Picnic Rock
Peak 7,350ft P300
Fir Crags
Painted Rock P300

May 5, 2020
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


Following a fun previous day, the second day went from good to bleh. After a few early successes, I was finding more roads in the Lake Tahoe area closed due to snow and COVID-19 concerns, and was having trouble finding interesting things to climb. In the end, after yet another Forest Service road was found blocked by snow, I decided to call it a day early and head home. At least I'll have a better idea what to expect on my next trip to the area.

Picnic Rock

Found just east of Brockway Summit, this peak is easily accessible via the Tahoe Rim Trail, with a TH located SSW of the summit along SR267. I started off on the trail, but eventually tired of its switchbacks (graded for horse, bikes and foot traffic) and headed up more directly to the summit. The forest understory is mostly clear and easily negotiated. The summit offers a pretty good view of Lake Tahoe to the south, the higher peaks along the south rim still topped with plenty of snow. On the way down I simply skipped the trail and made a beeline for the TH, taking only 15min for the return vs. twice that for the ascent.

Peak 7,350ft

This minor summit lies close to the CA/NV border, above the casinos at Crystal Bay. The Stateline Fire Lookout once stood about 2/3mi to the south. Both are located within the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, a special zone around the lake administered by the USFS. A TH is located on the Nevada side off Lakeview Ave, a popular way to visit the lookout site. A sign on the gate indicates the area is closed due to COVID-19 concerns, but it appears to be ignored regularly, at least by the half dozen other parties I was sharing it with. The parking is limited so I don't really understand the concern here as there is little danger of crowding. It took less than 15min to walk the lookout road to the site where there are nice overlook views but no signs of a lookout save a few concrete pads. The FS has built rock walls and installed some railing and information plaques. I was the only one there in the early morning hour. After taking in the nice lake views, I turned north and followed a series of use trails along the ridge to the higher Peak 7,350ft. Near the lower south summit is a large boulder marked with chalk on various holds. I could not really tell how popular this site might be, but I'd guess not very. I continued to the highpoint, half-covered in forest, but with some views of the lake looking southeast and a modest boulder making a pleasant perch. After a short break here I returned via the use trail to the saddle between the two summits, then struck off down the untrailed eastside slopes, steep and moderately brushy, more for the adventure than as a shortcut though it proved adequate for both. I was back before 8:30a, having taken just over an hour on the outing.

My next effort was to drive around to the west side of the lake and attempt to drive up to Barker Pass near Homewood. This paved road provides easy access to the Sierra Crest and a number of peaks on either side of the pass that I had yet to visit. Unfortunately the road was gated right at SR89 and I was unable to drive the ten miles up to the TH. I needed a new plan. I decided to head north to Interstate 80 and then visit some summits west of Donner Summit. The next two summits were found on the drive north along SR89 and the Truckee River.

Fir Crags

This one is exceedingly silly, not really sure why its even named on the topo map. Located on the west side of the river, I didn't even think it was accessible without a river crossing until I drove past a bridge that services a handful of summer home found on the other side. I pulled a U-turn in the middle of the highway and found a small parking place signed for No Parking Nov 1 - Apr 30. It was less than a week outside that window, luckily. I walked across the bridge and the river, turning left to follow the dirt road to its end. None of the homes were currently occupied, most boarded up. In fact I could have driven in on the road and simply parked next to the rounded bump that constitutes Fir Crags. There is really nothing craggy about it - one climbs 50ft up a slope to a short ridgeline with a few moderate-sized boulders overlooking the river.

Painted Rock

This was the most involved summit of the day, also along SR89 and the Truckee River though on the east side this time. It's about 1,500ft of gain and a little over two miles to the summit from where I parked at a bridge where the highway moves from the east side of the river to the west side. Parking is found just south of the bridge. An access trail gets one to the paved river bike path that goes under the bridge. I started on this, but a better way would be to cross to the east side of the highway and immediately gain access to a dirt single-track trail that climbs up towards Painted Rock and Peak 7,668ft. I had thought this would be a mostly cross-country effort, but it turns out there is a network of mountain bike trails above the highway. These connect with spur jeep roads higher up that might be accessible from Mt. Watson Rd to the east. None of these would be currently open to jeeps or bikes as there was too much snow still above 7,000ft. I used a combination of trail, road and cross-country travel to make my way to Painted Rock in about an hour and ten minutes. The craggy summit has weak views due to surrounding trees, though one can see distant views of the lake and a decent view west to the Sierra Crest south of the Alpine Meadows ski area. There was a forlorn-looking geocache under some rocks at the summit, the plastic tub broken and the contents exposed to the elements. I could see no reason why the summit had the name Painted Rock - there was nothing that looked unusually colored and the summit isn't even visible from a distance of greater than about 100yds in any direction. I next turned my attention to Peak 7,668ft to the south, about 1.5mi away and a few hundred feet lower. Unfortunately, there was a good deal of snow between the two. I had managed to reach Painted Rock with almost no snow travel and I hadn't carried my snowshoes with me thinking there would be very little. Now that it was after 11a, I was finding the snow softening and I was beginning to posthole as I headed to Peak 7,668ft. I got only perhaps a quarter mile before abandoning the idea - it just wasn't going to be much fun postholing through 3/4mi of snow with soaked boots. I was back down to the highway by noon, with half the day still remaining.

I drove west on the Interstate to Cisco Grove, exiting for the Lake Valley Reservoir where I was interested in some of the surrounding peaks including Monument Ridge and Black Mountain. More bad news. The road around the reservoir was open but blocked by snow after about a mile. I turned around and then attempted to drive south over the dam for Black Mtn. This was gated and signed for No Trespassing as PG&E was planning upgrades to the dam and wanted to keep the public out until the end of the year. A bit frustrated, I decided to call it a day and drive home, not a bad thing in the end. At least I had a good first-hand idea what the snow conditions were like in the area and could gauge that it would be another month before the backcountry roads begin to really open up. I could find other things to do in the meantime...

Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

This page last updated: Sat May 9 16:56:51 2020
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: snwbord@hotmail.com