Peak 5,260ft P300
Lookout Mountain P300
Little Sugar Pine Mountain P300
Big X Mountain
Cable Point

Apr 10, 2024
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2


It was the second day of an overnight trip in the Eldorado National Forest that had me camped around 5,000ft. Most of the day would be spent on private forest lands owned by Sierra Pacific Industries. The massive King Fire had burned through much of this area a decade earlier, and in that time Sierra Pacific has salvaged most of the snags and cleared out much of what remained. The operations have mostly ceased and the area is quiet now, but there is left a large network of roads in the area, many of which are newer and don't appear on maps.

Peak 5,260ft - Lookout Mtn - Little Sugar Pine Mtn

This took up the entire morning and the majority of my day. Not far from where I camped, the road north is gated at the boundary between public and private forest lands. There are no signs at the gate, but at others they typically sign them for No Camping - No Cutting - No Fires. Much of the morning's effort would be spent hiking along various logging roads that see only occasional traffic these day. Starting just before 7a, I hiked up the road a short distance to the ridgeline connecting Saddle Mtn (the prior day's summit) and Peak 5,260ft. I took the right fork which continues northeast to a second saddle with Peak 5,260ft. From there I dropped a short distance down the east side of the saddle to pick up a good logging road not shown on the maps. This can be followed northeast and north to another saddle on the NE side of Peak 5,260ft. When about due south of the summit, I left the road to head up cross-country, at first a bit tough with lots of downfall but getting clearer in the upper half where the gradient eases. Here was a small patch of forest that had not burned in the fire and was also spared from the chainsaws. I crossed over an upper logging road enroute that I would use shortly on the descent. I found a small pile of rocks when I reached the summit just shy of the hour mark. The summit is the boundary between logged and unlogged parcels but views are still lacking. I left a register here before heading east off the summit.

I landed on the upper logging road after a few minutes and followed this northeast and north to Lookout Mountain, about two miles to the north. I found some stretches of snow in the shadier places, all less than a foot deep and none of it having frozen overnight. I passed by many different parcels in various stages of their logging life, quite a contrast to the less-managed, public forest areas. There are two summits to Lookout, the north summit where the old lookout was located on a logged parcel, and the south summit on another unlogged parcel. PB has the summit at the lookout, while LoJ had the southern summit as the highpoint. I visited the lookout site first where a spur road takes one nicely to the top. Only the concrete footings remain of the old structure. I spent 50min getting here from the first summit. I next visited the south summit, taking another 10min and leaving a second register. When I got home, I contacted John at LoJ since it appears the north summit is the proper Lookout Mtn. He reviewed LiDAR data and found that the north summit is actually higher (and thus has the prominence). So the LoJ point was moved and now my register is on the wrong point - it will likely be destroyed in the next fire without collecting a second entry.

From the south summit, I dropped off the southwest side through some moderately heavy slash to reach the road network on that side of the mountain. I spent the next 45min cruising across the broad Kings Meadow, heading west and southwest. I reached Slab Creek when I was still about a mile east of Little Sugar Pine Mtn, the last summit on this loop. The good road turned east here, and I had to do more cross-country over moderate terrain. After a tricky creek crossing, the travel turned out to be easier than I had first feared, that last mile taking about 40min to top out on Little Sugar Pine. It was hard to pick out the highpoint, so I wandered around a bit among the old slash and new growth to satisfy myself that I had things covered. I probably should have left a register here too, but had forgotten to carry a third one.

I had not planned out my return beforehand, so with cell service, I sat at the summit and mapped out a route using the satellite views and the peakbagger app. This worked out quite nicely on the logging road network, efficiently getting me around the upper Brush Creek drainage on the north side of Saddle Mtn, then back to its saddle with Peak 5,260ft where I reconnected with my outbound route. I was back to the Jeep just after noon, having spent a bit over five hours covering 11mi and just under 2,000ft of gain.

Big X Mountain

Big X lies about 3mi west of Saddle Mtn, near where I'd parked. It would take an hour to drive the 5-6mi of winding Forest Road 14 to reach it. The road is in good condition that most vehicles can drive with the exception of the bridge over Brush Creek that has been wiped out. A half-fallen sign indicates the bridge's condition on the west side, but I had no such warning (or at least, failed to see one) on the east side that I approached from. I was ready to turn back when I got out to take a picture of the damaged bridge, but then noticed a bypass has been provided that goes steeply down one embankment, directly through the creek (with about 12 inches of water at this time), then steeply up the other side. This was definitely not suited for most vehicles, but looked tailor-made for the Jeep. It was the most exciting (and fun) driving of the whole two days, the makings of a fine Jeep commercial if there ever was one. Following this, the rest was a pretty tame drive to the summit of Big X Mtn where there is a locked gate continuing north at the boundary with more Sierra Pacific property. Big X itself is just outside, on NF lands, leaving me a short three minute hike to the highpoint through modest downfall. Nothing much in the way of views and despite the name, the summit itself has barely 100ft of prominence.

Cable Point

I was expecting this one would be a bit of trouble judging from the satellite views ahead of time, and I was not wrong. Chris Kerth had logged an ascent leading me to hope there might be a hunters' trail or similar, but there was not. The point lies to the southwest of Big X some four miles, and 1,400ft lower. A decent, but not great road along the crest of the ridge gets one most of the way, but it gets pretty brushy towards the end before stopping abruptly on a downhill slope with no turnaround. With the help of the backup camera, I reversed about 200ft back up the slope before parking off the roadway. The topo map shows the road continuing to Pt. 3,133ft, which would leave less than half a mile remaining, but that section is no longer driveable, or walkable. At one time, there was a logging railroad built along the northwest side of the ridgeline, used to haul logs down to the South Fork American River, helped by a cable system to get them down the steep gradient from Cable Pt. The tracks were removed, but the grade remains, though heavily overgrown. I initially tried to follow the old road on the crest, but found that the ridgeline it follows was heavily blocked by downfall. It appears there was some very large manzanita growing here that was burned in the King Fire, then blown down some years later by some strong winds. It left a complete mess of the ridge. I got only a short distance through this stuff before bailing onto the southeast side of the ridge in waist-high brush that worked somewhat better. It was slow going until I had gotten around Pt. 3,133ft and found easier going descending to the saddle with Cable Pt. I found the old RR grade barely passable, with thick, rusted cables and other hardware scattered about. The final steep climb up from the grade to the highpoint was some pretty rough bushwhacking, but luckily short. In all, it took almost an hour and a half to cover that mile distance. I found three flat rocks stacked at the summit, no register, but not expecting one either. There are some views looking down to Slab Creek Reservoir and back up along the ridgeline I'd descended, but not much else. On the return, I retraced my route back up to Pt. 3,133ft, then chose to stay on the northwest side of the ridge in hopes it might be better. It's more forested on that side with plenty of downfall, but I still thought the route better for most of it. The final couple hundred feet had so much downfall that in the end it seemed no better than my outbound route, and indeed had taken another hour and a half to complete.

It was after 4:30p when I finished up and I was happy to be done for the day. I drove the Jeep back up the brushy road to where it got better and I had a wide clearing where I could rinse off with a jug shower and change into some fresh clothes. I would spend the next hour and a half driving back out to US50 at Pollock Pines, then another 2.5hrs of driving to get home around 9p. I was happy to not be doing the 7-8hr drive back from the desert, at least...

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