Day Hike to Cirque Peak
Ihad an extra free day and instead of doing a local California hike, because it was pretty hot, I thought I’d just drive up to Cottonwood Lakes and summit Cirque Peak and come back the same day. I was up at 4am and in 3-1/2 hours I was at the Cottonwood Pass Trailhead. The weather was perfect.
The trail gradually ascends to Cottonwood Pass, then descends to Chicken Spring Lake. I grabbed a quick snack by the lake, then got back on the trail. The trail becomes the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) at this point and skirts around Cirque Peak.
Cirque Peak Quick Facts
No permit required for day hikes
Allow 8 hours
Moderate/Hard – Class 2 Terrain and off-trail navigation
Cirque Peak elevation 12,900′
3,000 elevation gain
10 miles out and back
I left the trail about a half mile past the lake and moved straight up the mountain until I reached a high ridge. From there the peak was easily visible. I moved across increasingly steep talus for the last half mile to the summit.
I made the summit in about five hours. After enjoying the view for 20 minutes, I headed down. It took three hours to reach the trailhead, then I headed home. I was pretty tired, so the 4-hour drive home was pretty rough – but well worth it.
If you’re not accustomed to going off trail, you might want to think twice about this hike. It’s technically class 2 travel. You’ll need to use a little bit of navigation to find the trail again after your descent. If you’re by yourself or if you’re not comfortable with off-trail navigation, you might want to sit this one out. Otherwise, it is a fantastic day hike.
Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center
No permits are needed for day hikes. You can apply for an overnight permit on Recreation.gov. On your way to the trailhead, you will need to pick up your physical permit at the visitor center in Lone Pine. From there, you are ready to get on the trail.