Hiking Books

This page describes the books that I have used to plan my hikes in the Sierra Nevada and in the San Gabriels.  It also includes a few others that describe the history and natural aspects of the mountains. 

I have included links to Amazon, in case you want to order any of these books.  If you follow these links and purchase the book, I get a small commission (maybe), at least for a few of the books.  Unfortunately many of these books are hard to get or out of print, and I don't get anything for these.  They are all well worth having, so even if it is out of print, give it a try.

Trail Guides

secor.gif (5431 bytes)
The High Sierra : Peaks, Passes, and Trails
by R. J. Secor

Secor describes every major trail, cross country route, backcountry pass, and peak.   Since its publication, it is my primary resource for planning backcountry travel in the Sierras.


roper.gif (6771 bytes) The Climber's Guide to the High Sierra
by Steve Roper

A useful complement to Secor, describes the peaks, backcountry routes, and passes.   Secor has made use of this book in preparing his own book, so there is some overlap.  I find it useful to consult both books, because they sometimes offer a different assortment of details.  I have spent scores of hours poring over the descriptions of peaks and passes, comparing those I have climbed to those I am contemplating.  You should own this or the Score book if you are planning to do any serious off-trail hiking in the area.


starr.gif (5035 bytes) Starr's Guide to the John Muir Trail and the High Sierra Region
by Walter Augustus Starr, Douglas Robinson (Editor)

The oldest and briefest Sierra trail guide.  Contains descriptsions of all trails, and some of the cross-country routes. 


winnett.gif (4411 bytes) Sierra South : 100 Back-Country Trips in California's Sierra
by Thomas Winnett, Jason Winnett, Kathy Morey, Lyn Haber

For those with less experience in the Sierras, the authors pick some of the very best hikes for you.  You cannot go wrong picking from these hikes.  A previous version of this book was my first trail guide to Sequoia-Kings Canyon, and encouraged me to take my first tentative walks beyond the end of the marked trail.


whitney.gif (14432 bytes) Climbing Mt. Whitney
by Walt Wheelock, Wynne Benti

A previous edition of this book inspired my father to attempt Whitney, with me and my brother in tow.  We made it that first time, not because we were all that well prepared, but because we were blessed with good weather.  Thanks to this book, we at least knew how long the trail was, and where to camp. 


Timberline.gif (13765 bytes) The Sierra High Route : Traversing Timberline Country
by Steve Roper

The book describes an alternative to the John Muir Trail, travelling roughly parallel to it but mostly avoiding established trails and keepng to less-travelled areas.  I found the book useful for planning in the areas north of Cedar Grove.

Sierra Nature Guides

NatHistorygif.gif (7316 bytes) Sierra Nevada Natural History an Illustrated Handbook
by Tracy I. Sorer, Tracy I. Storer, Robert L. Usinger

One thing I try to do, with varying success, is to stop and admire the natural beauty of the rocks, plants, and animals.  This book can help immensely in that process.   Simply looking at a flower closely enough to identify its name makes you slow down and really "see" it.  Knowing its name, you then see it more and more often as you walk.  The book also discusses the geology of the region, which immensely increased my ability to see and understand the mountains and valley areound me.  If you are in the mood to stop and notice things, rather than to put miles behind you, then you should be carrying this book. 


Geology.gif (13583 bytes) Geology of the Sierra Nevada
by Mary Hill

I am interested in understanding how the mountains came to be, and what they are going to do next.  This book is devoted to that topic alone.  A knowledge of what to look for in the rocks, the cliffs, and the gorges can make a trip much more intense and enjoyable.  It gives me a lot to think about as I move along among the mountains.

Sierra History

Brewer.gif (12474 bytes)  

Up and Down California in 1860-1864 : The Journal of William H. Brewer
by William H. Brewer, Francis P. Farquhar (Editor)

William Brewer came to California to work for Whitney surveying the new state.  He travelled around for several years, leading the field expeditions, and writing regular letters home to his family.  This book is a collection of those letters.  All of it is fascinating, but particularly his exploration of the Southern Sierras.  He toured the Giant Sequoia groves, and headed up toward the Sierra Crest.  He climbed a series of peaks, including Mt. Brewer, carrying a heavy mercury barometer and other surveying instruments.  He stopped periodically to take measurements at precise times, which were matched to measurements back at base camp at these same times, to determine the altitude attained.  On reaching the peak of Mt. Brewer, which they thought might be higher than anyting else in the state (and nation), they saw another ridge in the distance that was unquestionably higher (including Mt. Whitney). 

Brewer writes with a directness and simplicity that is a pleasure to read, and brings the mountains and the state vividly to life.  It reminds me of Heinrigh Harrer's direct style of description in Seven Years in Tibet.


