Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
Mount Whitney is the most frequently climbed peak in the Sierra Nevada, if not in the United States. Because of this, the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service—who manage the Whitney Portal Trailhead —have implemented a permit system to minimize the impact of day hikers on the Mount Whitney backcountry. All hikers entering the Mount Whitney zone, including day hikers, are required to obtain a permit.
Mount Whitney can be most directly reached by a 10.7-mile (17.1-km) trail from Whitney Portal, 13 miles (21 km) west of the town of Lone Pine on the east side of the Sierras. Ice axes and crampons are needed in spring and early summer, but technical climbing equipment is not usually necessary between mid-July and early October. The elevation at the trailhead is 8,360 feet (2,550 meters). The elevation at the summit is 14,495 feet (4,417 meters). Permits for this trailhead must be obtained through the Inyo National Forest.
There are other routes besides Whitney Portal from which to reach Mount Whitney. These leave from less heavily used trailheads but require a longer hike to reach the summit. The High Sierra Trail leaves from Giant Forest on the west side of Sequoia National Park and takes a minimum of six days (shuttle trip) or ten days (round-trip) to complete. The Sequoia Natural History Association's bookstore offers books and maps for planning hikes to Mount Whitney and elsewhere in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon areas. Remember, backcountry permits are required for all overnight travel in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Peak bagging isn't the area's only draw for climbers. Sequoia and Kings Canyon boast Yosemite-quality rock, with one major difference: a virtually nonexistent climbing scene. If you're into first ascents, there's still plenty of rock to be conquered. And bolted routes range from 5.5 to the plus side of 5.11.
Look for Kings Canyon climbs in the Cedar Grove region, mostly along Bubbs Creek. You'll find Charlito Dome and Charlotte Dome on the left side of the Bubbs Creek Trail, just before it crosses Charlotte Creek. It's a long hike in, but the multi-pitch possibilities are worth the haul.
The easiest site to access in Sequoia is Moro Rock, just off the Generals Highway near Giant Forest . The west face offers 1,000 vertical feet of cracks and knobs. For a more remote climb, hike the High Sierra Trail to Angel Wings—at about 2,000 feet, this is the park's biggest wall. It's an 18-mile hike from Crescent Meadow.
From the big walls to the bolted sport climbs, it's easy to see why Sequoia & Kings Canyon are included in the list of best national parks for rock climbing.
Other Sequoia Highlights: Little Baldy and the quartzite Hospital Rock, both off the Generals Highway. Ice climbers can head for the watchtower by hiking to the end of the Tokopah Falls Trail, which starts just outside the Lodgepole Campground, finishing high over the Kaweah River.
The park doesn't sell any climbing gear or guides, so come prepared. The book to buy is Southern Sierra Rock Climbing: Sequoia Kings Canyon by Sally Moser, Greg Vernon, and David Hickey. Pick up any gear you need in Bakersfield or Fresno.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication