Peak 1,161ft P300
Peak 1,740ft P300
Peak 1,361ft P300
Peak 1,060ft P300
Flagstaff Hill P500
Pilot Hill P500
Peak 1,321ft P300
Peak 1,827ft P300
Thompson Hill P300

Fri, Apr 21, 2023
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 GPX

This was as last-minute planning as I can recall doing for an overnight trip. Late the previous night, my wife let me know she was going to be gone most of the day and the next. It wasn't until I woke up around 6:15a the next morning that I thought to put a plan into action. I got online for about 45min, working out a plan for the day based on "Where has Kerry Breen been that I haven't," and was out the door by 7a. I was headed to the Sierra foothills around Folsom Lake in western El Dorado County. It was a collection of mostly public summits with some exceptions. The longest outing was about 3mi roundtrip, the shortest less than a mile, but it kept me busy pretty much all day.

Peak 1,161ft

This is the westernmost summit in El Dorado County, located in the suburb of La Cresta Village. Ridgeview Park provides access to an informal trail along the summit ridgeline through a small oak woodland. The highpoint is a large rock in someone's backyard, adjacent to a water tank. There is no fence or signage to discourage one, but the creep-factor is unmistakable. A 15min effort.

Peak 1,740ft

This is the highpoint of a stretch of BLM/state lands between Cameron Park and Shingle Springs, a short distance north of US50. A network of trails have been informally cut through the thick manzanita, clearly visible on the satellite view. Most of these are old roads depicted on the topo map. There appears to have been some work at erosion mitigation, but it doesn't appear to have been completed. In drier years, the whole place looks like a fire hazard waiting to get torched and threatening the surrounding neighborhoods. A well-used fire ring I found on the way to the summit could easily be the cause of it someday. No views from the summit as the manzanita is over head level. The trails are a godsend, but the overall experience was pretty meh.

Peak 1,361ft

This was the most interesting summit of the day, found on BLM/state lands east of Folsom Lake. The BLM lands are designated as the Kanaka Valley Hunting grounds, mostly open to bird hunting and those using more challenging hunting options (like bow hunters and muzzleloaders). The state lands are part of the Pine Hill Ecological Preserve for which one is supposed have written permission to enter. The trailhead is on Kanaka Valley Rd, southeast of the summit. A younger guy was there when I pulled up, unloading a pick axe and a couple of metal detectors from his truck - I wasn't the only non-hunter there today. He asked if I'd seen any rattlesnakes, worried that the warmer temps would bring them out. I was of no help of course, as this was my first visit to the area. As far as I could tell, one needs to travel through the ecological preserve in order to reach the summit. The satellite view shows a shorter route through the BLM lands only, but I failed to find this trail near its start, instead floundering until the poison oak got too thick and I gave up. I ended up following much of Kerry's route, though I did find a shortcut in the preserve to save maybe half a mile. The route was very scenic, a combination of oak woodlands to start (very green this year), and chaparral for the second half. The preserve boundary has a locked gate, fence, and signed for No Trespassing. The fence is easy to step over on the left side of the gate. One follows the trail system in the preserve north, west, then south to arrive at the base of the summit on its east side with about 600 horizontal feet to the summit. The first part of this final ascent is easier, with brush encounters avoidable, but it eventually devolves into a bushwhack, no matter how careful the route-finding. It's not bad overall and I saw no poison oak in the chaparral, so there's that. The summit has a collection of rocks, the highest of which is to the west side with a view to Folsom Lake in the distance. There is evidence of drinking and regular visits to the area back in the day. The topo map shows old roads getting close to the summit, but only scattered remnants of those remain. The summit was surely more accessible in decades past. It took me a bit over an hour to reach the highpoint, but would take only 45min for the return once I had things dialed in.

Peak 1,060ft

This summit is two miles north of the previous one, but it would take a half hour of driving to get between the two. Peak 1,060ft rises above the South Fork of the American River, near the Salmon Falls Rd bridge. There is a $10 fee to park at the Darrington TH or across the street at the Skunk Hollow parking lot. Both sides of the road are signed for No Parking. However, the parking area on the south side of the bridge has no such signage. The area is popular with mountain bikers, hikers, and fisherfolk. Rather than use Kerry's track that approaches from the backside that is said to be rife with poison oak, I used the much shorter approach from Chromio Muldoon's track that goes up an old firebreak on the steep south side. There is a use trail of sorts through this meandering break (that reverses uphill direction several times, inexplicably) but very little poison oak until one gets to the summit. Even there, it was easy enough to work around it. The north summit is definitely higher, about 10ft by my measurement. I went back the same way, a little less than an hour for the effort.

Flagstaff Hill

This one is on private property on the west side of Folsom Lake, but it doesn't seem to be patrolled or cared for. Access is from paved Rattlesnake Bar Rd that goes to the lake and Rattlesnake Bar State Park. A gated dirt road goes south nearly to the summit. There is some trash dumps along the road shortly after starting on it. I suspected it wasn't the owner doing so, and on the way out I checked the gate - it is unlocked and I could have driven most of it. I walked the mile distance on the road to find the bike trails that lead nicely to the summit. From the satellite view, there appears to be a whole network of trails, created and signed by a Star Wars fan, giving them names like Jar Jar, Mandalorian, and Jabba. There is a benchmark labeled FLAGSTAFF and some views of the lake, but tall brush blocks most of the views on these trails. I spent about 50min on this one.

Pilot Hill

I should have done this one before Flagstaff, because I passed right by it on my way to Flagstaff Hill. Pilot Hill has a Cal Fire lookout but is surrounded by private property. Brett Moffatt found a way to access it from an empty lot near the summit for sale, reached via Pilot View Dr (outside the gated community). Rather than park at the empty lot, I parked just off the pavement and took the old road up to the summit, following the second half of Kerry's track. Nice views from the summit, cool lookout, all of 15min's work.

Peak 1,321ft

These last three summits are all well east of Folsom Lake, not far from SR49. Peak 1,321ft is located within the Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Park on BLM lands. I parked at the Magnolia Ranch TH east of the peak and used David Sanger's track, the same used by Kerry. It's quite popular with hikers, bikers, and equestrians. Even though it was getting close to 6p, there were a dozen cars in the lot. The trail system is well-maintained. The terrain is a mix of oak woodlands and more open grass slopes. The lateness of the day made for wonderful lighting with everything so green. There are several view benches on the summit ridge, one on each end, both with views of the South Fork American River. There were still a dozen cars when I returned after 7p.

Peak 1,827ft - Thompson Hill

These are both drive-ups between the last summit and Placerville, off SR49. Both have homes at the very summit, only a few feet higher than their paved access roads in rural communities. I got to the last one right at sunset.

I ended up having dinner in Placerville while trying to figure out a plan for the next day. I had wanted to go to some of the higher elevations, but could figure out little as to which roads might be open and where snow levels might be. Finally, around 9p, I decided to drive home but didn't make it that far. As I was driving through Sacramento, it occurred to me that I could find some things to do in Solano County around Vacaville the next morning before it got too warm. I found a place near Lagoon Valley to spend the night off I-80. The road noise was more or less a constant drone, and I slept quite well that night...


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