Rainbow Ridge South P2K
South Rainbow Peak
Rainbow Ridge North
Big Hill
Thomas Hill P500
Pratt Mountain P1K
Iron Peak P2K

Apr 27, 2019
Iron Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profile

Updated 9/22/2023: LIDAR has shown that the southern point is 12ft higher than the northern one, and so prominence for these two summits have been updated to reflect the finding. The report below has not been updated.

I had come home early from my last roadtrip with my tail between my legs, barely able to walk and sporting a brand-new pair of crutches I'd purchased to service my uncooperative right knee. As there was no obvious injury leading to it, overuse and tendonitis seem the most likely cause and effect. Rest seems the most helpful cure. I spent 8 days resting it, sort of. I didn't go out on any hikes but I did go bike riding since that seemed to have no adverse effect. After a week it was feeling better, but I still couldn't fully weight it and had to be careful while walking. My wife had gone off to San Diego to visit her mom, leaving me with an empty house. For some reason, an empty Wilderness seems like heaven and an empty house just feels sad. So I thought, "Well, I can ride a bike, so that means I could bike or drive to a summit. I wonder if I could find some interesting ones?" Of course I could, that last part was facetious - I could (and have) found interesting summits in landfills. Since I wasn't really sure this would work out, I decided to try it for just a day. There were a couple of P2Ks along the North Coast and US101 that seemed to fit the bill. Rainbow Ridge was a bike ride and Iron Peak (mostly) a drive-up. I took a late nap Friday afternoon and headed north around 8p. Traffic had mostly died down by this time and I made good time through San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge and northward for hour after hour, finally settling down to sleep along the Avenue of the Giants around 1a. I was up again around 6a and finished the driving through Humboldt Redwoods State Park to reach the TH off Mattole Rd.

Rainbow Ridge

Rainbow Ridge is one of the most unassuming P2Ks in the state. It would be difficult to guess its status just by observation or looking at maps. It rises to less than 4,000ft, sandwiched between the Mattole River on one side and the Eel River on the other. Most of the ridge lies on private timber lands that see very little traffic outside harvest times. On the 7.5' topo map, there are two closed 3,600-foot contours vying for the highpoint, separated by a mile and half. On some early maps, the southern point had a spot contour of 3,614ft which led some to believe it the highest. But a preponderance of trees makes it impossible to ascertain by leveling methods which is the highest and most highpointers now visit both just to be sure. Adding to the confusion, there are two named summits along the ridge, both lower than the unnamed points. South Rainbow Peak is pretty much a freebie if visiting both since it lies directly between them on the ridge. Rainbow Peak lies another 3.5mi northwest of the furthest highpoint and to my knowledge, no highpointer has yet bothered to pay it a visit. There are two other summits that can be added with much less effort. A small handful of visitors have added Big Hill on the park boundary though oddly, it seems no one has gone the extra mile (literally) to add the higher Thomas Hill with 500ft of prominence.

It was not long before 7a when I started off on my bike from the locked gate off Mattole Rd. The signs here are confusing, with No Trespassing posted on various trees at the start, but probably only referring to that portion of the forest on the lefthand side. Other signs are encountered further up the road that suggest it is open to park visitors for the first 2.5mi. I was expecting the gradient to be tame and easily managed on the bike, but found that I was pushing the bike up more sections than I would have guessed. Part of this may be that my right leg wasn't as strong as I'd hoped but I think I'm just out of practice on the mountain bike. I was lucky that my leg had recovered enough that the pushing efforts did not seem to seriously bother it. The dirt road is kept in decent shape by the logging company, no serious obstacles in the road which can be followed for most of the route. At 2.5mi a park sign is encountered letting you know you are leaving the park if you turn left. A preponderance of signs found after this provide regular reminders that you are now trespassing in no uncertain terms. Much of the route follows along the ridge or not far below it, mostly through oak and pine forest, but with some open, grassy stretches that offer occasional views of the Kings Range on one side and the interior of the Coast Ranges on the other. At the 4.5mi mark a junction is reached where the road meets Rainbow Ridge proper. One turns north here to reach the three peaks along the ridge. After a short climb, Rainbow Ridge South is encountered first, a spur road leading to the top. It has a cell tower and utility building behind a fence at the flat summit with poor views. One can get a view of Kings Peak to the southwest by walking to the edge in that direction. Ten minutes further on, South Rainbow Peak is reached with a grassy stretch rising up from the road to get one easily to the summit. It is surrounded by trees, offering no views, but there is a piece of solar-powered equipment behind an animal fence whose purpose proved a mystery to me. I tried to continue over the summit to reconnect with the road, doable on foot, but with the bike I found the older path choked with downed trees and had to return to the southeast where I had first left the main road.

