Mt Brewer

Notes by piero scaruffi | Travel resources | Other California destinations | California hikes
Mt Brewer (4136m) is located in Kings Canyon Park.
There are two main hiking routes to Mt Brewer. The western route is via the Sphinx trail. The trailhead is at the end of Roads End (dead end of highway 180). This cross-country hike leads to the Sphinx Lakes. Above the last Sphinx lake one reaches Sphinx Pass. From Sphinx Pass one has a clear view of Mt Brewer, the conical mountain. As the condor flies, Mt Brewer's summit is only 1.5 kms from Sphinx Pass, but there is a barrier right between the two. Best is to climb halfway the barrier without losing too much altitude from Sphinx Pass, contouring around it and then heading up the valley to the northwestern face of Brewer.

The approach to Mt Brewer is via the northwestern face, very visible all the time. The snow in the middle can be usually avoided by climbing the left ridge of the face. The top of this northwestern face is actually not the real summit. The real summit will be on your left. There is usually a snow patch under it. Usually, one downclimbs a bit on the southern side and then traverses left/east until you can safely ascend the real summit.

The eastern route, instead, is via the East Lake trail.

The eastern ridge of Mt Brewer is clearly visible from the eastern side of the lake. Once you cross the lake, it briefly disappears, but an easy reference point is the second creek (counting from north to south): Ouzel Creek. This creek descends from the left (southern) side of Brewer. From East Lake follow the second western creek (Ouzel creek) upriver for 1km. Make sure you can see the creek at all times. After about 1km you will notice a split. Follow the northern (right) branch briefly. Cross it and you have a choice: 1. You can climb the vertical wall in front of you, or 2. you can climb the much gentler slope to the north of it. Both lead to the eastern ridge of Mt Brewer. The second one is probably faster even if slightly longer. WHichever way you start, you have to climb the four "storeys" of the ridge until you reach the summit plateau. The grade is not terrifying, and Once at the plateau, one has to figure out a strategy to reach the top. Note that the summit you see from the plateau is a false summit (the real summit is now hidden behind it). If one follows the very northern edge of the plateau, a point is reached where one can zigzag to almost the top of the false summit that is visible from the plateau. This is mostly class-3 climbing. Do not attempt to reach the top of this false summit (as it is a "false" summit). Just try to get on the other side. Once on the other side, you will see the real summit, a round mound sitting on top of a vertical wall of boulders and snow. This last short ascent is not fun. As the condor flies, it is 5kms from East Lake to the summit of Mt Brewer.

From the summit one can clearly see the two lakes (the unnamed lake between South Guard and Brewer and Lake Brewer to the west of Brewer) as well as Sphinx Pass (the lowest point north of the Brewer basin).

Descending the northwestern face of Brewer is relatively easy, even if from the summit it looks vertical. Once at the bottom of the northwestern gulch, one has to head west, in the direction of Lake Brewer. Reach the base of Sphinx Pass, climb Sphinx Pass (a mere 100m of elevation gain). If it is the right pass, you will see the first 2 or 3 lakes from the pass. Head down into the gulch of these lakes. See this description to reach the Avalanche Pass trail and then Roads End.

Milestones/ eastern route (and 2007 time):

  • Roads End (1534m) to Sphinx Creek junction (1914m): 6.5 kms, 1.5 hours
  • Sphinx Creek junction (1914m) to Charlotte Meadow (2200m): 12 kms, 3.5h
  • Junction Meadow/ East Creek crossing (2490m): 18.5 kms, 4h45'
  • East Lake (2886m): 21.5 kms, 6h45'
  • Ouzel Creek: 7h15'
  • Split of Ouzel Creek, base of Eastern Ridge 9h15'
  • Top of first storey of Eastern Ridge: 10h15'
  • Top of second storey of Eastern Ridge: 10h45'
  • Top of third storey of Eastern Ridge (summit plateau): 11h15'
  • False summit: 12h15'
  • Summit of Mt Brewer (4136m): 36 kms, 12h45'
Descending/ western route:
  • Base of Mt Brewer's northwestern face (16km): 1h15'
  • Sphinx Pass (18.5km, 3657m): 2.5h
  • Sphinx 5 (19.5km, 3338m): 3h
  • Sphinx 3 & 4 (21km, 3214m): 3.5h
  • Sphinx 2 (3108m): 4h
  • Sphinx 1 (2956m): 4.5h
  • Meadow: 5h
  • Avalanche Pass trail (28kms, 2600m): 5.5h
  • Bubbs Creek trail (32kms, 1914m): 7h
  • Roads End (38.5kms, 1534m): 8.5h
Ascending/ western route (2018):
  • Roads End (1534m)
  • Avalanche Pass trail - bridge: 1h45'
  • Sphinx Creek crossing: 3h30'
  • Meadow: 4h30'
  • Sphinx 1 (2956m): 5h
  • Sphinx 2 (3108m): 5h30'
  • Sphinx 3 & 4 (3214m): 6h
  • Sphinx 5 (3338m): 6h30'
  • Sphinx Pass (3657m): 8h
  • Base of Mt Brewer's northwestern face: 10h
  • Summit: 12h
Pictures of this hike
View from the top of Mt Brewer, Kings Canyon National Park (video)
Other Kings Canyon hikes
Kings Canyon Park
Weather forecast
Cedars Grove ranger station closes at 4pm and it's open only in summer (2009). Grant Grove visitor center (180 entrance): open 8am-6pm in summer, 5km east on 180 from the Big Stump Entrance Station.

Brewer and North Guard from the Sphinx Lakes

Loop to Sphinx Lakes and East Lake

Ascending Mt Brewer from East Lake

Descendig Mt Brewer towards Sphinx Pass