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Unicorn Peak normal route

4th, Trad, Alpine, 50 ft,  Avg: 2.1 from 11 votes
FA: unknown
California > Yosemite NP > Tuolumne Meadows > Cathedral Range > Unicorn Peak
Access Issue: Yosemite National Park climbing closures and conditions Details


Dramatic peak visible from many places in the Tuolumne area. Nice summit view. Interesting climbing to reach the highest N summit, but pretty short compared to the approach (shortest from the East side).

Difficulty of the N summit traditionally rated class 4, but one obvious way of doing it has a slightly overhanging (or at least fully vertical) move with exposure to a deadly fall - seems more like class 5.
. (If you're more of a scrambler than a serious rock-climber ... unless you're partnered with someone with a rope who knows how to use it for protection ... better to plan toward getting only the Middle summit, perhaps along with the higher mountain less than half a mile south along the same ridge as the Unicorn.)

approach: Trailhead is at Tuolumne Meadows campground (along S side of highway 120 about 8 miles W from the Yosemite N.P. east entrance at Tioga Pass) near group camp, the B loop. Bear-proof boxes for day-hiker food storage.

Take the Elizabeth Lake trail South about 2.3 miles / 3.7 km (with vertical gain 900 ft / 270 meters) to near Elizabeth Lake. Hike / scramble up the East (or NE) slope of the Unicorn to the notch between the middle summit and the north summit (vertical gain approx +1300 ft / 400 meters).

climb: The highest North summit is close to the notch, so it's tempting to want to "go for it", but it's not so easy. One way to get there is to cross over to the W side of the notch, then make an exposed short traverse N. Next up to the crest of the ridge, perhaps a little to its other side, then perhaps a delicate move up, and on to the summit. Before committing to any move, keep in mind you'll have to do it again on the way back.

Middle summit is easier climbing and less exposed.

descent: Return the same way.
Some people like to also climb the (higher) hump about 0.3 miles / 500 meters to the South along the broad ridge - which is fun if you like scrambling on big granite talus.
Or to play with additional exposed climbing moves, can find some in traversing the other Unicorn summits and narrow S ridge.

statistics: Total horizontal distance about 2.9 miles / 4.7 km.
Total vertical gain about +2200 ft / 670 meters.


In Yosemite National Park on the south side of Tuolumne Meadows, about 2 miles / 3 km from the Tioga Pass highway route 120. (latitude/longitude approx N37.8457 W119.3821) (altitude ~ 10,825ft / 3300 meters)


No fixed gear in place. It's a long ways to haul a rope and Trad rack for such a short amount of climbing. Most people solo it (or climb one of the other easier summits).

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Old rap hardware.
[Hide Photo] Old rap hardware.
Unicorn Peak from the west
[Hide Photo] Unicorn Peak from the west

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Costa Mesa, CA
[Hide Comment] A less bouldery but more exposed, awkward alternative to surmounting the ridge through the overhang involves a sequence going to the left that felt secure with jamming. Aug 28, 2017