Bell Mountain P500
Peak 7,290ft P500
Bourland Mountain
Peak 8,126ft P500

Sep 30, 2021
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


Bell Mountain

On the second of two days in the Stanislaus NF, I had camped on the road to Bell Mtn. I couldn't find a turnout, so I simply parked in the road at a flat spot. Since it was a spur road with no outlet and I was near its end, it seemed unlikely I would block the road for other vehicles before I was up in the morning. No one came by before I awoke around 6a, and after my morning routine, I drove to the end of the road shown on the map. I was surprised to find the road continues, though a rougher version of it (4WD needed, not just high-clearance), all the way to the summit. I stopped just short where the road gets even rougher and walked the last two minutes to the highpoint. It was well before sunrise and the lighting was just adequate to see by, but the forested top offered no real views anyway. I was even more surprised to see a truck driving the other direction. Seems he had camped at the road's end and was heading down in the pre-dawn light, hunting I would guess.

Peak 7,290ft

Another short one, though there was an hour of driving between the two on high-clearance roads. A forest road gets you within a quarter mile of the summit on the northwest side. Six minutes of hiking through a mix of brush and forest get you to the flat summit with no views.

Bourland Mountain

Though separated from the previous summit by less than two miles, it took more than an hour to drive between them. Another short hike through forest, taking less than 10min to get to the top. There are partial views from the summit, including an enchanting one to the east into the Emigrant Wilderness.

Peak 8,126ft

This summit is located just inside the western boundary of the Emigrant Wilderness. The closest access is via the Box Spring TH, found a few more miles northeast of Bourland Mtn. The trail does not see a lot of action, though it was mostly cleared to the first of the Chain Lakes. Fires in 2003 burned through the area, leaving snags that have been falling over the past few years, making a mess of the trail. There is evidence of cattle grazing, though not much. A shallow pond called Lily Pad Lake is found about a mile from the TH. It has receded this year, but the lily pads still cover most of the lake. The trail doesn't have much elevation gain or loss, and eventually goes through a small gap where the Wilderness boundary is found, then a short descent to Chain Lakes. Past the first lake, I found no evidence of recent trail work, so there was some clambering over large fallen logs and other debris. I eventually gave up on the trail as I traveled ESE towards Peak 8,126ft, about a mile from the 1st lake. It is not until one is within half a mile that the forest gives way and one gets a decent view of the peak. It is a small granite dome separating the Chain Lakes from the West Fork Cherry Creek drainage. There is much granite throughout the area. I aimed for the NW Ridge, finding some deep, horizontal clefts in the granite that were challenging to get across. The lower part of the NW Ridge is easy class 3, becoming class 2 for the upper half. It took me about an hour and a half to make the 3.5mi distance to the summit. I found a small cairn with a broken glass jar, no register. I had planned to leave one that I was carrying, but completely forgot before I had started down. I was enthralled by the views looking east, south and west around the Wilderness. So much granite, so many peaks! On the descent, I went down the West Face, a more challenging route with steeper granite slabs and some route-finding fun. Once back to the Chain Lakes, I rejoined the trail to follow it back out of the Wilderness the same way. It was 1p by the time I returned to the TH, time to call it a day and head home. I changed into some fresh clothes and grabbed some snacks for the hour-long drive back to the highway at Long Barn. From there, it was another three hours to San Jose...

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