Peak 1,495ft P300
Peak 1,679ft P300
Peak 1,714ft P300
Webb BM P500
Juniper Ridge P500
Peak 2,973ft P300
Hunter Valley Mountain P300
Buckhorn Peak P750
Coalpit Hill
Peak 3,359ft P300
Bandarita Ridge

Mar 15, 2024
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 6 GPX Profile

I headed back to the Sierra foothills for a short overnight trip. The hills are so green and the weather just delightful this time of year, and as an added bonus, it's only a few hours' drive away. Most of these were short hikes, and most of them are publicly accessible. I owe much thanks to a handful of folks who posted TRs on PB that proved helpful.

Peak 1,495ft

This is the most westerly summit in Mariposa County. The immediate area has a number of upscale rural homes, one of these sitting at the very summit. There is a water tank with parking on the south side of the hill. I parked there and walked up the grass slopes to the edge of the property. Nice early morning views around the foothills.

Peak 1,679ft

This summit lies about 3mi southeast of the first one, also with rural homes around Lazo Way. It may or may not be private property, but there is no fencing or signage, and it's a short two minute hike to the summit water tower from the south. The southwest side of Lazo Way appears to be a popular teenage hangout. There is excessive graffiti on the street and rocks along the roadway. Powers that be have erected signs for No Stopping, but that doesn't seem to curb the nighttime visitors. There was even a pair of panties left unceremoniously in the dirt where I parked, nice touch.

Peak 1,714ft - Webb BM

Kerry Breen posted a TR on PB for his 2022 visit. Peak 1,714ft is located in a mountain bike park while Webb BM is on adjacent private ranchland. When I arrived, a sign indicated the bike park was closed for a race this weekend. With a little cajoling, I was able to convince the attendant I'd only be there for a few hours to hike and wouldn't bother the folks setting things up for the race. $9 entrance fee with the senior discount. I parked at one of the many empty campsites where Mike Toffey had started on his visit a few months earlier. Peak 1,714ft is pretty obvious. After crossing the drainage between the peak and the campground, I sort of followed random bike paths up to the summit. Some were well-used, others less so and marked with small pink flags. It took about 35min to reach the flattish summit with open views, a few picnic tables, and a rock garden serving as the highpoint. I then started along the connecting ridgeline to Webb BM a little over a mile to the south. I hadn't read the TRs too closely and was surprised when the bike trail I follow petered out. I continued down grassy slopes and was further surprised to find a barb-wire fence - this was when I realized Webb BM was not in the bike park. Fortunately, there are no buildings of any sort and no roads that see traffic anywhere about. It made for a lovely hike down to the saddle (where there's a nice collection of pointy rocks) and up to the rounded summit of Webb BM. I stopped at the highpoint found in a thicket of poison oak, but forgot to consider looking around for the benchmark. I returned to the saddle and contoured my way back around the east side of the first peak, back across the fence and then cowtrails until I landed on a better bike path. It was a little over two hours for the five mile effort, easily the best outing of the day.

Juniper Ridge

There are three TRs on PB for this one, all within the last year. There is no negative signage along the start off Bear Valley Rd, but the start and summit are both on private property - only a small portion is through BLM lands. I started on the same road from the north that others used, but left it when the cattle kept moving up the road rather than off it. There are signs from the old Jupiter Mining claim nailed to trees at various points high on the ridge. I came across several mine shafts, but none seemed very deep. I found Levi Cover's register at the northern point, then visited another point to the south that measured about the same height (seems the other three did the exact same thing). I spent an hour and a quarter on this one.

Peak 2,973ft

These next two are found north of Juniper Ridge and Bear Valley Road, along the BLM's Hunter Valley Mtn access road. I had been to the area in 2013 to climb Williams Peak, a P1K. Peak 2,973ft is found south of Williams Peak. A rough Jeep road climbs about half the already short distance from the access road to the summit. A narrower road/path goes the remaining 1/5mi to the top. The highpoint features some minor summit rocks and views in most directions. There is nice one of Williams Peak to the north. There is also a distant view to the east looking into Yosemite Valley. Clouds Rest, El Capitan and Half Dome were all visible.

Hunter Valley Mountain

This summit is found at the far north end of the access road. Another rough Jeep road can be followed nearly to the summit. I stopped a bit short when the track got too rough for my liking. I visited the highpoint and another point to the northwest which turned out to be about 5-6ft lower. Long drive for a short hike, and I thought the views better on Peak 2,973ft.

Buckhorn Peak

This summit features nearly 800ft of prominence but lies on private ranchland. Levi and Michael did this one together, finding a short but rough cross-country route up from Shilling Rd. Shilling Rd is a well-graded dirt road rising from SR49 to Buckhorn Flat. Signs indicate it can be pretty bad in muddy conditions. I was happy to find it in good condition. There are four unlocked gates that one passes through on the way up from the highway. Lots of cattle grazing in the area and it feels like your invading someone's farm, but apparently there's a public easement through the place. Shilling Rd then turns northwest to pass below the southwest side of Buckhorn's summit. Parking is somewhat limited on this narrow road. I found a place to park off the road above where the others had parked. My ascent route was steep, about 600ft in a quarter mile, moderately brushy, and I picked up a tick here to boot. At least no fences, no signs, and it gets easier towards the top. The highpoint is buried in a thicket of trees. While I sat briefly at the summit with cell service, I looked at the satellite view more closely and decided to head down the northwest side. This worked out to be a far more pleasant route, less steep and little brush compared to my ascent. I spent 40min on the roundtrip effort.

Coalpit Hill

I continued driving up Shilling Rd to the rural developments in Buckhorn Valley. The road is paved briefly here, then dirt again where it crosses Buckhorn Fire Rd. It descends to a saddle before climbing up to Coalpit Hill, partially paved along the way. Coalpit Hill is a brief stop along the roadway with little prominence. More rural developments are then encountered as one drops a bit to the Dutch Creek drainage and the better paved Ernst, Holtz and Wagner Ridge Rds.

Peak 3,359ft

This summit is a short distance southeast of Wagner Ridge Rd. I parked on the west side of Peak 3,359ft along Forest Road 2S21 where Kerry had found an old firebreak running up to the summit. Heavy manzanita grows on either side of the firebreak, so the minor stuff encountered on the route was nothing by comparison. Higher, the underbrush lessens and becomes a breeze. Nothing much to see from the partially open summit. I spent half an hour up and back.

Bandarita Ridge

It was nearly 7p by the time I returned and close to sunset. I decided to add a last LoJ-only one, Bandarita Ridge. I first took a shower and changed into fresh clothes since it was getting colder with the setting sun, and I didn't expect this one to be more than a drive-up. The summit wasn't quite along the road as I had first surmised, but it was still only a two minute hike up an old firebreak from the east side. The sun had set and it was getting pretty dark, requiring the use of a headlamp to keep from tripping over the low growth covering the firebreak. It was after 7:30p when I finished up, this time for good. I would spend another hour driving back out to Wagner Ridge Rd, then through Greely (where I got a few supplies at the gasmart), and then 15mi further into the Stanislaus NF, on a mix of paved and well-graded dirt roads. I found a very quiet place to camp around the 3,300-foot level, high above SR140 and the Merced River on the north side. Decent cell coverage here, too...


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