Peak 2,093ft P300
Long Ridge P500
Castle Peak P300
Lion Point P750
Malum Ridge
Taylor Mountain
Thornberry Mountain 2x P750
Thornberry Mountain West P300

Mar 10, 2024
Castle Peak
Lion Point
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 6 GPX Profiles: 1 2
Thornberry Mountain previously climbed Oct 9, 2013


This was the only full day of a three-day outing to the Sierra Foothills along the San Joaquin River. All of the day's summits are located in Madera County, and surprisingly, all of them have public access. Most of the driving was on paved roads until the last two summits which were mostly a driving exercise.

Peak 2,093ft

This was easily the best outing of the day as well as the longest, and the only one that started in Fresno County. Peak 2,093ft is in the San Joaquin River Gorge Special Recreation Area, managed by the BLM with a very reasonable $5 day use fee (free with Federal Lands pass). The area encompasses both sides of the San Joaquin River between Millerton and Kerckhoff Lakes, with some exceptional single track trails with stunning spring views. Bikes and equestrians are also welcome.

There were only a few vehicles at the well-kept TH when I started out around 8:15a on a Saturday. I followed the trail down to the river, dropping about 400ft over the course of a mile. There is a pedestrian bridge across the river with fine views upstream and down of the deep cut in the granite bedrock forged by the river over eons. The PG&E Kerckhoff 1 Powerhouse is found just upriver from the bridge. Across the river in Madera County, the trail begins to climb out of the drainage and soon forks. One can go either direction for the six-mile loop on the Pasan Ridge Trail. I took the right fork, following the trail for another mile until I was due south of Peak 2,093ft. From this point, the summit is about 2/3mi away and some 1,100ft higher. Not knowing exactly where the trail goes and seeing it contour to the east, I decided to head cross-country up grass & oak-covered slopes in a more direct line for the summit. The brush wasn't bad enough to require bushwhacking, but I had to divert in many places to avoid thickets and keep to the grass as much as possible. About halfway to the summit, I crossed over the trail once again, but kept going north on my cross-country line towards the summit. It would take about an hour and a quarter to reach the summit, marked by a modest boulder among the oaks and brush, with much poison oak to avoid around it. It was not a scenic summit I shared with a lone, mostly disinterested cow. After retreating back down the slope to the upper part of the trail, I decided to follow it down instead of continuing cross-country. With so much fresh Spring greenery, it was a delightful descent at a leisurely pace. I passed by a number of hiking parties, along with a pair of equestrians and a lone cyclists. I was back to the TH not long after 11a, having spent three hours on the outing.

Long Ridge

I drove back out of the recreation area and then north across the river and county line. I then entered the Sierra NF as I turned right onto Redinger Lake Rd, a narrow paved road that winds its way east over a saddle north of Long Ridge before dropping to Redinger Lake. On the west side of the saddle, the topo map shows a Forest Road (9S41) forking south and going over the summit. This road is no longer open to public vehicles, but non-motorized travel is Ok. There is a locked gate about 100yds from the junction with a tight turnaround. Best to park at the pavement. There is also no pedestrian access gate, so one has to go over the gate. The road travels through oak woodlands used for cattle grazing, with several dozen specimens when I passed through. It took about 20min to reach the summit with another boulder serving as the highpoint. Better, but still poor views from this summit. Along the way, there are some nice views to the east of Redinger dam and lake.

Castle Peak

This summit is located about 2mi NE of Long Ridge. A USFS lookout used to reside at the summit. I continued driving to Redinger Lake, then further east and north to connect with Italian Bar Rd, and finally reaching Minarets Rd. This newly-paved road traverses around the south side of Castle Peak before climbing higher into the national forest. A simple Road Closed sign was found at the Redinger Overlook SE of the summit. I had planned to drive a short distance further to a turn in the road that would get me a little closer, but this would do. It is a steep, but very open grass and oak slope climbing 700ft to the summit about 3/4mi away, taking about 30min. I found the summit open with only the concrete footings from the lookout remaining. There is a nice view south to Redinger Lake.