Continuing on towards Rainbow Ridge North, I came to a junction southeast of the summit and kept left. This soon ends at a locked gate for the Vevoda Ranch. Daryn Dodge reports on PB that he continued on the road past this gate a few tenths of a mile to find a grassy stretch leading to the summit. I decided to leave my bike here and hoof it up to the summit through the forest understory. This worked, but not so cleanly as it was a bit dense in places and I had to go over a decrepit barbed-wire fence. Luckily it was fairly short and took less than 15min to find my way to the summit. It was pretty disappointing, with no obvious highpoint (though my best guess agreed with Daryn that it's inside the treeline) and no register that I could find. There was a nice view looking southwest towards the King Range, but it seemed less than it should be for a P2K summit. It was almost 9a by this time, still early in the day. I returned back to the road via a grassier descent to the south, climbed back on the bike and headed back.

I returned to the sign at the park boundary near Big Hill and headed off on the right fork towards the last two summits. This led to a nearly identical sign on the south side of Big Hill - to the left takes one to Big Hill, to the right is Thomas Hill. I visited Big Hill first, leaving the bike alongside the road on the southwest side of the summit and climbing a steep but short grass slope up to the top. There is a hazy view of Grasshopper Mtn (the highpoint of the state park) to the east, and an unimpressive view of Rainbow Ridge to the south. Back to the bike once again, I returned to the park sign, took the right fork, and in 4/5mi came to a saddle on the southwest side of Thomas Hill. The road here turns sharply to the south as it begins a descent. I parked the bike and climbed up forest and grass slopes to the top of Thomas Hill. I found this the most interesting summit of the morning, with some rather large, old oaks growing in the quiet forest understory that allowed for surprisingly easy travel, though steep. There were zero views to be had from the summit but that was fine - the forest was the interesting thing here, and one could almost picture an elf or gnome peering from behind one of the mossy trees. No such fairy creatures emerged, but I did find a State Property sign tacked to a tree - seems both Big Hill and Thomas Hill are right on the park boundary. I returned back to the bike for one last time and rode it the remaining 3.5mi back to the start. I didn't see a soul for the whole 4.5hrs that I was out.

Pratt Mountain

Pratt Mountain lies on the main ridgeline east of US101, separating the Eel River from the South Fork Eel River, among private ranchlands. Paved Alderpoint Rd climbs steeply up from US101 to reach a saddle on the main ridge a few miles south of Pratt Mtn. There is a good dirt road here that climbs to the telecom towers found at the summit, locked just above the paved road. The distance was further than I wanted to hike with a bum leg so I turned around at the gate intending to leave it for another time. On the way back down I discovered Dyerville Loop Rd, a good gravel road that goes around the west side of Pratt Mtn, getting within half a mile. I parked just out of sight of the road at a small pond and hiked up the west side of the mountain from there. The going is initially along an old road, eventually becoming mostly open forest understory, taking about 20min to reach the top. There is an assortment of telecom towers and buildings, the old lookout having been removed. The concrete pillars still remain, as does the lookout cabin which has been unceremoniously left dumped nearby. Open views to the east stretch across the Coast Ranges to the snow-covered Yolla Bollys. My return followed the same route for a roundtrip time of about 40min.

Iron Peak

This is the highest peak west of the Eel River, about 24mi SSE of Pratt Mtn. It lies atop the Spyrock neighborhood, a dispersed collection of homesteads along Spyrock Road. The road, paved at first but becoming good dirt/gravel, winds its way up out of the Rattlesnake Creek drainage, climbing 2,500ft in about 10mi. There are various unsigned forks that make it helpful to be familiar with the route to Iron Peak ahead of time. There is an old lookout atop the summit and a road leading to it, but it is gated 3/4mi from the top. The gate is signed for No Trespassing and there are neighbors on three sides, though not particularly close. I parked just past the gate at a wide spot in the road and hiked up from there along the road. It's a short 15min hike to the summit that has a microwave relay tower in addition to the closed lookout. I found a reference mark next to the lookout on a concrete block, but the nearby benchmark has been removed from its concrete emplacement. The views were the best of the day, covering many hundreds of square miles in all directions. I was happy to get up and back down without a dog barking, a questioning neighbor or other distraction.

I would spend the next 4.5hrs driving home, getting me back almost exactly 24hrs after leaving. It was a short roadtrip, but the knee held up respectfully, though still far from its old self. I suspect more short trips will be on the agenda for the foreseeable future until the knee becomes more dependable...

Andrew Kirmse comments on 05/06/19:
The solar-powered contraption on South Rainbow Peak is a wind profiler, used to measure the wind field aloft to see if the site is a good candidate for a wind turbine.
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More of Bob's Trip Reports

For more information see these SummitPost pages: Rainbow Ridge South - Rainbow Ridge North

This page last updated: Fri Sep 22 08:07:24 2023
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