Peak 4,439ft P300
Peak 4,712ft P300
Peak 5,509ft P300
Woods Ridge P300
Kibbie Ridge South P500
Peak 4,919ft P300
Peak 5,380ft P500
Duckwall Ridge P500

Sat, Apr 17, 2021
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profile


I was in the Stanislaus National Forest for a few days of lower-elevation peakbagging, hoping to avoid snow and road closures one can expect in the higher elevations during April. I had partial success with this, finding most of the day's summits accessible, but those I had planned for a third day less so. I'd spent the night camped near the summit of Peak 4,408ft, the previous day's last summit. It was a gloriously isolated spot at the end of a Forest road with open views in all directions. I was up early to begin my day before sunrise in chilly temperatures. Most of the day's peaks were fairly short hikes as I spent nearly as much time exploring in the Jeep as I did on foot.

Peak 4,439ft

The summit burned in the 2013 Rim Fire and was salvage logged, clearing it of brush, snags and most everything. Partially burned slash litters the ground. I drove to the top of Pt. 4,429ft just south of the summit and walked the short distance to the highpoint. For some reason, this summits seems slower to recover from the fire than others I visited the previous day.

Peak 4,712ft

It took about 15min to climb to the summit of this one from the southwest. I followed an old road on foot for about half the distance, then went more directly up the steep slope to the top. Though only a few miles from the first summit, it had plenty of grass and brush growing on the slopes, and some new trees, too. Many snags were still standing, though they were scraggily trees, not the sort that would yield commercial timber. Lying on private timber land, it seems likely that this summit had been logged before the 2013 fire.

Peak 5,509ft

This summit overlooks the Cherry Creek drainage below Cherry Lake. There is a telecom installation at the summit and FR01N86 makes it a drive-up. I walked around the perimeter fence to take in the views. The best was of Cherry Lake to the northeast. A few trees survived the fire (probably when working to save the telecom installation), but many dead snags stand on the surrounding slopes.

Woods Ridge

There is a decomissioned fire lookout atop Woods Ridge, which lies in the middle of private timber lands owned by Sierra Pacific. The roads leading to the summit were gated and locked, but one can hike the area on foot or bike. I parked to the southwest along paved Cherry Lake Rd, then walked about three miles of various dirt roads to the summit. There was snow on portions of the road and downfall, likely why I found the gate locked - I wouldn't have gotten much further up the road in the Jeep anyway. The lookout tower stands about 80ft high, with a tiny little cab at the top with just enough room to sit in a chair and look out the windows on all sides. Climbing it was a bit intimidating - the stair steps are all wood, and not trusting them with my life, I stepped to the outside of each step where they were secured to the iron railing. Below and to the north are a pair of buildings that served as the residence for the lookout. Doors were open and the insides in disarray. This lookout does not have a volunteer group to keep it up, from the look of things. The views from the cab stretch out over a huge swath of the National Forest and east into Northern Yosemite.

Kibbie Ridge South

Kibbie Ridge forms the divide between Cherry Lake and Lake Eleanor and runs northeast for 10mi into Northern Yosemite. Kibbie Ridge South lies directly between the two lakes and sits just outside the park boundary. FR01N40Y runs within a short distance of the summit on its east side. A five minute cross-country hike through mostly open forest gets one easily to the summit, marked by a small boulder. Many trees here survived the Rim Fire, leaving only partial views from the summit.

Peak 4,919ft

This summit lies about 3mi south of Kibbie Ridge South. FR01N97 circumnavigates the summit, coming closest on the southeast side. Quite a bit of brush has grown up on the slopes since the fire, but there are enough open stretches that no real bushwhacking is needed. There are partial views looking east into Yosemite from the summit.

Peak 5,380ft

This summit lies to the east above the Lake Eleanor dam, both within the park. It is necessary to park at the TH about half a mile from the dam. This is an alternate way to visit Northern Yosemite, starting about 1,000ft higher than the more popular TH at nearby Hetch Hetchy. I found this the most interesting summit of the day, probably because it was the only one that presented much of a challenge. I walked the park road down to the lake and across the dam to the ranger cabin in 15min. The cabin was shut tight, a backpacker found examining the trail map at the information kiosk. I started on the trail heading east around the lake, leaving it a minutes later to start cross-country up to Peak 5,380ft. The challenge was two-fold, a combination of cliffy slopes on the northwest side and brushy conditions that required some careful route choices. The peak had partially burned in the Rim Fire, leaving lots of downfall and lots of green stuff, too. I picked up a few ticks as well, just to keep things sporting. It took about 30min for the cross-country portion, landing me on the broad, open summit. This was the only summit I left a register on during the two days. I noticed a solar-powered instrument to the west a short distance and went over to investigate. I guessed it was a transmitter for the ranger station. Having already started over that way, I decided to descend the west side for the added adventure. This route, following the edge of the NW cliffs, was brushier than the ascent route but thankfully downhill to make things easier. Overall, I think the ascent route was the better choice. My descent route landed me back at the ranger station directly, and from there it was a short walk back along the road to the TH.

Duckwall Ridge

I drove back to Cherry Lake and then west on paved Cottonwood Rd towards Tuolumne for 10-12mi. I turned onto FR02N13, intending to drive a series of forest roads to Thompson Peak and some others before calling it a day. The road had some snow on the shadier aspects near Cottonwood Creek, but the 4WD and high-clearance got me through that stretch without difficulty - it helped that I wasn't the first to drive through the old snow. I didn't get further past that however, not even reaching the first junction before running into some heavy downfall that I had no chance of clearing with a handsaw. It seems this part of the forest has not yet been cleared for recreational use. This put the kibosh on my plans for a third day in the area north of Cottonwood Rd. Instead, I drove back out to Cottonwood Rd, then south on FR02N11. I was heading up towards Duckwall Mtn, a summit I had climbed back in 2013, just after the Rim Fire. At the saddle on Duckwall Ridge, I turned east instead of west towards Duckwall Mtn. A lesser-used road goes up to another summit with 500ft+ of prominence called Duckwall Ridge. On my earlier visit I was focused on P1Ks and gave it no thought. This was a chance to pick up a missed opportunity. A fallen tree partially blocked the road and I got out to spend 10-15min trimming it with my handsaw so that I could drive past. There was more downfall further on, but I had managed to get within a quarter mile of the summit - good enough. A 10min hike saw me to the summit where I found a register left by Powen Ru in 2019. There are some views looking east and south through the surviving trees and standing snags. I returned to the Jeep by 2:45p and decided to pack up and head home. I would wait for another month or so before venturing back to explore the roads I found closed earlier...

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