Hotchkiss Hill
Howell Hill P300
Colfax Hill P500
Hayford Hill P300
Camels Hump P300
Peak 3,098ft P300
McGuire Mountain P300
Negro Jack Hill P300
Remington Hill
Clyde Mountain P500
Peak 5,678ft P300

May 23, 2024
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 6 GPX

My wife was heading to Columbus Ohio for Volleyball over four days, so I packed up the Jeep since I had little incentive to stay home alone. I decided to head to Nevada and Placer Counties along I-80 for some peakbagging. To avoid snow and muddy roads, I picked out a collection of summits between 3,000-6,000ft, most of them from the aborted trip earlier in the month when my water pump sprung a leak ($900 got me a new waterpump, thermostat and serpentine belt installed). I was up around 5:30a, leaving San Jose half an hour later. It would take about 2.5hrs of driving to reach the first summit.

Hotchkiss Hill

This summit is located east of Applegate. Hotchkiss Drive winds its way to the top, but is gated (unsigned) near S. Dunvegan Dr. I walked the half mile of this road to the top where a small array of antennae and a water tank are found, with mostly open views and a benchmark labeled 'APPLEGATE'. Interestingly, there is also a trail that winds its way to the summit in a similar fashion. I started down this, but didn't know where it goes, so I backtracked. It appears from the satellite view to return to Heather Glen Dr, near where I started, probably a better ascent route.

Howell Hill

A CalFire lookout tower is found at the top of this hill. The facility is closed, but it seems fine to visit on foot. I parked below the locked gate at the junction with Mt. Howell Rd. The hike is short, the views mostly obscured by trees. The buildings near the tower are all boarded up and appear disused.

Colfax Hill

Located north of Colfax, there are four home sites at the summit, one of them an empty lot. I pulled into the common driveway of the first two homes and quickly turned around. Driving further, I discovered the empty lot and drove up to it. This seemed as good a place to call the summit. The topo shows the highpoint at the home just north of this, but leveling has erased that contour and I don't think it's any higher.

Hayford Hill

A nice summit, but hard to get to. After driving up Sylvan Rd and into a rural neighborhood, I backed out of my first attempt when I saw nothing but homes surrounding me. I parked down the road and walked up another branch of the road and eventually through the woods, but initially in sight of several homes, giving it a creep factor. I got out of view of the homes as I traversed the south side of the hill and then up to the top which is a nice forest and meadow spot. Upon my return, I was confronted by Don who lived in the house I parked in front of. He asked what I was doing, and I somewhat sheepishly told him what I'd been up to. He warmed up almost immediately upon realizing I wasn't one of the troublemakers ('tweakers' was his term) that have plagued the neighborhood of late. Seems his neighbors saw me skulking through the backwoods and called Don and the sheriff. Don is a Navy veteran and known by his neighbors to have guns. Contrary to what his neighbor's have claimed, Don has no intention of shooting anybody unless they break into his house. Anyway, he went on about how the tweakers were stealing stuff from his elderly neighbor (stupid stuff like old lawnmowers) and generally harassing the neighborhood. I apologized for causing concern and we left on good terms. I suggest you stop at his house and ask permission if you'd like to visit the summit - I suspect he could arrange it with the neighbors.

Camels Hump

Driving further up I-80, I made aborted efforts to reach Cold Spring Hill and Frost Hill, deciding both needed more research. I then drove through historic Dutch Flat (lots of hydraulic gold mining in this area), down to the Bear River and the Dutch Flat powerhouse (Penstocks for power generation have replaced the hydraulic mining), and up Lowell Hill Ridge on the north side of the river. This is a nice area for jeeping around on a mix of private and public forest lands. Lowell Hill Rd follows this miles-long ridgeline and was once part of the old emigrant trail used by the Donner Party and others. Camels Hump is a P300 along this ridge and a drive-up with high-clearance. There is a firepit and an ode to our fine ex-President scrawled on one of the concrete footings from the fire lookout that once stood here.

