Cow Mountain P1K
Cow Mountain Ridge P500

Sep 20, 2014
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPXs: 1 2 Profile

In the Mayacamas Mountains between US101 and Clear Lake are two P1Ks, Cow Mountain and Pyramid Ridge. They are located in the Cow Mountain Recreation Area, fairly easy to access by car though much dirt road driving is involved. Cow Mountain is located in the North Cow Mountain Recreation Area that appears to be primarily used by hunters. Pyramid Ridge is in the far more popular South Cow Mountain OHV Recreation Area, and as the name suggests it is mostly used by the off-road crowd. I was in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on Saturday afternoon to watch my son run in a Cross Country meet. Afterwards I headed north finding traffic unusually heavy all the way to Petaluma. As a consequence, it wasn't until after 5p before I reached the access roads for the Cow Mtn Rec Areas, and after 6p when I reached an old water tank that I used as a TH for hiking to Cow Mountain. A high clearance vehicle could probably drive to the summit by continuing on the main roadway to the crest and then SE on a jeep trail. My route would be up an old firebreak from the water tank and then along the jeep trail, a distance of less than a mile and a half. It was good that the outing would be short as I hadn't much available daylight left.

Cow Mtn is visible about 1,000ft higher and to the east of my start. The ascent ridge was steep, but without any brush to contend with, relatively straightforward. It took but 15min to climb to the crest where I picked up the jeep trail through oak woodland and the hiking becomes much easier over rolling terrain. I came across a beefed-up Jeep parked in the road a short distance below the summit. The occupant, decked in camo gear, was waiting for sunset to "glass the area", meaning to use his binoculars to look for a suitable buck to shoot. I spoke with him briefly to ascertain I wasn't interferring with his recreation, then continued on to the summit. A squat, flat area that could hold a couple of vehicles, it affords fine views overlooking the Mayacamas Range looking south. Trees blocked views looking north. As my new friend later commented, the locals refer to this summit as Top of the World. It's a pretty landscape of chaparral and forest, all the more calm and soothing-looking in the last rays of an end-of-summer day.

Back down to the van by 7p, I drove back along the access road, stopping briefly to visit a bonus summit called Cow Mountain Ridge. This one is gated and signed for No Trespassing, the summit home to a small collection of communication towers. I paid it a brief visit as twilight developed. There is a fine view of Clear Lake to the east that can't be seen from Cow Mountain. It would have been an even better view an hour earlier with the sun still shining, but one takes what one can get. I spent the next hour driving back out to the pavement and then into the South Cow OHV area. I found this one much busier with trucks coming and going, lots of campers and dustier roads. I parked near the summit of Red Mtn, a bonus peak I would start with come morning...


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This page last updated: Fri Sep 26 09:37:51 2014
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