Mt Barnard and Trojan

Notes by piero scaruffi | Travel resources | Other California destinations | California hikes
Mt Barnard (4264m) and Mt Trojan (4251m) can be hiked from the George Creek trailhead in Independence. Neither is difficult (by the standards of 4200 meter peaks) but the George Creek route has not been used in decades and whichever use-trails existed have become difficult to follow (although the bush-whacking is not even half what is advertised in famous books). Also, regular cars may not make it to the trailhead as the dirt road is very sandy.

There are two ways to reach the trailhead. The orthodox way is to drive west on Market Street/ Onyon Valley Rd in Independence and turn left onto Foothill Rd. Turn left as if you are going to the Shepherd Pass trailhead (see directions for Shepherd Pass) but at the sign for Shepherd Pass keep going straight (south) instead of turning right to go to that trailhead. After about 10 kms and two creek crossings (feasible with regular cars), you reach a fork: if you bear right, you go to the South Bairs Creek trailhead, if you go left you get to another fork. At that fork, turn right to reach the George Creek trailhead. Needless to say, it takes a lot of patience to drive all that distance on a bad unpaved unmaintained road, and chances are that something has happened to a section of the road, so you will have to drive all the way back. I personally discourage this route (unless you are a rich hiker with a 4WD vehicle).

You can also get to the same trailhead from the Manzanar National Monument. As of 2011 there was absolutely no sign to get to the George Creek trailhead. Some websites and books talk about a road that starts north of Manzanara, but that road has collapsed and has not been fixed (as of august 2011). If you are coming from Lone Pine, just north of mile 66 on highway 395 pay attention to the bridge marked as 48-14R (this is a very visible sign). If you get to Manzanar, you went too far. Just after this bridge, turn left into an unnamed exit ramp (waypoint II - see below). This immediately bends left and is paved for just one minute. You soon get to a triangle-shaped junction (waypoint HH). Turn right and (after a while) you'll get to a four-way junction (GG). Turn left and you'll drive over a bridge (announced by a big "15 Tons" sign). Turn immediately right at the colossal three-way junction (FF). There used to be a gate but you probably won't notice it. Drive to the end of this (long) road where the other gate used to be (you will be passing three roads on your right marked for Los Angeles City, but ignore them) and turn right (EE): turn right only where there is no Los Angeles sign. As soon as you turn, you will be "wading" a creek. Then you will be coasting barbed wire on your right. Turn left when you can (DD). Now you are on George Creek road or 14S03. Stay there for a long time. This is a rocky road but i have done it with a low-clearance vehicle. At the end (CC) you get to a three-way junction with a collapsing sign (the sign may have disappeared completely by the time you read this). You can only read the bottom (Onion Valley Rd) but the top used to say George Creek. Turn left (if you turn right, that's the beginning of what is known as Foothill Rd). This gets more and more sandy. Eventually you reach a point (AA) where only a 4WD vehicle can continue, but you are so close to the trailhead that it is not worth going any further. Park there and camp there. From there it's a 15-minute walk to the end of the road, which is the creek itself.

Waypoints according to my old GPS:

  • AA: 36.64063/118.24339
  • CC: 66577/22740
  • DD: 70818/15814
  • EE: 69374/15497
  • FF: 70214/13837
  • GG: 70301/13982
  • HH: 70633/12986
  • II: 70903/13116
Print this map (absolutely NOT in scale):

See also these pictures

The George Creek route has not been used much for decades because until 2011 it was illegal to hike it in the summer. The "trail" begins in the worst possible manner: it disappears right at the beginning. Stay to the right of the creek for a bit and you'll see something that looks like an old trail. Following that use-trail you will notice that the river makes a huge right bend. You can always bypass vegetation and water by climbing a bit up on the sandy bank. The creek then makes a smaller left bend. This is actually a use trail for the most part of the bend on the right (north) handside, but it's a lottery whether you will hit it. Eventually it disappears and you may get into serious jungle-style bushwhacking. After this bend, i prefer the left (southern) side where you can pick up another use trail, so cross the creek when you can after the second bend (above a little waterfall). This is what i call "the narrows" because it's probably the narrowest point of the creekbed. In the dry season athere are several spots where you can just jump to the other side. Walk up the slope a bit and, if you are lucky, you will find the use-trail, which stays mostly quite high, approximately 100 meters higher than the creek. This trail disappears in several places, but you have done the worst part: after the two bends, the bushwhacking is not that bad.

That's the classic bushwhacking route mentioned in all the ancient books. An alternative to this complicated route-finding, it to walk high up above the creek. From the trailhead you hardly need to coast the creek at all: just climb up to your right and head straight west. This is steep but you are basically taking a short cut, bypassing both bends of the George Creek. When you are almost at the top of the ridge, you should notice a wide notch. If you look down, you should see "grooves" left by people like me that went that way. Further down, where the sandy part ends, there should still be cairns to guide you. This route ends at the "narrows" mentioned earlier. The narrows are actually very easy. Then jump to the other side of the creek and you simply avoided two hours of bushwhacking.

