Little Granite Peak P750 CC / TAC
Peak 7,250ft P900
Garten Peak P900

May 4, 2015
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


Little Granite Peak/Peak 7,250ft

Canyon Creek is to the Trinity Alps as Yosemite Valley is to Yosemite NP, quite simply the most popular place in the region. Thompson Peak, the highest in the Trinity Alps at just over 9,000ft lies at the head of this 18mi-long N-S canyon that drains into the Trinity River at Junction City. A paved road leads to the TH halfway up this canyon, the starting point for most visitors to the Trinity Alps area. So far in my previous visits I had explored less popular THs and only glimpsed the Trinities highest summits from a distance. Snow still covers much of the terrain above 8,000ft so I was looking for peaks at or below that elevation. I had driven in the night before and slept the night in the van so that I could get an early start on my first exploration of Canyon Creek. My goal was Little Granite Peak, a relatively easy dayhike of around 12mi and 5,000ft of gain, located on the east side of the canyon. My route would take me up the Bear Creek Trail, the lesser-used of the two trails starting at the end of the pavement. Where the trail goes over a saddle and into the Stuart Fork drainage, the route leaves the trail to follow the ridge north to Little Granite. A P900 peak, unnamed Peak 7,250ft, is located just south of the saddle and would make a nice bonus. A very fine outing, too, as it turned out.

I was up and on my way at 6:30a. It was the first time I'd seen another car at one of the THs I used in the Trinity Alps and on a Monday in early May there were more than a dozen cars - popular indeed! The Bear Creek Trail forks immediately so I never really set foot on the Canyon Creek Trail - that would be left for a future trip. It was evident from the start that the Bear Creek Trail sees much less traffic. Winter downfall was strewn across the trail in a number of places from the start - this would get better as the trail climbed higher and the forest begins to thin out. The trail follows well above the east embankment of Bear Creek, opening up to some views across the canyon after about a mile and improving as elevation is gained. Around the three mile mark the trail crosses Bear Creek, lively this time of year, but probably drier into the summer. I had no trouble crossing it, however. After more switchbacks and gaining about 700ft of elevation, the trail crossed back to the east side of Bear Creek and then begins climbing directly up a thinly forested ridgeline to the Stuart-Canyon Saddle. It was 8:30a by the time I reached it after 5mi of trail work and 3,300ft of gain.

I turned my attention to the southeast and Peak 7,250ft. I found a use trail to start up from the saddle but this didn't last long and soon deposited me on the rocky, modestly brushy ridgeline about a hundred feet higher. The ridge turned out to be an unexpected bit of fun scrambling, weaving between gendarmes and patches of thicker brush, a route-finding exercise of mild proportions. An old, rusted tin can I came across was still intact with its contents of concentrated botulism. I left it easily visible among the rocks for someone more daring to actually open it. Sticking to the ridge makes the route more class 3. Traversing on the right side can keep it to class 2. The final 100ft to the summit looks particularly difficult from a distance, but upon closer inspection more class 3 leads directly to the summit (one could bypass this by going further right and approaching from the south, but the direct route is easily the better scramble). It took just under 40min to reach the summit. No register or cairn, but some pretty fine views were found there. To the west across Canyon Creek rises Mt. Hilton and a fine-looking ridge traverse towards Mt. Thompson. To the south is the crooked ridgeline connecting the summit to Monument Peak and Weaver Bally. To the east is the skyline profile of the Red Trinities, including Red, Granite and Middle Peaks. And to the north, of course, was my next direction of travel up to Little Granite.

I returned to the saddle via the same route and then began the longer climb to Little Granite. The ridgeline is a mixed bag due to heavier brush than found on the way to the bonus peak. There are animal trails that cut through much of this if you take the time to do the meandering dance it requires, but a more straightforward option is to traverse the east side of the ridge staying just below or near the brush line. If you cut even further to the right you can avoid some of the rocky scrambling found directly on the ridge SSW of the summit. Trees are found along the ridge around a saddle just below the rocky summit on the south side. The easiest route is probably to continue traversing right around the rocky South Ridge and climb talus/boulders from the east side. That, however, would miss some fun scrambling to class 3+ on the South Ridge itself. The only disappointment is that the summit is actually a good distance beyond the false summit seen from near the saddle, but the continuing scramble is also pretty good.

The views are nothing short of superb as one gets a grand view of the snowy peaks around upper Canyon Creek. Directly north is the jagged outline of Sawtooth Mtn, often described as the finest peak in the Trinities. Alpine Lake can be seen below the snowfield descending from Little Granite's North Slope. I found was an empty ammo box, register nowhere to be found (I think the SummitPost page noted the same thing). After spending a few minutes taking in the views I began my descent which I intended to be much the same way I'd ascended. But as I was passing along the South Ridge I noticed what looked like an interesting descent route off the west side and decided to investigate. The diversion was well worth the effort as I found the steep chute I descended did not cliff out as I expected it to, and with more class 3 scrambling sideways back towards the saddle I found a way down and back on easier ground. From the saddle I cut a more descending route on the east side of the ridge, making for a quicker way down that bypasses most of the ridgeline. It was noon when I returned to the Stuart/Canyon Saddle and another hour and a half before I found my way back to the TH. It thought it a fine outing.

Garten Peak

With extra time and energy, I went in search of an unnamed P900 located near the mouth of Canyon Creek on the west side. The BLM manages this parcel of land just outside the National Forest. Access is via unsigned Cemetery Rd off SR299 just east of Helena. This decent gravel/dirt road winds around to a side canyon called Brock Gulch and then climbs to a saddle about 3/4mi ESE of the summit. No road goes to the summit but one of the forks goes around the north side of the summit for a shorter approach. The road deteriorated here so I parked my low clearance van and hoofed it from the saddle. I started up the road but soon came upon an old logging road, decades since it was last used, above the main road. I started following this for about ten minutes before deciding it was too overgrown to be of much use. Where I saw a path through the trees leading steeply up to the crest, I took the opportunity to dump the logging road. After some bushwhacking I found myself on the crest still 2/5mi east of the summit. Luckily there is an old firebreak running along the crest that is still quite serviceable and in another 10min I was at the highpoint.

The summit is mostly covered in trees but there are some views west and south to the surrounding hills. Not far below the summit I had come across a glass jar nailed to a tree by its lid. Inside was a 1988 mining claim for the area posted by a Mr. & Mrs. Garten, in whose honor I bestowed the name on the summit. On the way back I made an effort to follow the firebreak, hoping it would take me back to the saddle in an easier fashion. Unfortunately it died out well before I reached the saddle which caused me some unpleasant bushwhacking with poison oak sprinkled about to keep me on my toes. It was after 3:30p by the time I'd returned, time to call it a day. The lesson I learned on the day was that low, brushy summits were less fun than high rocky ones. So I went back to Weaverville to get online for a few hours to find some more of the high rocky variety rather than spend another day doing the lower summits as I had planned (knowing full well I'd be back to do the lower ones, too). I was happy to find no shortage of the preferred type...


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