Sierra Nevada summits: Leavitt Peak

Trip summary:
11 miles (round trip)
Total elevation gain: 2,800′
Max elevation: 11,572′
Trailhead: Sonora Pass
Time: 5h 45m (lunch break and photo ops included)

I love hiking peaks. I never pass up an opportunity to nab a prominent or interesting peak when it presents itself. That said, when I was due to cross the Sierra Nevada on a road trip from Santa Cruz to Mammoth Lakes, I was scanning the peaks on satellite imagery to pick one that looked feasible to quickly hike on the way.

The typical route from Santa Cruz to the Eastern Sierra would be over the Tioga Pass, which winds through Yosemite National Park. However, due to the restricted entry into the park, we were forced to use the longer route roughly 30 miles to the north, Sonora Pass. Despite a bit more driving, it actually was a nice change of scenery to explore a new area of the mountains that I had never been to in the summer months. I had only been to the area during the winter to snowboard.

After some investigating on Google Maps, I keyed in on Leavitt Peak, a 11,500-foot flat-topped mountain just 5.5 miles off the road from Sonora Pass. Leavitt Peak checked all the boxes in that we could get there relatively quick, it is the highest peak in the immediate area to provide ideal panoramic views, and it included a great variety of scenery ranging from alpine lakes, volcanic formations and meandering streams.

Leavitt was a great warm up and acclimating trek for our upcoming backpacking trip in the Sierra. It was invigorating to feast my eyes on new mountains and let my mind run wild with the future possibilities for when I go back.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking for this trip:

Camping at Sonora Pass, California.
We set up camp near the parking lot at Sonora Pass — a free and legal place to camp with no facilities.
Slendertube Skyrocket Flowers Sonora Pass.
Bright pink Slendertube Skyrocket flowers colored the rocky slopes of Sonora Pass.
Camping at Sonora Pass, California.
We climbed up to a hill a short distance north of our camp to catch the sunset and a glimpse of Comet Neowise.
Camping at Sonora Pass, California.
Sunset looking east over the Sierra.
Camping at Sonora Pass, California.
Taking some time to enjoy the view of the Milky Way at night.
Camping at Sonora Pass, California.
We got up bright and early the next morning and hit the trail to Leavitt Peak.
Hiking Leavitt Peak, Sierra Nevada, California.
The route starts out on the Pacific Crest Trail with a steep climb up some very drawn out switchbacks.
Cushion Buckwheat flower.
Cushion Buckwheat flowers on the trail.
Hiking Leavitt Peak, Sierra Nevada, California.
Once you finish the initial climb the trail flattens for a mile or so and Leavitt Peak (left) comes into view.
Western Blue Flax flower Sierra Nevada.
More flowers: Western Blue Flax.
Hiking Leavitt Peak, Sierra Nevada, California near Latopie Lake.
The trail skirts around to the east side of Leavitt, descending and ascending over a few minor ridge passes. As you round a corner, Latopie Lake comes into view. The fact that only one tent was set up at this lake on a Saturday morning was pretty amazing. I might have to come back here for an overnight trip.
Hiking Leavitt Peak, Sierra Nevada, California.
Only smiles allowed while hiking.
Hiking Leavitt Peak, Sierra Nevada, California.
Once you reach the ridge up to Leavitt Peak, you exit the Pacific Crest Trail and follow a fainter path to the peak.
Hiking Leavitt Peak, Sierra Nevada, California.
Lunch time on the peak.
Hiking Leavitt Peak, Sierra Nevada, California.
I spent quite a while admiring these volcanic sediment layers on the northeastern flank of Leavitt. The Sierra Nevada has such a wide range of geologic features. It never gets old.
Hiking Leavitt Peak, Sierra Nevada, California.
Looking to the north down in the Sonora Pass gorge. I like to imagine the route that water takes while standing on a mountain divide. Water that falls in this canyon in the photo is quickly whisked away to the San Francisco Bay, while water falling just on the east side of the pass finds its way into the drain-less, salty lakes of the Great Basin. Two drastically different fates for a raindrop that can be determined by inches.
Hiking Leavitt Peak, Sierra Nevada, California.
View south towards Yosemite National Park.
Hiking Leavitt Peak, Sierra Nevada, California.
The mountains tell stories for those that know how to read them. Looong ago volcanoes erupted and lava flowed through these lands.
Hiking Leavitt Peak, Sierra Nevada, California.
Descending to get back on the road.
Hiking Leavitt Peak, Sierra Nevada, California.
A few sections were lush with Alpine Gold Sunflower.
Hiking Leavitt Peak, Sierra Nevada, California.
We had to bring our backpacking packs, and not smaller day packs, because the trailhead doesn’t have any bear boxes, which means that we had to carry ALL our food for the entire trip on this hike. Funny enough, the Subaru parked next to us had grocery bags of food left in the trunk. We, of course, chose to do it the right way and not risk any bears finding our food.
Hiking Leavitt Peak, Sierra Nevada, California.
One last goodbye to Leavitt before we dipped below the ridge.
Hiking Leavitt Peak, Sierra Nevada, California.
A great warm up hike for what we had in store in Mammoth.
June Lake swimming.
Pitstop at June Lake to get the grime off and enjoy the beach. (This photo does a great job of hiding the hundreds of loud, obnoxious people lining the lake’s shore.)

2 thoughts

  1. My daughter Lhotse also lives nearby. We last saw you when? No idea. Maybe 86 or 87 if you were born then. She graduated from UCSC in 93. Your day came to her party. But I do y remember you and your brother except when you were born.

    Like

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