Mount Dana: The Easiest 13er in the Sierras

Ihad a cold all week. It was probably the result of our daughter Courtney walking through the house coughing in the air as if she was trying to deliberately spread the sickness. It worked. I had to cancel all my meetings for the week and work from home. By the time I started feeling better, I was completely stir crazy.

Bec had to do homework most of the weekend, so on Friday I packed a few things and headed north up 395. I found a place to stay near Bridgeport, just past Mono Lake for $39. Can you believe it? The drive was easy and I listened to some great books. It was so nice to get out on the open road.

Mount Dana Quick Facts

  • Inside Yosemite National Park

  • Crampons and ice ax needed in winter

  • Easy Class 2

  • 3-hour day hike

  • 3,103′ of elevation gain

  • 7 miles out and back

  • Mount Dana elevation 13,061′

By the time I got to Lone Pine, the weather had gone from 80 degrees in Riverside to 40 degrees. It was clear, sunny, and breezy. It was the first time I sensed the season shift in six months. Fall was here and I soaked it all in.

I got to the Virginia Creek Settlement about 5:30pm. It was getting dark and the temperature was already dropping below 40. I checked in to a quaint little stand-alone structure that was made to look like an old shop in the wild west. It was a spartan room with no insulation, but it came with an electric space heater and a radiator heater on the wall. I loved it! I curled up in a bunch of blankets, read a book, and had a fantastic night’s sleep. I only ran the radiator and the temp dropped to 40 degrees inside, 15 outside. I could have kept it at 60 with the space heater, but after the long hot summer, being cold felt refreshing.

I curled up in a bunch of blankets, read a book, and had a fantastic night’s sleep. I only ran the radiator and the temp dropped to 40 degrees inside, 15 outside.

I got up before sunrise and headed down to Mono Lake. I saw a guy sitting on top of his semi truck, a kindred spirit, watching the sunrise from on top of his cab, drinking a cup of coffee. I couldn’t just drive past the awesome event, so I pulled over and enjoyed the sunrise myself.

I saw a guy sitting on top of his semi truck, a kindred spirit, watching the sunrise from on top of his cab, drinking a cup of coffee. I couldn’t just drive past the awesome event, so I pulled over and enjoyed the sunrise myself.

I drove a few more miles to Lee Vining where I ate breakfast at the Highway 395 diner. I had pancakes, which is a forbidden food for me, but I thought, well, what the heck? One day is not gonna hurt me. They were absolutely delicious.

From there I drove up Highway 120 toward Tioga Pass. I parked just past the entrance to Yosemite National Park and headed up toward Dana Peak from the trailhead across the street. It was 20 degrees.

The hike itself is actually quiet boring. It took me a little less than two hours to reach the summit. It’s not the most beautiful mountain; it’s more like a big pile of scree that tops out at over 13,000 feet. It is definitely the easiest 13er in the Sierras. When I reached the summit, I realized the whole valley was starting to fill with a brown haze. Another fire. I found out later this was from the tragic Paradise Fire where so many lost their lives.

I got back to the trailhead before noon and headed home. The whole Owens Valley began to fill with smoke during the drive along the Eastern Sierras. It was kind of eerie.

I listened to some great books on the way home and it didn’t seem like the five-hour drive that it was. I’m so glad that I have just developed this habit of being able to get out of town and summit a peak on the spur of the moment. I can’t wait for the next one.

Elevation Profile

Trail Map


Download GPX File

Tioga Pass Park Entrance Trailhead

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