Mt Ericsson, Kings-Kern Divide

Notes by piero scaruffi | Other California destinations | California hikes

Roads End to the Kings-Kern Divide

The Kings-Kern Divide is a steep ridge that separates the birthplace of the Kern River (an idyllic group of lakes) and one of the birthplaces of the Kings River (Lake Reflection). Its eastern peak is Mt Stanford, its western peak is Thunder Mountain

In between there are three major peaks: Mt Jordan, Mt Mt Genevra (3979m), and Mt Ericsson (4140m). In between there are also four ways to cross the divide: Milly's Pass (3730m), the Weyman chute (3852m), Lucy's Pass (3780m), and Harrison Pass (3880m).

From the south the Kings-Kern Divide can be easily reached via the class-2 slopes of Milly's Pass, Lucy's Pass and Harrison's Pass. However, from the north all of these passes are much tougher. Alas, the natural approach to the Kings-Kern Divide is from the north, either from Roads End or Onion Valley, via East Lake and Lake Reflection (3057m).

  1. Milly's Pass (3730m), the lowest point in the Kings-Kern Divide, is located at the very southern tip of the canyon past Lake Reflection. It is class 2 on both sides. This pass is ideal if you are aiming for Mt Genevra or the Kern drainage.As your are hiking uphill, Milly's Pass is visible from East Lake to the left of Mt Genevra, but hard to see once you get closer to Reflection Lake. The route is intuitive though: get to Reflection Lake and head up the slopes to the left of Mt Genevra in the general southeastern direction.

    Milly's Pass from the southeast:

    Milly's Pass from East Lake:

  2. The Weyman chute (3852m), which i named after photographer Fred Weyman who first told me about it, is the broadest chute from the northern side of Lake Reflection (or, at least, the one that looks like it is the broadest when you arrive at Lake Reflection from East Lake). Follow the creek coming down from Milly's Pass to a plateau and then it should be obvious. There are many chutes climbing to the southeast and most of them dead-end on the "crags". The correct one is the broadest (anything that heads east is not the one). This is a class 2-3 chute that is broad enough to allow you to pick the route that feels more comfortable to you. (I cut through the ridge the moment i reach the lake and then enter the chute further up but this could be confusing). If you are coming from the south, instead, the top of this chute is all the way west/left from Lucy's Pass (from Mt Ericsson), just after the ridge begins to turn left/south. There should still be a huge cairn to mark this chute.

    Weyman's chute from Lake Reflection:

    The "screwdriver" rock can help identify Weyman's chute:

    Weyman's chute from the ridge:

    Weyman's chute and Lucy's Pass from Mt Ericsson:

  3. Lucy's Pass (3780m) is easy and gentle from the south, but it is virtually impassable from the north side. There is snow and ice for most of the year. When the snow is gone, the slope is steep class 3 and the scree is deadly. The very top is borderline class 4.

    Lucy's Pass from the northern moraine:

    Lucy's Pass:

  4. Harrison Pass (3880m), straight north of Lake South America, is often used as an access route to Mt Stanford via Gregory's Monument, which i personally think is a really bad idea (Stanford can more easily be climbed from the southeast face, from the north ridge or from the west face). It is easy and gentle from the south (a trail in theory exists from Lake South America, although only faint traces can still be found), but, again, rather deadly from the north, especially at the top.

    Harrison's Pass from the north:

    Harrison Pass and Mt Ericsson from Mt Stanford:

    Harrison Pass from the Great Western Divide:

The distance from Roads End to Reflection Lake is about 23kms. The trail is well-maintained to East Lake (but read about crossing the creek here) and marked with cairns beyond that.

If you are heading for Lucy's Pass or Harrison's Pass (despite what i just wrote), best is to leave the trail about 30 minutes south of East Lake and just before the tributary that comes down from the eastern peaks. This tributary causes a number of small crossings on the trail between East Lake and Reflection Lake. Shortly before this watery part, the trail requires 50 meters of bouldering. You are best off leaving the trail exactly before the bouldering section. Leaving the trail just before this bouldering/watery part (about 2 kms before Reflection Lake), one climbs up a steep slope to the left. If you are lucky, you will hit a use trail (which may or may not be the old unmaintained trail) that will make your life easier. More and more cairns mark the route as you climb up the steep switchbacks of this use-trail. If you can't find it, just coast the creek to the north and you'll get to the oblong lake from which it flows, Lake Jimi Hendrix. Coast Lake Jimi Hendrix to the left/north (you may find a sort of natural "road", a wide flat path) heading southeast. There is a tiny lake above to the left. Ideally you want to head for the land between the two lakes.

If you picked the right route, you'll enter the moraine of Lucy's Pass above the oblong lake at a vantage point. Now cross the creek that comes down from the east and turn right (south) into the moraine that heads to the wall of Lucy's Pass. A series of hilly formations lead gradually to the wall, but the wall is really what it appears to be: a hellish class-3 climb on extremely slippery and loose rocks. On the way down this "pass" can be fatal, especially if you have a huge backpack.

