Twin Sisters Mountain P1K TAC
Twin Sisters BM P500
Manzanita Ridge P750
Peak 5,095ft P300
Ironside Mountain P1K
Big Mountain P750

Mon, Jun 11, 2018
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 Profile

A camera malfunction left me with blurred pictures for the first part of the hike, until I had gotten to the summit of Twin Sisters, so I've deleted those. Too bad, really, since it is a scenic peak in a scenic area, and a few of the pictures would have showed it in such a light.

I had gotten up at 4a to begin this roadtrip, figuring I could do better than just half a day of hiking by the time I had finished with the long drive. I was heading back to the northern part of the state for the third time this year, but the first visit to the Trinity Alps since 2015. I wanted to visit some summits in the western half of the Wilderness, a collection of listed peaks (CC and TAC) and P1Ks. All the access points to these peaks are found along SR299 which crosses the folded coastal ranges from Redding to Eureka. A forest road reaches from the Big Flat Campground at SR299 up to Manzanita Ridge, along which runs the Trinity Alps Wilderness boundary. With high-clearance, one can drive to about 4,500ft where the road ends in a small, pictureque clearing with fine views. The road continues up from here, but it is blocked by heavy brush to vehicle traffic (and soon enters the Wilderness anyway). I reached this point sometime before 8:30a and started out from there on foot.

Twin Sisters sit at the apex of Manzanita and Treloar Ridges, both of which drop down to the Trininty River and SR299, with the Manzanita Creek drainage between them. There are trails on both ridges and the entire drainage is part of the Wilderness, marking the lowest point within the huge Wilderness. The hike along Manzanita Ridge to the highpoint at Twin Sisters is almost 4.5mi, with undulations and a deep saddle at the 3.3mi mark that drops as low as the starting point. Luckily the trail is pretty good despite the fires that burned here in 2006 and 2008, and I made good time, enjoying the views from the ridge and the unfolding scenery as I climbed higher and deeper into the Wilderness. Twin Sisters is quite prominent when first viewed from several miles out after passing through a high saddle southwest of the ridge's highpoint. The trail begins dropping to its lowpoint here, bypassing the Manzanita Ridge highpoint that I would return to on the way back. At the low saddle is the junction for a little-used trail that drops east off the ridge to the North Fork of the Trinity River. I continued along the ridge, following the now fainter trail as it climbs up towards Twin Sisters before veering west across the peak's south slopes to join Treloar Ridge. I left the trail where it turns west, continuing up to the summit over steep but non-brushy terrain where I arrived shortly before 10a. The views are quite nice (but for already mentioned reasons, I've got no photos), with Limestone Ridge and Thurston Peaks to the north, the highest Trinities to the northeast and hundreds of square miles of forested mountains in all directions. I was surprised to find no register at this fine point, so left one of my own before heading down the southwest ridge towards the peak's twin, Twin sisters BM, located less than a mile in that direction.

The descent started easily enough with plenty of open space between the brush, but this soon grew tougher and became a moderately difficult bushwhack in the lower half as I searched to rejoin the trail. Once on the trail the going got easier, but it was now more overgrown than it had been earlier and I had to go a little slower to keep from losing it in places. Like the higher sister, the trail here does not go over the summit of Twin Sisters BM, but across the south slope, so again I had to go cross-country (this time through brushier terrain, but still easily managed) to reach the top. I found good views again and a 1949 reference mark (but oddly couldn't find the benchmark it pointed to).

After a short break, I spent the next hour and a half reversing the route back to the high saddle near Manzanita Ridge's highpoint, though of course I used the trail across the south side of Twin Sisters rather than going back up and down the summit. Thanks to the low saddle between Twin Sisters and Manzanita Ridge, the latter has more than 850ft of prominence and worth a visit as well - it helps that it's only a short distance off the trail and the brush isn't too bad. With a bit of meandering to avoid any serious bushwhacking, I climbed up to the highpoint in about 15min. The summit is a narrow rocky outcrop just poking out from the brush, not all that hard to reach. To the southeast, less than a mile away, was the bonus Peak 5,095ft with a bit over 300ft of prominence. I studied the intervening terrain some, paying close attention to the brush that partially covered the slopes in that direction. I decided since it wasn't yet 12:30p, I had plenty of time if needed to extract myself from an awful mess and headed off towards the bonus.

I was happy to find I did not run into a brush wall, though it was heavy enough that my route was far from a straight line. I had to drop into a drainage between the two, then climb back onto Peak 5,095ft's NW Ridge where the going was rocky but far less brushy. It took a little less than an hour's time to traverse between the two, and though it was the least interesting of the four summits on this hike in terms of views, it gave me the most satisfaction because the route had looked quite difficult and made for a good challenge. Getting back to Manzanita Ridge without going back over the highpoint took me on a different course that provided its own challenges. The brush was very heavy just before I rejoined the trail, but by 2p I'd managed it with less than an hour to hike back out to the Jeep. The whole outing was something over 6hrs, covering 12mi and more than 5,000ft of gain - a good workout and a fairly enjoyable effort, too.

Ironside Mountain

Driving back out to SR299, I continued west to another Forest Service road that would take me back up in elevation, again on the north side of the river and highway. Ironside Mtn has a lookout on its western shoulder, and after a longish drive on a good road that brought me to it, I found it was manned, too. The elderly gentleman (forgot his name) was in his third season working for the Forest Service at various lookouts and was quite friendly, showing me around and asking about my wanderings. The Ironside Lookout is in a spectacular location overlooking the Trinity River drainage to the south and west. We talked a bit about Trinity Mtn and a few other summits I hoped to visit over the next few days, and after about 15min I left him to his lookout. I drove just a short distance back down from the lookout to the high saddle west of the highpoint, then beat the bushes less than 1/5mi to the actual highpoint. There were no views and little satisfaction in reaching it, especially because the lookout had far better views from its vantage point.

Big Mountain

Not quite done for the day, I decided to head out to this last summit, about four air miles to the northeast of Ironside. It hadn't even been on my radar until I noted Forest Service signs pointing it out, and with almost 800ft of prominence, it seemed worth checking out, presuming I could drive within a short distance of the summit. I could, it turns out, but not without a lot of additional driving, about an hour and a half and 16mi between the two peaks via the various Forest Service roads that connect them. It was after 6:30p before I had found my way to the north side of the summit where the road is closest, less than a fifth of a mile. Good thing, too, because the route up to the summit was rather brushy and tiring and if it had been twice the distance I might not have bothered. Again there were no views from the forested summit, and after identifying what I guessed was the highest point, I headed down. I dropped more steeply to the road on the return, gravity making things much easier on the steep slope, followed by an easy hike along the road to return to the Jeep by 7p. With the long drive early in the morning, it had been a very long day and still there was almost 2hrs of daylight remaining. I would use the remainder and then some once again driving back down to SR299, then west to Trinity Village at Hawkins Bar, and finally a last drive to higher elevations north of the highway where I planned to hike the next day. I had little appetite for heating up a can of soup, so I made do with what snacks I had on hand, called it dinner, and was soon sleeping the good sleep in the back of the Jeep...


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