Kaiser Peak is a longer trail that is gauged toward moderate to higher fitness levels, but the key for anyone out here is having water and snacks aplenty, with protection from the sun. Five miles of hardy climbing, a killer view above the surrounding forest, and then 5 miles back down a beastly hill!
You’ll drive to the northern shore of Huntington Lake and turn onto Upper Deer Creek Lane, a snug inclined road between mountain homes. The trail head has a small parking area. It’s best to arrive early, it fills up quickly. With a short walk across a campground/horse riding area, you come to the trail head, and up you go.
It’s almost all climb for 3200 feet, with a few rolling sections that flatten out along the ridge line to remind you what a normal breath feels like and give your legs and back a small reprieve. At lower elevation, you’ll see leafy plants and tall trees in abundance. At higher elevation, thin plants stay low to the ground, revealing more brown and grey rocks and dirt. Trees are scarce and shorter near the top, and uneven rocks on the trail play treacherously with any misplaced step.
Switchbacks and foliage of lower section
View of Huntington Lake: Lower section
Scrambling up the last pokey-rocked steps to the peak, you emerge onto a cracked sitting slab. Look around and admire the Kaiser Wilderness, the Sierra National Forest and distant mountains to the north. Look over your shoulder behind you, and you can find snippets of Huntington Lake far below.
Sick view from the peak, complete with goofuses.
The descent is wild and urges your feet into a gallop if you’re not prepared. For runners, bombing downhill is fun and dangerous. Rocks embedded in the trail make for split second decisions, and the switchbacks at lower sections begin to turn tighter and the dirt becomes looser.
For hikers, control is key. The upper- and mid-sections are actually friendlier to hiking. The embedded rocks in the trail keep your eyes working, but you will appreciate the view and terrain differently than coming up. The middle section is actually wonderful to admire at a hike. The lower section begins to test your quads more and you’ll feel the tilt of the earth. But with more shade options, it’s a great opportunity to take more care and more breaks as needed, or just wanted.
Upper section of trail near peak
Once you’ve made it back down, take a dip in Huntington Lake (it’s cold!) and, if you’re headed by Shaver Lake on your way out, stop by the Hungry Hut or Shaver Lake Pizza for some recovery food. Kaiser Peak is a gorgeous place to escape to, to lay down hard work with a fantastic payoff at the top.
My watch measured 10.4 miles for the whole trip up and down, but other GPS’s got closer to 10.8 miles
Running Time Estimate:
3 to 4 hours
Hiking Time Estimate:
6 to 7 hours total
approx. 3200 ft
Yes. At lower sections of trail there’s decent tree coverage, but upper sections are open and exposed to lots of sun.