Leviathan Peak, Monitor Pass: Pika Lookout
Guys, we need to talk about Pokemon. I think I might be obsessed.
When I am not exploring the wilderness, I am instead exploring my neighborhood. I know exact spots where all the Pokemon like to loiter. My hobby of running is suddenly twice as useful because I can use it to hatch Pokemon eggs, turning weekends chilling at home turn into opportunities to crawl the neighborhood searching for stray Bulbsaurs.
Yes, I probably think about my favorite Flareon more timed per day then is entirely healthy…
BUT, you know what is super especially cute in real life? PIKAS.
Guess what pops up when you try lookup some #pika on Instagram? Pikachus. Not only Pikachus, but ladies dressed up as sexy cosplay Pikachu, cats photoshoped to look like Pikachus, Pikachu toys staring longingly out on an endless sea towards Japan. I am not trying to hate, but those are Pikachus… not Pikas.
Pikas are the cutest little lagamorphs threatened by climate change. They may or may not be the inspiration for Pikachus. They blend in with the rocks and would never be noticeable if they didn’t hop out and “MEEP!” to let you know not to eat/disturb them. They are deserving of their own personal hashtag not clogged up with people dressing up like a sexy version of a cartoon character and more cats pretending to be something they are not.
Hiking Leviathan Peak, Monitor Pass
Trailhead: The side dirt road that goes up to Leviathan Peak is located about a quarter mile west of Monitor Pass. This isn’t marked with a street sign but is the obvious road here. We drove the 2wd car up as far as we felt comfortable, and ended up parking in a flat space next to the second switchback (less than a mile up). Only about a quarter mile further up the road was a more proper parking area. Map
Distance: 3.5 miles roundtrip from our parking spot near the switchback. The accent upwards is gradual thanks to this being a road, 350′ accent total marked by my watch.
Late last August Curtis and I visited Leviathan Peak on a whim after deciding to take the extra long way home over Monitor Pass instead of Tioga Pass. I had picked this because it looked like a super easy peak to bag and have a good view of Monitor pass. What I didn’t expect was the amazing pika country we would find.
We parked at the second switchback, which meant hiking a little further than necessary – although maybe necessary because navigating the rocky road in our low clearance vehicle was stressing me out. Turned out I would hear the first of the pikas we would see during this stretch of the road up to the traditional parking area – so worth it.
It made for a very slow walk thereafter, as I stopped at every small rock pile to inspect and listen. There are so many rock piles. And, so many pikas! Without a visible creek or other water source I wasn’t expecting them up here, but behold… there they were chilling next to the solar panels on this dry little mountain.
The actual peak itself is pretty cool too. Views of Monitor Pass, and maybe a peek of Topaz Lake. There wasn’t an open access up to the lookout tower, but you can climb some nearby boulders to reach a decent height. It is a much more sweeping view than at the summit of Monitor Pass, which is enclosed in a little wooded area. Well worth the small hike if you find yourself on this little, out of the way, mountain pass.