Grouse Ridge P750
Peak 4,910ft P300

May 30, 2024
Grouse Ridge
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2


I was camped off dirt Rucker Lake Rd, past the turnoff for Rucker Lake Camp where high-clearance is needed. It made for a quiet campsite, undisturbed by other vehicles during the night (this might have something to do with the No Camping sign I saw on my way in). I was up by 6a and soon ready for the drive to the first of two summits for the morning. Both were modest outings, about 5mi roundtrip with 1,000ft of gain. I was done with the second one well before noon and decided to head home.

Grouse Ridge

At 7,700ft, Grouse Ridge is one of the highest summits in the Bowman Lake area north of I-80. A decent Forest road leads to the summit where a USFS lookout stands. I was stopped by snow on the road fairly early less than a week earlier, coming back to see if more of the stuff had melted. It had, and this time I got within a mile of the top and figured that would easily be close enough. There would be snow on and off all the way to the highpoint and this would be my first outing of the year on the white stuff. Others had driven a short distance further, but no one had yet managed to drive to the top.

The snow was rock hard in the early morning shade as I started out just after 7a. I followed the road initially, over dry and snow patches for about a third of a mile before striking uphill to the east cross-country before the road had made the first switchback. Higher up I regained the road and followed it north and northwest to a saddle with Pt. 7,242ft. I left the road for the second (and last) time at the saddle, deciding to take the shorter route that simply follows the ridgeline up to the lookout. There are nice views off this ridge looking northwest and north, with a number of other summits in this area nicely arrayed. In the far north could be seen the serrated ridgeline of Sierra Buttes about 15mi away. There was much snow on the ridge as I followed it through forest, moderately steep but with decent footing. Near the top the trees give way to scree and low brush, now clear of snow on the south-facing slope I ascended. I reached the outhouse first, and the lookout at the highpoint a few minutes later. It took about 45min to reach the top. The squat lookout was closed up for the season, but I was able to walk around the wooden deck to take in the views in all directions. I found a reference mark from 1949 north of the lookout, but did not find the benchmark.

After a short break, I started down, and almost immediately was met by another hiker just reaching the summit. We spoke only briefly before I left him to the summit. I had seen his Suburu parked about a quarter mile below where I ended up parking. A day or two later I got an email asking if I was the guy he'd seen up on Grouse Ridge. Turns out it was Christopher Wessels who put in quite a day, covering a whole mess of peaks in 21mi with 9,000ft of gain. That sort of day is well behind me now. My return route cut out several of the turns I had taken on the way up, a more direct line to get me back to the Jeep by 8:30a.

Peak 4,910ft

I had done no research on this one and only considered it after I was back from Grouse Ridge. The peak is located at the end of a ridge above the confluence of South Yuba River and Canyon Creek, steeply banked on either side. I noted that Chris Kerth had made an ascent in 2019, but he'd left no TR on LoJ where it had been logged. And of course, being preceded by Chris was no guarantee this would be at all easy. Maps showed Forest Road 18-14 getting within a mile and a quarter, at an elevation well above the summit, found at the end of the ridgeline to the west. The topo map also shows a trail going to the summit though I didn't know about this at the time. After returning to Bowman Lake Rd, I drove north about a mile before turning off on the dirt Forest road. I thought I might get stopped by downfall, but was happy to find I could drive it to the end, though a bit brushy on the final stretch. I parked in a small clearing and headed off to the northwest cross-country, a small mistake. As I found on the way back, there is an old road going west from the TH that would have made getting down the ridgeline to the saddle easier. Still, the cross-country at the start isn't too bad and I eventually picked up use trails that made the steeper descent portion more manageable. About 20min after starting out, I suddenly came across the good trail I hadn't expected. The track follows along the ridge most of the way to the summit, not below on the south side of the ridge as depicted on the topo. This was a very fortunate find because portions of the ridge are quite brushy and the trail would nicely obviate the need for any thrashing. There is a USFS trail sign at a junction with a second trail that comes up from Maybert Rd along the South Yuba River, almost 2,000ft below - that would be the tougher way to do this one. It was 10a when I reached the highpoint, 45min after starting out - I was happy to see this one work out so nicely. There are no views from the summit, but at various points along the way one can see down to both Canyon Creek to the north and South Yuba River to the south. I might have left a register here, but there were no rocks about with which to protect it from the weather and fire. On the way back I did a much better job following the old road back up to where I had parked, steep but no bushwhacking at all. About an hour and half for the roundtrip, much better than I had expected. It wasn't yet 11a and I could probably have found other summits to do, but I decided to head home instead - something my younger self would never have let happen...

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