San Joaquin Mountain
Place Name: Mono County
Place Description: State: California
Elevation: 11,549 Feet
Prominence: 1,674 Feet
Elevation Gain: 2,431 Feet
Lists: Sierra Clubs Peaks Section, Western States Climbers, Wilderness High Point, Vagmarken
A Fun & Easy Ridge Walk
San Joaquin Mountain is the high point in the Owens River Headwaters Wilderness and is reached by walking a long class 1 ridgeline to its summit. The hike is very easy and a great trail for beginners, offering exceptional views of the Ritter Range and Ansel Adams Wilderness.
- Very nice trail
- Nice views
- Chance to bag some bonus peaks
- Long road walk without 4×4
- Exposed to sun
- Possible OHV traffic on weekends
With all of the recreational opportunities in the Mammoth Lakes and June Lake area, it’s very easy to overlook places.
One of those places is San Joaquin Mountain. This 11,549 foot peak lies along the Vagmarken Crest just across from the beautiful Ritter Range.
Unlike its technical neighbors across the way, San Joaquin Mountain is an easy ridge walk with amazing views.
From Mammoth Lakes, head past Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort and up to Minaret Vista. Just before reaching the entrance gate to Devils Postpile, turn right onto a signed Forest road.
If you don’t have 4×4, you will need to park at the Minaret Vista Parking Lot and start your hike there.
With 4×4, you can drive this road to the very end at the top of Peak 10242. This road is about 2 miles long and has a rough spot less than a 1/2 mile in. With some creative driving, I was able to get around this spot and continue on.
There are a few rocky spots, however, the road is mostly smooth all the way to the end.
The hike starts at the summit of Peak 10242 and immediately drops about 250 feet into Deadman Pass before climbing up the other side.
There is a nice and well worn trail all the way to the summit. Following along you will go over one other minor bump before making it to another peak called Two Teats around 3 miles in.
Two Teats is also a Vagmarken List peak and has two summits. The west summit requires a short class 3 scramble. The higher and official peak sits at the edge of a cliff and is an easy walk up.
After tagging Two Teats, the route to San Joaquin Mountain is completely laid out before you about 3/4 of a mile away.
The final ridge walk has a couple rocky spots, although they never exceed a class 1 hike. Follow the trail to the summit and soak in some amazing views.
The Minarets, Banner, And Ritter sit straight across from the summit and look beautiful. Below those peaks are multiple lakes that dot the Ansel Adams Wilderness.
Looking the other way, the June Lake area is close by and beyond that, Mono Lake and the Sweetwater Range with Mount Patterson in view. Mount Grant in Nevada is also in sight.
The return trip was simple. Just follow the way you came.
The Final Word
San Joaquin Mountain is a hidden gem and the high point of a little known wilderness called the Owens River Headwaters Wilderness.
This hike is very easy, however, without a 4×4, you will need to hike an extra 2 miles each way making this a much longer outing.
If you are chasing multiple peak lists, San Joaquin Mountain sits on many major ones making it a must have summit!