Crandall Peak P500

Wed, Sep 6, 2023
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX


I was due back in San Jose after 4 days in the Sierra. Camped on the east side of Sonora Pass, above the USMC Mountain Warfare Training Center, I was up before sunrise with plans to visit Crandall Peak on my way home. The peak lies in the western half of the Stanislaus National Forest, on the long, east-west ridge that separates the Middle and South Forks of the Stanislaus River. A forest lookout used to reside on the summit, but all that remains is the concrete pad. The peak is a drive-up with a high-clearance vehicle, but passenger cars can get fairly close to make this one pretty easy. The reports on PB describing the driving route past Frazer Flat CG is the easiest way to the summit. I read the reports poorly the night before and ended up making a mockery of this - hours of driving on Forest roads, some of them questionable, some of them passing through active logging areas, all of them somewhat fun when you have no place to be. And truth be told, my return time wasn't all that important, so I did have lots of fun burning through a good deal of fuel while exploring a large part of the NF I'd never been to before.

My initial mistake was exiting SR108 on Forest Road 5N02, a few miles northeast of Strawberry. This paved road is good if you want to get to Beardsley Lake, not so great if you're heading to Crandall Peak. I was on my way down to the lake when I realized Google Maps was asking me to turn at a non-existent junction, onto a non-existent road. This would be repeated more than once before I had to stop trying to rely on Google to do what better research would have done. I switched to navigating by my GPSr and the Jeep's navigation system, but these weren't perfect matches either. I went back up the paved road to 4N14 and headed southwest. Several logging crews had to pause to allow me to go by - I was surprised but thankful that they hadn't simply closed the road. I eventually popped out at Spring Gap after about 5mi, still 3-4mi east of my target. A fenced facility at Spring Gap is managed by PG&E - it is the endpoint for a flume before it drops through a penstock to a powerhouse on the Middle Fork 2,000ft below. I drove through the facility trying to get to 4N42, only to find my exit gated and locked. A friendly employee came over to help out, kindly pointing me in the opposite direction to publicly-accessible 4N01 on the south side of Spring Gap. A few miles west on 4N01 is the junction with 4N88. One can park here and hike a trail/motorcycle track up to the summit as described by Robert Luher in his PB report. Instead, I continued on 4N01 around the north side of Crandall, then south and southeast on rougher 4N15, and finally a short spur road up to the summit.

There's not much to the summit - someone has planted a flagpole at the concrete pad, and there is ample amounts of broken glass to suggest the site as a popular party location. Despite more than 500ft of prominence, views are rather bland, overlooking many square miles of forested terrain, far from the more rugged features of the Sierra's higher elevations. Upon exiting, more adventure ensued as I attempted to drive south and southeast to reach Lyons Reservoir, where Marcus Sierra (Kerry Breen) had started his more challenging ascent on foot to the summit. I found myself driving on some pretty bad roads through private Sierra Pacific property, eventually reaching the lake but getting stopped by a locked gate about a mile short of the public access at the spillway on the southwest end of the reservoir. Drats. I ended up driving back up to 4N01 and out through the Fraser Flat route that I should have used from the beginning. Thus ended a 3hr+ odyssey and a five-day roadtrip, save for the remaining three hour drive back to San Jose...

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