Distance: 1.6 miles round trip on use trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 5507'
Elevation Gain: 624'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.5
Round trip time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Recommended water: 32 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass on Pilot Rock Truck Trail (2N33)
Mount Marie Louise is often climbed together with the Pinnacles. The trailhead is only 3 miles away from the Pinnacles on Pilot Rock Truck Trail (forest road 2N33). It took 20 minutes to get there because the last 2 miles are over rough dirt road. High clearance was required for large rocks in the road and 4x4 is recommended. Sierra Club directions can be found here.
I parked close to the start of the use trail that is marked with cairns on the right. Although the route is mostly cross country, I spotted a cairn every 50'. The first half of the route heads up a gully filled with small to medium sized boulders. It was a fun balancing act hopping from boulder to boulder. Eventually, you reach a clearing and the summit comes into view. From the clearing, a use trail with fewer cairns wove through dense brush. Losing the route at this point would lead to tough bushwhacking. The use trail through the brush was very steep with only a few short switchbacks. Half the gain on this hike comes in the last 0.2 miles. I was able to the follow the use trail to the top cluster of rocks fairly easily, then circled around to the east and scrambled to the summit. The highest boulder was class 2 and had no benchmark and neither did the others. The boulder pile immediately south of the summit held a pair of red register cans. I signed in and put them back in a crevice. Marie Louise had similar views to the Pinnacles. The boulder problems seemed different going down and I lost the trail. I back tracked and consulted the GPS to find the trail again. Once I got back to the clearing, it was easier with frequent cairns to guide me out. It was a fun boulder hop. While the stats place Marie Louise solidly in the easy category, a route finding mistake could make it a lot more difficult.
I was curious about the name and found this from the Sierra Club web site:
Seemingly named for French Emperor Napoleon's second wife Marie-Louise von Habsburg (1791-1874), an Austrian princess whom he married in 1810. However, what (if any) connection exists between this peak and the Empress remains a mystery. It could have been named after an unknown surveyor's sweetheart, since there is no record of any early resident's wife or daughter being given this name. More likely it was a recent addition, given as a whim by a fire-boss.