Lion Point

At just over 5,000ft, this was the highest of the day's summits, found about 2mi ENE of Castle Peak. Noting that others were driving around the Road Closed sign (and this is often just to denote there is no maintenance further up the road), I drove past it on my way further up Minaret Road. I thought I might run into snow where the road goes over a saddle north of Lion Point, but found none. There are Forest roads going nearly to the summit, but these have been gated and locked, again signed for non-motorized use only. This left me a mile and a quarter of hiking to reach the summit, a combination of road in the lower half, then a steep cross-country up the NW slope, bypassing the indirect roads that climb higher. Most of the mountain was burned over in the 2020 Creek Fire, making the cross-country considerably easier than it would have been otherwise. There was a second point further south that looked of similar height, so I visited it in turn, but it ended up being about 10ft lower than the northern summit. I spent about an hour and a half on the roundtrip for this one.

Malum Ridge

I drove back down Minaret Road, then NW through North Fork, towards Bass Lake. Malum Ridge is an LoJ-only summit with little prominence, found on the west side of County Rd 274. Where Browns Creek Ditch goes under the roadway, there is a junction with a Forest road at the north end of the ridge. I drove this decent road (7S75) along the ridge to another junction. Here, the better road traverses around the west side of the highpoint. A poorer road, no longer open to vehicles, can be followed on foot or bike most of the way to the summit. This minor spur goes to the slightly lower south summit. The highpoint is to the north, accessed via an old cut that is no longer maintained. No views, no excitement, nothing to see here. I spent 40min car-to-car.

Taylor Mountain

More driving to the northwest to get me around Bass Lake. This named summit is found northwest of the lake and used to be a sewage disposal site, still shown on the topo map. Treated wastewater was then pumped up to the summit ridge of Taylor Mountain and dispersed via steel pipes and sprinklers. Old signs warn of the dangers of skin contact. Seems they must have figured out a better method some decades ago when it was abandoned. Once again, motorized traffic is not allowed, but one is free to hike here. It is not a very interesting hike, mostly along old pavement that runs up to a saddle on the summit ridge, then along the ridge. There was some downfall and a second gate before reaching the highpoint, minor impediments. The actual highpoint is found in heavy brush about 20ft off the road, though I wouldn't fault anyone from calling the nearby highpoint of the road good, and leaving it at that. No views. I spent an hour and a quarter on the three mile hike, returning to the Jeep well after 6p.

Thornberry Mtn - Thornberry Mtn West

There wasn't much daylight left and I made plans to camp at the TH for these two before doing them the next day. I had done Thornberry back in 2013 when chasing down P1Ks in the area, but had neglected Thornberry West. Marcus Sierra had visited the latter in 2019, posting a TR on PB. His route went through Camp Oakhurst, a private church camp which seemed a bit sketchy. I planned to hike from Teaford Saddle NE of the two summits, following a forest road along the 3.8mi stretch of ridgeline to reach the further Thornberry West. As I'd found on several Forest roads today, this one, too, was gated and signed for non-motorized use only. It always pays to actually check the gates, and I was happy to find this one had no lock at all. It was starting to grow dark, but I figured I could drive in and see what condition the road was in. This, too, was a surprise - the road was wide, clear of debris, and had been graded such that any vehicle can drive on it. It appears the Forest Service has been collecting downfall for burning, and some logging as well. There were some pieces of heavy equipment left along various parts of the road, though it may have been weeks or months since anyone had worked here. I spent the next hour driving the entire length of road over Thornberry to Thornberry West and back. The only hiking was the last short sprint up to Thornberry West's summit, taking less than a minute. After I returned to the Jeep, I took a shower, changed into some fresh clothes and drove all the way back to Teaford Saddle where I would spend the night. Sometimes you just get lucky...


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