Smith Peak – 13.5mi / 21.8km
This long day takes you past the peaceful Smith Meadows up to a nice vantage high above the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. In the first 2.2mi/3.6km, the trail steeply climbs 1,200ft/400m.
It starts in the shade of trees, but exchanges them for open shrubs, burnt snags from the Rim Fire, and ever expanding views. The trail eases its incline as it follows Cottonwood Creek into the forest and up to Smith Meadow. This pleasant meadow is a combination of forest, wetlands, and open grassy areas.
Just after the concrete remnants of the old Smith cabin, the trail begins its steep climb again, emerging from the cool cover of the forest to the hot, shrubby landscape. Some simple route finding may be necessary through a wet area, but beyond, the trail climbs up to the ridgeline and the summit sign. A short scramble through the shrubs leads to the granite top of the actual summit.
Rewarding views await in all directions; from a few glimpses of the reservoir thousands of feet below to the peaks of the High Sierra in the distance.
Trailhead: Look for the signed trailhead for Smith Meadows along the Hetch Hetchy Road on the way to the dam.
Elevation Gain: 3,500ft / 1,050m – Elevation Loss: 3,500ft / 1,050m