Right Place, Perfect Time: An Oasis in California's Desert Peaks - Backpacker

Right Place, Perfect Time: An Oasis in California's Desert Peaks

Peakbag in the White Mountains—without lugging in water.

Lofty summits with boundless views, the world’s oldest living organisms, near guaranteed solitude. Anywhere else, this trifecta would be a backpacker magnet. But harsh winters, hot summers, and a lack of water make extended trips a dicey prospect most of the year—with June the welcome exception.

Camp at 12,000-foot Barcroft Gate trailhead to acclimatize and stage for an early start the next day (check out ancient bristlecone pines at Schulman Grove on the 26.5-mile drive up White Mountain Road, off CA 168). Water up and ascend seven miles to 14,246-foot White Mountain Peak, highest in the Great Basin. Continue north cross-country, following the ridge to 12,676-foot Headley Peak. Seven miles from White Mountain Peak, descend to Chiatovich Flats at 11,000 feet (spring nearby) and set up a basecamp. On day three, ascend 12,559-foot Mt. Dubois, some six miles to the north. Backtrack to the car. Alternative: Strong hikers with a shuttle (end at Trail Canyon trailhead) can scramble over 13,140-foot Boundary Peak, Nevada’s highpoint.

Maps USGS quads: Mount Barcroft, White Mountain Peak, Juniper Mountain, Boundary Peak ($8 each, store.usgs.gov) Info (760) 873-2400; fs.fed.us/r5/inyo