first close encounter with Meysan Creek.

Campsite

Location: 36.569431, -118.235066

First possible location for overnight camping at approximate mile 2.5

Sierra Shooting Star

Location: 36.568684, -118.236709

Approaching Meysen Lakes Basin

Location: 36.56615, -118.239348

Mt. Mallory from Grass Lake

Location: 36.563661, -118.240112

Corn Lily

Location: 36.561463, -118.241429

Talus and Scree Slope

Location: 36.559187, -118.241858

Mt. Irvine and a glacial tarn

Location: 36.558037, -118.240574

Grass Lake (left) and Peanut Lake

Location: 36.556361, -118.238294

Looking back on Grass Lake (left) and Peanut Lake (right) from bottom of gully.

Rocky Chute

Location: 36.555482, -118.237309

Looking up the final third of the gully.

Meysan Lake and Mt. Irvine

Location: 36.55537, -118.235893

Sky Pilots

Location: 36.555456, -118.23526

Sky Pilots at 12,000 feet

Grass Lake (left), Peanut Lake, and the Meysan Valley

Location: 36.555706, -118.234273

Mt. Irvine (left) and Mt. Whitney

Location: 36.555783, -118.233994

Mt. Irvine (left) and the highest point in the continental U.S., Mt Whitney (right), from the saddle.

Mt. LeConte and Mt. Corcoran

Location: 36.556223, -118.232718

Views to the west from the top of the chute

False Summit

Location: 36.556266, -118.232621

The first of several false summits viewed from the top of the gully.

Keeler Needle, Mt. Whitney, and Mt. Russell

Location: 36.557619, -118.231494

False Summits

Location: 36.559336, -118.228828

False summits #2 and #3. Lone Pine Peak rises on the far left.

Sierra Primrose

Location: 36.559791, -118.227611

Beauty survives in the early season on the barren saddle.

Mt. Corcoran and Mt. LeConte

Location: 36.560032, -118.227375

Looking west to Mt. Corcoran (left) and Mt. LeConte

Summit Register

Location: 36.561855, -118.225891

The summit register is found in the ammo box located just below the summit blocks.

Contents of Summit Register

Location: 36.561878, -118.225897

Care for a smoke?

Summit Views of Grass Lake and Peanut Lake

Location: 36.561885, -118.225937