King.gif (5588 bytes) Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada
by Clarence King, Francis P. Farquhar (Editor)

Clarence King was a member of Brewer's expedition, and upon seeing the higher peaks in the distance, convinced Brewer to let him try and climb them.  This is his account of the attempt, as well as numerous other adventures and misadventures.  King writes in a much more adventure-oriented style than Brewer, which detracts in my opinion fom the story he is trying to tell, but it is a worthwhile complement to the basic story told by Brewer.


Southern California Trail Guides

Angeles.gif (12934 bytes) Trails of the Angeles : 100 Hikes in the San Gabriels
by John W. Robinson

This book is the best source for trail information for the San Gabriels.  Pretty much every marked and unmarkde trail is described here.  It also describes some of the rich histroy of these mountains surrounding Los Angeles.


SanBernadinos.gif (12548 bytes) San Bernardino Mountain Trails : 100 Wilderness Hikes in Southern California
by John W. Robinson

A companion to Trailsof the Angeles, this book covers the San Bernadinos.   Because they are farther for LosAngeles, there seems to be fewer people and more of a feeling of wilderness here.  This book is the best guide to these mountains.


High Sierra Hiking Guides

TripleDivideTG.gif (10590 bytes) Triple Divide Peak (High Sierra Hiking Guide)
by Andrew Selters, Andy Selters

This book, one of a series of pocket-sized guides to the Seirras, comes with a handy map with the trails marked.  All of the main trails are covered, along with some of the more accessible off-trail routes.  The books in this series helped me to realize that I could make my own routes through the mountains, rather than be limited to the trails.   I have gone through a couple of editions of these books: the maps have improved but in some cases off-trail routes have been dropped in subsequent editions.


MineralKing.gif (9680 bytes) Mineral King (High Sierra Hiking Guide)
by Ron Felzer, Marian Mayeda (Illustrator)

Another in the hiking guide series, this book covers the Mineral King area south of the Triple Divied Peak book.  Although the guides have different authors, they generally conform to same outline and generally offer similar levels of detail.


WhitneyTG.gif (12805 bytes) High Sierra Hiking Guide to Mt Whitney : The Peak and Surrounding Highlands
by Thomas Winnett, Don Denison (Illustrator)

This volume covers the area to the east of Triple Divied Peak.


MarionTG.gif (12004 bytes) Marion Peak (High Sierra Hiking Guide)
by Bob and Margaret Pierce

This volume covers the Cedar Grove area, to the north of Triple Divide Peak.


PinchotTG.gif (10698 bytes) Mt. Pinchot
by John W. Robinson

The farthest northeast of the trail guides of the Southern Sierra.

Southern California History and Information

Mines of the San Gabriels
by John W. Robinson

This pamphlet describes the mining history of the mountains surrounding Los Angeles.   Many of these can be explored even today.


MinesSanBern.gif (14074 bytes) Mines of the San Bernadinos
John W. Robinson

A companion to Mines of the San Gabriels, this pamphlet is sadly out of print.


MtLowe.gif (12109 bytes) Mount Lowe : The Railway in the Clouds
by Charles Seims

Mount Lowe looms over Pasadena, affording a spectacular view of the enite LA basin.   Around the turn of the century, a railway of sorts was built to a resrt on the mountain.  This book tells the story of this exploit, and of other objects of historical interest in the adjacent area.

Mt Lowe is a pleasant dayhike from the edge of Pasadena.  If you know where to look, you can still see the remains of the railway and the resort.


SanGabriels.gif (10832 bytes) San Gabriels : Southern California Mountain Country
by John W Robinson

This book tells the story of the "golden age of hiking" before Disney World and other manufactured fun.  People flocked to the mountains, walking and riding to resorts of all kinds.  This area has never been as popular since the invention of the car and the changes it has brought about.  You can see the remains of many of these popular tourist attractions today.  If you like exploring, this will give you something to look for when you hike in the San Gabriels.


MinesSanGab.gif (12791 bytes) Southern California Peaks
by Walt Wheelock


General Hiking Information

Fletcher.gif (6355 bytes) The Complete Walker III : The Joys and Techniques of Hiking and Backpacking
by Colin Fletcher

The most informative and the most literate of the general hiking guides.  It is a joy to read Colin Fletcher's common-sense philosophy and advice.  Even if you do not agree with his advice, he shows how to think about an issue so that you can reach the conclusion, that is right for you and your circumstances.
Mountaineering.gif (16759 bytes) Mountaineering : The Freedom of the Hills
by Don Graydon (Editor), Kurt Hanson (Editor), Mountaineers(Society)

The best book covering the technical aspects of mountain climbing.  I do not practice technical climbing, and I would seek personal  instruction if I were to, but it is useful to know something about rope, the use of an ice axe, and other advanced topics.   Everyone should be familiar with these matters, if only to know when they are getting in over their head.


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