In 30 minutes you reach a rocky outcrop with lots of wildflowers, gooseberries and logjams. This lasts about 20 minutes after which the route clears up and you get the first full views of the route ahead (no, you can't see Mt Barnard yet). The rule of thumb is to always stay 50-100 meters to the left of the creek. First you will go through some bouldering, then through a small pine forest. Always try to stay 50-100 meters to the left of the creek, but remember to climb up (the creek is coming down steeply). A tiny tributary coming from a long southern canyon does not count. Further up you will hit a bigger pine forest. Try to stay in the lower portion and you should find the use-trail (i left lots of cairns). Eventually you will hit the bigger tributary that comes down from Vacation Pass. It is easy to cross this creek if you walk up a bit and find a place where there is no vegetation. On the other side of this tributary you should see cairns that guide you to an open area (campers built a sort of little stone table there). Head up for the wall in front of you. At the top you will find yourself almost at the level of the creek.

If you are heading for Mt Williamson, this is where you want to cross the George Creek to the right side (i left cairns to mark a good spot). The location is marked more or less by a lonely tall tree and a big boulder. I call it "the jump" in my description of the Mt Williamson route because in late summer you can just jump to the other side. Once on the other side you should notice the waterfalls made by the north branch of the George Creek. You have to climb that very steep wall. Continues here for Williamson.

If, instead, you are heading for Mt Barnard and/or Trojan, stay on the left side of the George Creek and continue up its southern branch heading for the couloir:

First you have to hike through another pine forest. Now you are mostly on boulders and soft alpine terrain. You should always be able to avoid the vegetation if you move left enough. Eventually you reach the lake that is the source of the George Creek. On the other (western) side of the lake the broad couloir is right in front (west) of you. Climbing the coloir is not easy because it's sandy and slippery. Coming down takes a few minutes, going up can easily take two hours. The firmer terrain is in the creek itself (there is a tiny creek to the right created by the melting snow). At the top you reach a plateau framed by Mt Trojan (the giant pyramid to your right) and Mt Barnard (and this is the first time you see it, because it is at the very end of this plateau, right in front of you to the west). A long wall of ugly peaklets connects Barnard and Trojan. To the left as you arrive at the plateau, overlooking the glacier is an unnamed mountain.




Both Barnard and Trojan are rated class-2 but Trojan is much more difficult because of the sandy slopes. The summit that you see is not the real summit.

The traverse between the two is definitely not easy, nor short.

Barnard is much easier to climb: you can pick pretty much any direction and just scramble to the top. There is a broad chute to the right. The shorter chute to the left takes you to the first impressive views of Whitney, Kaweah, etc, and then an easy scramble takes you to the summit.

2011 (includes stops):

  • Car to trailhead (2114m): 20'
  • Trailhead to end of second bend: 2h30'
  • Logjams (southern bank) to bouldering: 3h
  • Tiny tributary from southern canyon: 4h30'
  • Big tributary: 5h30'
  • Top of wall after pine forest: 6h
  • Split with north fork: 7h
  • Lake/glacier: 7h45'
  • Plateau: 9h45'
  • Foot of Mt Barnard: 11h
  • Mt Barnard: 12h
Note that coming down takes a fraction of this.

2012 (a lot hotter):

  • Car to trailhead (2114m): 20'
  • Trailhead to notch: 1h30'
  • Narrows (end of second bend): 1h50'
  • Waterfall: 2h
  • Tiny tributary from southern canyon: 4h
  • Big tributary: 5h
  • Top of wall after pine forest: 6h
  • Split with north fork: 7h
  • Lake/glacier: 7h45'
  • Plateau: 9h45'
  • Foot of Mt Barnard: 11h
  • Left saddle: 11h45'
  • Mt Barnard: 12h15'

You can also climb Trojan from the Williamson Bowl (Shepherd Pass route to Mt Williamson). Instead of veering left to the "black stain" of Mt Williamson, veer right to ascend to Lake Helen. To the right of the lake there is a natural "ramp" that leads to the summit of Trojan Peak.

Going down the western side of Barnard is also easy, if lengthy. Beware that the Wright lakes that you see from the summit (northwest of the summit) will NOT take you to the John Muir Trail but to a closed valley. To get to the JMT, you need to descend southwest, not northwest, or go around the ridge to the west of Barnard (the Tawny Point ridge). From the JMT you can walk to Tyndall Station and then to Shepherd Pass and descend the Shepherd Pass to Independence (but that's a different trailhead from the George Creek trailhead, so you need to park a car there too).

See also: Mt Barnard from Whitney Portal which is probably not much longer.

Pictures of this hike
Mt Barnard from Whitney Portal which is probably not
View from Mt Barnard
View from Mt Trojan Peak
Mt Barnard weather