At 14,495 feet Mount Whitney is the high point of the lower forty-eight states and the goal of many. If you didn’t get your permit application for the main trail in by February, or don’t want to attempt a more technical ascent up the Mountaineers Route, this on-trail option may be for you.
The route from Cottonwood crosses over the Sierra Crest at Cottonwood Pass, eventually drops west to the Kern River and then loops east to Guitar Lake below the western slopes of the peak. From here we climb to Trail Crest where we meet those coming up from the Whitney Portal.
We like this route for a number of reasons:
- It is beautiful with high alpine lakes and expansive views.
- There are far fewer people than on the regular Whitney Trail.
- This route offers a fine hike in its own right and the summit as a bonus.
- We utilize the services of Cottonwood Pack Station to carry equipment while we hike with a day-pack making for a truly relaxing trip. This also enables us to take along a few extra luxuries and make a complete vacation
Yes, it does take a little longer to climb this way, but then we believe that it is the journey that is important rather than the goal and this offers a very fine journey indeed.
For maps look at the Mt. Whitney, Mt. Langley and Cirque Peak 7.5 minute maps.
We highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000’) just prior to the trip. 80% of our unsuccessful attempts fail due to problems with altitude. (And the balance due to weather). We suggest camping at the Cottonwood campground the night before the trip. This is at nearly 10,000 feet of elevation and definitely gives you an edge on acclimatization and in letting the body adapt to the elevation. Cottonwood Lakes offers a walk-in campground (100’ from your car) and reservations are not necessary here.
Bears are a problem at the Cottonwood Trailhead. Do not leave food, scented items (deodorant, soap etc.) in your vehicle. There is limited food locker storage so do not bring extra items with you to the trailhead. Clean up all trash prior to your trip. Failure to take precautions can cause the vehicle to be ripped apart by a bear and the added insult of a fine from the Forest Service. If possible, please car pool up to the trailhead, leaving unnecessary vehicles at the Forest Service Offices in Lone Pine.
We have GPSed as accurately as we can the route so you know what you are getting into.
|Day Out||Destination||Mileage||Elevation Gain||Hiking Time|
|Day 1||Chicken Springs Lake||5.3 miles||1405||3 hours 35 minutes|
|Day 2||Rock Creek Crossing||10.5 miles||620||6 hours 43 minutes|
|Day 3||Guitar Lake||10.3 miles||2985||7 hours 10 minutes|
|Day 4||Mount Whitney then back to Crabtree Meadows||14.4 miles||3405||12 hours 5 minutes|
|Day 5||Rock Creek Lake||11.3 miles||2020||7 hours 10 minutes|
|Day 6||back to pack station||11.4 miles||1435||7 hours|
Getting to the top of Whitney: 32.2 miles
Total 63.2 miles Total Elevation Gain 11,870