7 Scenic Sierra Summits

Jul 14, 2021

Standing on top of just about any mountaintop in the Sierra Nevada is sure to provide a scenic view—an ocean-like expanse of peaks as far as the eye can see. The range is home to 10 mountains taller than 14,000 feet including the highest in the Lower 48 and more than 100 peaks reach 13,000 feet. From hike-up mountaintops to technical climbing, and gondola rides, there is no shortage of scenic summits in the Eastern Sierra.

Like any adventure in the wilderness, mountain climbing is inherently dangerous. Know the risks before you head out, hike with a partner, and familiarize yourself with the route. This is not intended to be a climbing guide, but inspiration to see the world from higher ground. For a more indepth look at the mountains in this region, check out The High Sierra Peaks, Passes, and Trailsa guide book dedicated to exploring the backcountry here. Want to talk to an expert or upgrade your gear? Mammoth Mountaineering Supply and Kittredge Sports are great local shops. Or, if you’re new to the sport, consider a guided trip with California Alpine Guides.

Mount Whitney at 14,495 feet

Mount Whitney is not only the tallest peak in the Sierra Nevada, but also the highest peak in the contiguous United States. The summit is the most popular of any peak in the region to hike or climb and requires a permit. From the trailhead, it is 11 miles to the top along the trail, but some opt for the challenging and more direct Class 3 Mountaineer’s Route. Whichever way you decide to go, take your time and enjoy the view.

Mount Sill at 14,153 feet

Located in the Palisades region, Mount Sill is one of the tallest peaks in the Sierra Nevada. But more than just being high, Sill has one of the best views in the range. From the summit, you’ll be standing high above the Palisade Glacier and looking out at the largest grouping of 14,000-foot peaks in the Sierra Nevada. Even with Class 2 and Class 3 route options to the summit, this mountain is no joke. To summit, you’ll need mountaineering and route finding skills or a guide.

Charlotte Dome at 10,690 feet

This beautiful granite dome juts up from the Charlotte Creek in Kings Canyon National Park. From a distance, it looks like a majestic wall reaching for the sky. The South Face (5.8, 12 pitches) is considered one of the classic climbing routes in North America and should be on every climbers’ tick list. With cracks, slots, and furrows, the climbing is beautiful and fun. And the view from the top is not so bad either. Plan a 2-3 day adventure, invite great friends, and bring a smile.

Mount Morgan South at 13,748 feet

Perhaps one of the easiest tall mountains to get to, Mount Morgan South is located in the Rock Creek region just south of Mammoth. With a trailhead elevation of nearly 10,000 feet, the ascent is relatively moderate compared to other peaks mentioned here. But you’ll still need a full day of energy to hike up the trail and boulder hop to the summit. The best route is the Class 1 Northeast Face from Francis Lake. Views of the Little Lakes Valley below are fantastic and you’ll be looking out at Bear Creek Spire, Mount Dade, and Mount Abbott.

Mammoth Mountain at 11,053 feet

It might seem obvious to recommend standing on Mammoth Mountain, but with a gondola ride to the top, there is no reason to miss this summit. An interpretive center at the top points out the surrounding peaks and elevations and also offers a geologic history of the area. Ride the gondola back down, or take one of the hiking trails for some exercise. The Mammoth Mountain Trail takes you back to the Main Lodge. Or choose the Dragon’s Back Trail that winds from the summit to the Lakes Basin area.

Mount Ritter at 13,157 feet

If you’ve stood on top of Mammoth then you’ve most likely noticed Mount Ritter in the distance. At 13,157 feet, it’s the highest peak in its namesake range and one of the most recognizable peaks near Mammoth, but it’s no easy feat. A summit bid requires at least two days, a lot of determination, and route finding skills. The popular route is the Class 3 Southeast glacier that you can see from Mammoth.

Matterhorn Peak at 12,264 feet

Just north of Mammoth in the Bridgeport region, Matterhorn Peak is a quintessential Sierra summit. The Class 3 East Couloir lures hikers to follow in the footsteps of the characters in Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums. Matterhorn is the tallest peak in the jagged Sawtooth Range. From the summit, you’ll have a fantastic vantage point of northern Yosemite National Park.


Monica Prelle

Monica Prelle is an outdoors, wine, and travel writer who would rather be running, climbing, or mountain biking. See more of Monica's posts here, read more of her work at monicaprelle.com and connect on twitter @monicaprelle

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