Peak 3,098ft

This summit is found at the far southwestern end of Lowell Ridge. Most of the roads were decent, but the last half mile of driving requires high-clearance. I was able to drive within about a quarter mile of the summit where the road I was following becomes more of an ATV/motorcycle track. I followed the track to the highpoint which is found just off the track a few feet in a thicket of manzanita. No views whatsoever. The area I drove through has been heavily transformed by tailings from hydraulic mining. The flumes and holding ponds in this area are now used to deliver water to penstocks, but were probably originally built to support the gold mining efforts.

McGuire Mountain

I retraced my driving route back to Camels Hump and continued northeast along the ridge to these next two summits. I parked on the transmission line utility road northeast of McGuire, leaving less than half a mile of cross-country through forest understory with little bushwhacking. The summit is buried in the woods, leaving nothing in the way of views, but a very short walk past the summit reveals the old Overland Emigrant Trail running through the woods.

Negro Jack Hill

One can park on the north side of Negro Jack and make a short, but very steep climb through somewhat brushy forest understory. I chose a longer route from the northeast that makes good use of an old road, no longer drivable. I parked on Lowell Hill Rd and hiked the 15min to the summit, mostly following the old road. It leads to a clearing on the ridge, an old campsite with views south to the penstocks dropping to the Drum Powerhouse on the Bear River. A short bit of cross-country then leads to the summit where I found a collection of rocks to hold the only register I would leave on the day. No views from the highpoint.

Remington Hill

This summit lies about 2mi due north of Negro Jack Hill, but on the Chalk Bluff Ridge, separated by Steephollow Creek. It would take a half hour of driving to finish the drive to SR20, then onto another USFS road along Chalk Bluff Rd. The road bypasses Remington Hill on the east and south sides. Parking along the roadway leaves only a few hundred feet, but it is unpleasant bushwhacking, taking me 15min for the short distance. Probably the least interesting summit of the day - no prominence, no views, no fun.

Clyde Mountain

I drove back out to SR20, then east to Bowman Lake Rd. This is a popular backcountry road that provides access to fishing, OHV trails, hiking trails and numerous inholdings around the various lakes managed by PG&E. Clyde Mtn is found west of Bowman Lake Rd and Fuller Lake. The mountain has a fair amount of brush, so it helps to locate the informal trail on the east side that others describe in the TRs on PB. I parked just off the pavement and worked my way uphill, not very directly as I tried several of the old logging roads found on the mountainside. I eventually found a duck and the trail through manzanita the others described and made my way to the top in about 35min. There is a moderately sized summit block at the highpoint. Ron Moe and Rich Wilson had left a register in 2013, but I found it soaked and unuseable in its current condition. My return route was more direct and less brushy, too.

Peak 5,678ft

This last summit is east of Bowman Lake Rd and SE of Fuller Lake. I parked at the public lot near the Fuller Lake dam and followed the flume from there. Sourced from Fuller Lake, the flume runs southeast to a penstock that then drops to the Rim Powerhouse at Spauling Lake. One can follow the flume's service road (labeled as the Spaulding Lake Trail on Google Maps). I was confused initially on which side of the flume I needed to be and crossed over to the NE side at the dam. After some cross-country wandering, I figured it out and found my way to a crosswalk over the flume to get me on the correct (SW) side. I followed the road to the north side of Peak 5,678ft where the flume disappears into the Zion Hill Tunnel, a cool feature built in 1936. I left the road here and scrambled directly up to the summit with a bit of class 3. Fun little summit with some old, weathered junipers and open views all around - best views of the day, I thought. I took a different way down just for the variation, then back on the same road. About 40min for the roundtrip. I finished up before 6:30p, and then tried to see if I could drive up to Grouse Ridge, further along Bowman Lake Rd, and then east up dirt Grouse Ridge Rd, FR14. I got a few miles in before getting stopped by snow - this one would need more time to melt off. I ended up camping back at the junction of Bowman Lake and Grouse Ridge roads, a decently quiet place on a non-weekend night...


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