Mount Bago: A Humble Mountain with Big Views

It had been a while since Wes and I had bagged a Sierra peak together, so I thought I’d choose an easy one. Mount Bago seemed to fit the bill since it wasn’t that high in elevation and we could get to it in a day hike.

I picked Wes up and we made it to Lone Pine in time for dinner–Chinese food. Believe it or not, the Chinese restaurant in Lone Pine is fantastic. Who would have thought?

Onion Valley was booked up so I got a campsite at Greys Campground down the hill about 10 minutes from the trailhead. We sat around the fire until almost 10pm, then went to bed. It was a clear night, so we slept cowboy style with no tent.

Mount Bago Quick Facts

  • Permit not required for day hikes

  • Allow 8-10 hours

  • Strenuous + off-trail navigation

  • Mount Bago elevation 11,870′

  • 5400′ of elevation gain

  • ~17 miles

  • Access from Onion Valley via Kearsarge Pass

After some coffee and cold Pop Tarts, we threw our gear in the car and got on the trailhead by 6:30am, just as the sun was coming up. Getting to Kearsarge Pass was pretty easy and so was the descent toward Charlotte Lake, which was our point of departure to leave the trail and head cross-country toward the Mount Bago summit.

After a snack break, we headed up uneven forested terrain toward the summit ridge. I don’t know why, but I often get more fatigued when I am off-trail, trudging my way up through the forest. You can’t see where you are and it’s hard to tell if you are making any progress.

Wes and I both felt ourselves being bled of energy during this section. When we finally came out of the tree line and saw the summit ridge, we both needed an extra dose of Cliff Bar caffeine blocks to get our motivation where it needed to be.

…we both needed an extra dose of Cliff Bar caffeine blocks to get our motivation where it needed to be.

There’s no trail to the summit, just a loose ridge line of talus and scree. After 40 minutes of slogging up the steep ridge, we found ourselves on the summit. For where the mountain is situated, I expected the views to be incredible–and they were. Absolutely stunning.

Mount Bago is not the tallest mountain, but it is in the middle of four passes and two major drainages, including Bubbs Creek where it empties into Kings River. Looking toward Kings Canyon, Charlotte Dome, a 1500-foot granite monolith, is clearly visible. The weather was perfect–cool temps and cobalt blue skies. I took some photos and a panorama before we headed back.

We surfed the scree down the face of the mountain rather than hiking back along the summit ridge. This saved a lot of time and energy.

We surfed the scree down the face of the mountain rather than hiking back along the summit ridge. This saved a lot of time and energy. Then we muddled our way cross-country until we found the trail again and headed back up to Kearsarge Pass. This was the toughest part of the day–uphill for three and a half miles.

Once we got to Kearsarge Pass, we had a snack and got our strength back for the last three and a half miles of descent to the trailhead. We made it to the car 11 hours after we had left. It took a can of Red Bull each to keep us awake on the drive home.

The next morning I crossed another peak off my list. It’s a really big list. I am going to have to live to 100 to do it all. So much adventure to be had and so little time.

Trail Map

Elevation Profile

Weather Forecasts