IN THE 209 BACKYARD Plenty of fun for ‘peak freaks’ within 3 hours
Mt. Dana, Sonora Peak easiest lofty 209 goals to access
I admit I’m a peak freak. If there is a peak above 3,000 feet that I can do within a three-hour or so drive from Manteca I’m on it.
And by hiking I mean walkable with maybe some rock scrambling and on a rare occasion an excursion that includes a very small stretch that slightly pushes the limit towards needing rock climbing skills.
I have two “go to” peaks that I’ve now tackled five times each in the past seven years – Sonora Peak and Mt. Dana. Both are within the 209. Both have easy to reach trailheads right off a state highway. Both have clear trails. Both offer commanding views. Both are right around three hours from Manteca. And both are doable for most people.
I revisited Mt. Dana earlier this month. At 13,045 feet it’s the second highest peak in Yosemite National Park topped only by Mt. Lyell some 66 feet higher.
It is also the easiest peak over 13,000 feet to access in California.
All you have to do is get on Highway 120 and head east on 120 until you reach the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park at Tioga Pass. Keep in mind there is a $35 entrance fee to the national park that’s good for seven days. You can also get a 12-month Yosemite pass for $70 or an annual national park pass for $80 if you plan on being a frequent visitor.
The 4.8-mile round trip trail starts on the south side of the road at 9,624 feet. It goes through meadows and forests populated with small lakes (about half have dried up
PHOTO ACROSS THE TOP: Looking north toward Tioga Pass and Highway 120 from Mt. Dana’s 13,045-foot summit in the spring of 2016. TOP PHOTO: Dennis Wyatt on the top of Mt. Dana in July of 2015 with Mono Lake behind him. BOTTOM LEFT PHOTO: A retired couple making their way up the final 1,000 feet on their way to Mt. Dana earlier this month. BOTTOM RIGHT PHOTO: A hiker almost at the top of Mt. Dana during July of 2017.