Murphy Peak
Peak 4,407ft P300
Peak 4,908ft P300
Peak 4,025ft P500
Wet Meadow Hill
Sugarloaf P300
Peak 4,275ft P300
Rawles BM P300
Peak 4,525ft P300
Peak 4,222ft P300
Peak 4,408ft P300

Fri, Apr 16, 2021
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX

I decided to head to some snow-free summits on the western edge of the Stanislaus NF, around the 4-5,000ft level, between SR108 and SR120. I had been to the area in 2013 to visit Duckwall Mtn, the only P1K in the area. The 2013 Rim Fire had burned just prior to my arrival and scars were very fresh. I was happy to see that the slopes are slowly making their recovery as they tend to do in areas used to fire, and even if they don't recover at a pace humans might prefer, they do so at a pace that the rest of nature is just fine with. This trip was designed to hit as many of the surrounding peaks as possible, more of a driving exercise in the Jeep than a hiking one. None of the hikes were longer than about half a mile each way to the summit, though each required at least some time out of the car. No drive-ups today.

Murphy Peak

From the town of Tuolumne, I drove northeast on Forest Rte 1N04 (aka Cottonwood Rd, nicely paved) for about ten miles. I left the pavement to take various dirt roads to the southwest side of Murphys Peak at the junction with FR02N34A. This spur road is shown going to the summit of Murphy in half a mile, but I found the road blocked by downfall and encroaching brush. It doesn't look like this road in maintained anymore, but is still reasonable for foot traffic if you don't mind navigating the downfall (that seemed to be the theme of the whole trip, really). There's a bit of cross-country at the very end to reach a bit of rock serving as highpoint, buried in brush and trees. About 35min for the roundtrip effort.

Peak 4,407ft

This summit lies a little over a mile west of Murphy Peak. I was able to drive FR02N34 west towards the peak, but the spur FR02N34C that goes close to the summit was blocked by downfall. 45min was required for the effort, again no views due to brush and trees. Neither of these first two peaks were within the Rim Fire zone.

Peak 4,908ft

There was much driving, taking most of the next hour. Peak 4,908ft had burned in the Rim Fire and the brush came back with a vengeance. There are two Forest roads shown forking off FR02N11 towards the summit, one of them right to the top. Both are no longer maintained. The one going to the summit was badly overgrown with downfall, but still better than going cross-country. Higher up, the brush relents, but the summit was so unimpressive that I forgot to take a photo. Rather than climb back over all that downfall, I decided to drop off the northeast side of the summit to intercept FR01N61 and follow that back. The cross-country wasn't too bad (seems this slope hadn't burned much at all), but the road had lots of downfall and may not have been any easier in the end. Interestingly, I saw a lot of fresh downfall over the few days I was driving around - many of these looked like healthy pines that snapped off, usually less than 8" in diameter. I don't know if they had been weakened by an infestation, but high winds in the area seemed to play havoc with some of the younger trees.

Peak 4,025ft

I messed up my navigation some by going to Peak 4,908ft before this one. Consequently, I had to backtrack along half of the road I had previously driven before forking off to Peak 4,025ft. Another hour of driving, though not unpleasant. FR01N20 goes neatly right by the summit, though downfall blocked the last part of this. Still, it was only a five minute walk to the summit with some bushwhacking to get to the highpoint above the roadway. No views of course.

Wet Meadow Hill

Another hour of driving, half of that back-tracking to Peak 4,908ft to reverse my earlier navigation error. A downed tree gave me pause as I had to go up on the left bank of the roadway to squeeze under the fallen tree. Past this, FR01N39 got me within a few hundred feet of the summit on the southeast side. Two minutes' effort on foot got me to the grassy summit with partial views to the south.


There are around 90 summits in the state named after the lumps of sugar that were common in the 1800s. This one is found about two miles southeast of Wet Meadow Hill and once had a USFS lookout at the top. Downfall blocked what would otherwise be a drive-up, but the hike was still fairly short. Poison oak was rife on the slopes I had to cross to get around a large, fallen tree. There is a small utility shed at the summit and a fantastic view looking down into the Tuolumne River gorge.

Peak 4,275ft

I had bypassed this one earlier on the way to Wet Meadow Hill, but picked it up on the drive back out to FR01N01. The summit is bypassed by FR01N17, leaving a short but steep climb up from the north. This slope had an abundance of poison oak and it was impossible to avoid all of it, so I took to stomping on it as needed to keep from brushing against it. This contaminated the bottoms of my boots, of course, but they would become uncontaminated with continued use throughout the day. It was nice to see lots of 5-foot pine trees regrowing after the Rim Fire.

Rawles BM

Rawles BM was only partially burned in the Rim Fire. Some of the pines survived and these no doubt are helping to reseed the surrounding area. Enroute on the drive, I paused at one point to get out to remove a freshly fallen tree. It had a diameter less 3 inches, which is my reasonable limit with a hand saw. Further up it was blocked for good, but the road doesn't go to the summit anyway. I got more exercise clambering over fallen trees to reach the summit. I found the Benchmark in the grass and weak views through the trees. Less than 30min for the roundtrip effort.

Peak 4,525ft

These last three summits are all found to the east, across the gorge formed by the Clavey River, a tributary of the Tuolumne River. FR01N01 switchbacks down to the river to 2,400ft, goes over an old bridge, and then switchbacks up the other side to 4,000ft. I found the road narrow, overgrown with brush and with some scary partial washouts, but passable. I half-expected to find the road blocked around each corner, leaving me with an impossible turn-around, but was more than a little happy to find it could be driven the entire distance, an effort that took me an hour and a half. I was able to drive FR01N79 to the southwest side of Peak 4,525ft. At a small turnout there, it appeared that a bulldozer had driven up the hillside through the forest, perhaps as part of a firebreak effort during the Rim Fire. I hiked up this slope, then found a thin use trail along the ridge running northeast to the summit. This made for a pleasant little hike, even if the summit offered no views and no obvious highpoint. 20min sufficed for the roundtrip.

Peak 4,222ft

Driving further east, I entered an area that had been more severely burned in the fire. Almost everything had been torched, leaving almost no live trees. Salvage operations had removed most of the trees in many areas. Peak 4,222ft was not one such area, however. The snags on the north side of the peak are all still standing and the brush has gotten annoyingly thick. FR01N01A is signed for No Trespassing and gated on a parcel of private ranch land. I parked outside the gate and went over, soon within the NF lands. I could not find a way up through the heavy brush from this side and had to give up the effort. Another burn will be needed, or perhaps an approach from a different direction.

Peak 4,408ft

This one is a near drive-up using FR01N07Y. A short walk over the decimated landscape got me to the summit near sunset. Not a tree or bush to block views from the summit. I decided to camp here for the night, enjoying an orange sunset across the western sky. More fun on tap for the next day...


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