The direction of Lucy's Pass from the Reflection lake trail:

Stay between the two lakes:

For Harrison Pass, don't cross the eastern creek (don't cross the creek and don't enter the Lucy's Pass moraine) and just continue east following the creek upstream. The terrain will get easier. Head east and you'll be facing the massive western face of Mt Deerhorn. After passing between two large lakes, Deerhorn 1 and Deerhorn 2, the route turns south towards Harrison Pass. You still don't see the pass because there is a colossal wall in front of you with rapids in the middle. Once you reach the top of this wall, you are at the twin lakes, the glacier of Mt Stanford. As you look south, Stanford is the mountain to your left, Ericsson to your right. Harrison Pass is the 800-meter barrier that separates the two. That is a steep climb, and often involves going around snow/ice even in summertime because it faces north.

Mt Ericsson

When you reach the top of the Weyman chute or the top of Lucy's Pass, Mt Ericsson is the mountain to your left (east). Just head straight up the face:

Mt Ericsson has several summits. The register is on relatively flat one (compared with the other peaks, that are sharper pyramids). The very summit requires some scary class-3 moves.
Mt Ericsson can also be reached from the east via Harrison Pass (3880m). I descended this, not ascended it, and i couldn't find any way to get down to Harrison Pass without having to downclimb some short class-4 chimneys. The chute leaves you about 300 meters south of Harrison Pass.

This is the chute to the top viewed from Harrison Pass:

This is how it looks when you are heading up (the summit is to the right of the notch):

  • Roads End (1534m) to Sphinx Creek junction (1914m): 6.5 kms, 1.5 hours
  • Large opening to the right: 2 hours
  • Sphinx Creek junction (1914m) to Charlotte Creek camp (2200m): 5.5 kms, 3 hours
  • Bear locker by the creek: 4h 10'
  • Gate: 4h20'
  • Junction Meadow (2490m) and creek crossing: 5kms, 5h
  • Bridge: 5h20'
  • East Lake (2886m): 3kms, 6h 20'
  • South side of East Lake (2886m): 6h 35'
To Lucy's Pass:
  • East Lake (2886m) to creek before Lake Reflection (3059 m): 2kms, 7h
  • Creek before Lake Reflection (3059 m) to Lucy's Pass (3780m): 5kms, 11h
To Harrison Pass:
  • East Lake (2886m) to creek before Lake Reflection (3059 m): 2kms, 7h
  • Creek before Lake Reflection (3059 m) to twin lakes: 6kms, 9h30'
  • Twin lakes to Harrison Pass: 3 kms, 11h30'
To Mt Ericsson via Weyman's chute:
  • Lake Reflection (3059 m): 3kms, 7h35'
  • Top of the chute: 11h30'
  • Lucy's Pass: 12h
  • Mt Ericsson: 13h30'
To Mt Stanford
Pictures of these hikes
My page on Kings Canyon hikes

Driving directions

Directions for Roads End from the Bay Area. Take 101 south, 152 east lo Los Banos (about 1 hr 30') to 99 (about 2hr), 99 south to Fresno (about 300 kms, 2h 30'). In Fresno, take 180 east and follow it (the freeway is not completed yet, it will go through town and then turn left into Kings Canyon Ave) to the Big Stump park entrance (85 kms, 1h 15') to the fork with Sequoia Park (5') to Grant Grove village (3kms, visitor center, restaurant, water, restrooms, market) to Cedar Grove (50 winding kms, 50', via Kings Canyon Lodge 20', Boyden Cavern 30', Kings Canyon border 40') and then (10 kms) Roads End. Park at Roads End, at the first parking lot, marked by the sign "Information".
  • 101 south, 152 east lo Los Banos 1 hr 30'
  • 152 east to 99 30'
  • 99 south to Fresno 30'
  • 180 east and to Big Stump park entrance 1h 15'
  • to the fork with Sequoia Park 5'
  • to Grant Grove village 5'
  • Kings Canyon Lodge 20'
  • Boyden Cavern 10'
  • Kings Canyon border 10'
  • Cedar Grove 10'
  • Roads End 10'

Camping near Roads End

Several options:
  • There are four campgrounds between Cedar Grove and Roads End: Sentinel, Sheep Creek, Moraine, Canyon View (each a hefty $18 in 2008)
  • There is a road where free camping is popular (legal as long as you can park the car safely). If you are coming from Sequoia Park, turn right after the Montecito lodge. This is a short distance before the junction with 180 in Cedar Grove.
  • You can try and sleep in your car or near your car at Roads End, but rangers are inflexible and have an unlimited amount of time, so most likely they will find you and send you away (Note that it is environmentally much better to sleep in one's car than in a campground, but rangers are not paid to care for the environment)
  • The area just before Cedar Grove (before the bridge) is still national forest, therefore you can camp anywhere it is safe to park. There are a few turnouts on 180 just before Cedar Grove where you can park and camp.


Don't count on food once inside the park. There are only two or three restaurants and they are likely to be closed when you need them.