Place Name: Placer County
Place Description: State: California
Elevation: 8,971 Feet
Prominence: 331 Feet
Elevation Gain: 4,854 Feet
Lists: Tahoe-Ogul, Western States Climbers
An Excellent 3 Peak Traverse In The Granite Chief Wilderness
Three Oguls – Granite Chief, Needle Peak, and Lyon Peak – are available from Squaw Valley and offer a challenging hike.
- Well marked trail
- Nice views
- Part of a 3 peak traverse
- Busy trail
- Ski resort equipment
- Can get really hot
Three peaks in a day? Three Ogul Peaks in a day? Sign me up!
Lying on a ridge in the Granite Chief Wilderness, Granite Chief, Needle Peak, and Lyon Peak make for a great day hike. Half of the hike is on trail, half is off, and there is a light class 3 scramble in the middle. What better way to spend a day!
Reaching this three peak traverse is very easy. Just drive south of Truckee on Highway 89 and turn off towards Squaw Valley Ski Resort. The giant parking lot by Squaw Village offers ample places to park. You will then have to walk a bit up the road towards the trailhead.
The Granite Chief Trail leads from the village at Squaw Valley up to the Pacific Crest Trail. This part of the trail follows a creek for awhile and climbs through forests and meadows before finally hitting the PCT.
Hiking this trail never felt overly difficult. However, the long return in the 90-degree heat was rough.
Once the PCT is met, turn left and heads towards Granite Chief. A nice meadow will be passed and hiking under the ski chairs. Follow a small use trail up to the summit of Granite Chief.
Keep in mind, this section can be bypassed by riding the aerial tram up over 1,000 feet.
Granite Chief is the big peak in the area and is nice chunk of, well, granite. This area is right around a ski lift and a little use trail breaks off to the right of the PCT and heads up the peak.
Although the views from Granite Chief are very nice, the best is still yet to come. Looking to the west, you can see the traverse laid out in front of you. To the north, Tinker Knob is the next closest Ogul.
There are large boulders on the west side of the summit and you will have to descend through these to get down to the ridge before heading to Needle Peak.
Next up is Needle Peak. You can see the volcanic plug sitting in the middle of the ridge. After dropping through the boulders on the backside of Granite Chief the ridge is obtained. Regardless, the minor bump and some obstacles make for some fun class 2 action.
In this area, some class 2/3 climbing is needed to climb up and back onto the ridge above Needle Lake. However, another large volcanic plateau rises up in and you will need to skirt around to the right of it.
After that, the base of Needle Peak is right before you. Although this side is imposing, walking around to the west side a weakness to obtain the summit is found. Some light, non-exposed class 3 will take you right up to the top.
Lyon Peak is the third peak on this route and lies at the west end of the ridge. Traversing from Needle Peak to Lyon Peak is easy enough as you side hill a minor bump and then start up towards the summit.
Although the summit of Lyon Peak is rocky, it only requires climbing over some easy talus on the ridge. The view looking back towards Granite Chief is quite nice as well as the views in every direction.
Once you are done on the summit, it’s time to do everything in reverse minus the climb back up Needle Peak.
The Final Word
Despite my experience on this hike being very hot weather, I really enjoyed my day. It’s not often that three Ogul peaks can be tackled in one shot. During the summer, the mileage can be cut down by riding the tram up and down from Squaw Valley. If not, it turns out to be a very large day.
Once done with the hike, there are plenty of options for food available at the village.