California Trails

Backyard Everests: Mt. Conness

Walk a scary-narrow rock fin to an airy summit.

Want the exposure and views that Yosemite’s big wall climbers get, without the risk, ropes, and heavy gear? Tackle Mt. Conness’s South Slope for vertiginous cliff-edge walking above the 12,590-foot peak’s sheer granite south face with panoramas high above the Cathedral Range. The crux of your climb: a 2.5-mile, class 2 scramble that crosses a breathtakingly narrow stretch of rock with sheer drops. You’ll see climbers attempting long technical routes approaching the same summit.

The Young Lakes Trail climbs 1,500 feet over 6.5 miles from the Glen Aulin trailhead to Young Lakes. You’ll take in IMAX views of Sierra giants, including Mt. Lyell, the highest peak in Yosemite at 13,120 feet, as well as peeks at lupine and monkeyflower blooming in May along Dingley Creek. Campsites at the lower lake are protected from wind (not bears: canisters required). Summit day: Hike 1.5 miles northeast to an unnamed tarn at 10,560 feet. Find a use trail on your right; take it to the summit plateau. Pick your way across a 100-foot-long catwalk, at times only 10 feet wide, with 1,000-foot drops, to the summit block.

CLIMBING MAGAZINE RECOMMENDS Go light; tackle 12 pitches of 5.6 Sierra granite on Conness’s iconic 1,500-foot West Ridge route.

GET THERE From San Francisco, drive 77 miles to Manteca, and take CA 120 87 miles to Yosemite National Park. Stay on CA 120 to Tuolumne Meadows and park at the Lembert Dome/Glen Aulin trailhead.

BOOK The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails, by R.J. Secor ($33,

MAP Trails Illustrated Yosemite NE ($10,

PERMITS Required; $5 up to 24 weeks in advance. Free (first-come, first-served) the day before your hike at the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center

CONTACT (209) 372-0740;


ELEVATION 12,590 feet

GAIN 4,000 feet


ROUTE South Slope via Dog Lake/Young Lakes Trail

DRIVE 4 hours