Eagle Peak P500 LPC / SDC

Fri, Dec 23, 2011
Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile

Eagle Peak was one of four SDC summits I had left to visit on the list. It is also one of only two peaks I head left on the LPC list. But I hadn't started out for Eagle Peak when I left my mother-in-law's home in Clairmont that morning. I had hoped to do the harder Black Mtn (another SDC peak) located north of Ramona in the Cleveland National Forest. The routes I'd heard described were rather long, about 8 miles one way, and not all that interesting along dirt forest roads. I was hoping I might find a shorter way to the summit, perhaps via dirt roads from the northeast, through Indian lands.

Driving through Ramona, I turned left a bit too early and ended up on a long dirt road called Black Canyon Road, taking this north towards Black Mtn. At first I thought this was going to work nicely since the road was graded well enough to negotiate with my low-clearance van, but it was somewhat of a waste. I got to a concrete bridge going over Ysabel Creek before I realized I could have saved a bunch of dirt road driving by taking the paved road to the east around Sutherland Lake to this very bridge. This was actually the starting point for the known route to Black Mtn, but instead I continued driving north up Black Canyon hoping for something good to happen. The peak actually grew closer, the road getting me to within a mile of the summit, but that did little good. Between the road and the summit was the deep Black Canyon and horrendous chaparral that would be almost impossible to ascend through. I drove north to Mesa Grande, investigating all the side roads that headed off towards Black Mtn from around that area, but all turned out to be dead ends. Not literally, as the roads did continue as shown, but they were gated with private property signs and would require trespassing. I grew frustrated and eventually gave up. Not wanting to return along 11 miles of dirt road, I drove out from Mesa Grande to SR79 and then SR78 at Santa Ysabel. From here I turned east towards Julian and followed the LPC guide to the TH for Eagle Peak. The hike would be short, but at least the day wouldn't be a bust.

There were a surprising number of vehicles (4-5) at the trailhead, a wide spot in the road where several dirt roads meet. It had taken some time to reach it, including the last five miles on a good dirt road, and I was really surprised to find anyone. Where the main road makes a sharp turn there are two gated roads heading west. The left road heads to Three Sisters Falls and Eagle Peak, and it was along this route I traveled. After about half a mile this subsidiary road makes a left turn and drops down to Boulder Creek Canyon to the south and the falls. This appears to be a popular hike and where most of the folks had headed. A good trail continues west at this turn, heading to Eagle Peak. The LPC guide suggests it goes to other destinations, but that is no longer the case. The trail goes only to Eagle Peak, and one simply needs to follow it west.

The trail grows shady as it passes through a shallow tree-lined canyon north of the ridgeline that leads to Eagle Peak. Eventually the trail climbs up to the ridge, continuing west towards the summit though it seems to peter out before getting to the highpoint. Hearing voices nearby, I spotted a few rock climbers sunning themselves after finishing a route on the south face of the ridge. Rock climbers may be the reason for the good trail. It took about 45 minutes to reach the summit where I found a 1939 benchmark but no register. The views are typical for San Diego County, miles of chaparral-covered hills in most directions. Boulder Creek Canyon was prominent to the south and east with Cuymaca Peak in the background. To the west was Mt. Gower and San Diego Estates, the nearest encroachment of San Diego sprawl. To the southwest could be seen El Capitan Reservoir into which Boulder Creek flows.

I was back at the van only an hour and a half after starting out. The driving today would be more than twice this time, but at least I've scoped out the route to Black Mtn and will not have to guess about that one on my next visit.

Brian Browning informs via email that the shortest route to Black Mtn is from the west, starting from a dirt road off Pamo Valley Rd. Pamo Valley is paved to within about a mile of the TH, before becoming gravel.


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