Skunk Hill P300
Grizzly Peak P1K
Pigeon Hill P300
Bear Mountain P1K
Toad Mountain P300
Harris Mountain P750

Jun 2, 2021
Grizzly Peak
Bear Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPX Profile

It had been two years since I was last in far Northern California, and time for a return. With only two days for a short trip and a long drive, I decided to leave San Jose in the wee hours of the morning to give me as much of a full day as possible. My main goals were a collection of P1Ks and P900s in the Shasta-Trinity NF east of Mt. Shasta, but I would manage only half of the agenda I had in mind for the two days. The main problem was that many of the forest roads were still closed even though there was almost no snow on any of the places I wanted to visit. It seems that Sierra Pacific Industries has installed a lot of new gates and has limited public vehicles on their property.

About an hour before sunrise, while cruising north on Interstate 5, there was a peculiar phenomenon on the eastern horizon - a vertical "flare" of light where the sun would come up, looking like a flashlight had been shone up into a dusty attic. It persisted until just before the sun came up, first time I noticed such a thing. I looked it up later and found it is called a "sun pillar", caused by light reflecting off falling ice crystals high in the atmosphere. Who knew?

Skunk Hill

My first two efforts were to reach Peak 4,416ft and Bald Mtn, both P1Ks south of property and I had little chance of success. The access roads off Squaw Valley Rd were gated at the pavement. Bald Mtn is located in the NF, but I found it gated 8mi from the summit where the route goes through Sierra Pacific property. The road may never be open to the public vehicles. I didn't want to do a 16mi hike for the one peak, figuring I'd come back with a bike sometime in the future. My consolation was Skunk Hill, a minor summit just opposite where I encountered the locked gate. The distance was short and an old logging road ran up the northwest side from a saddle where I parked. I spent less than 30min for the roundtrip effort, finding no views, no obvious summit, but no bushwhacking, either.

Grizzly Peak - Pigeon Hill

After returning to the Jeep, the next hour and a half were spent on various efforts to reach Grizzly Peak, some five miles east of Lake McCloud. I had tried to reach it from the south two years earlier, but was stopped by snow on the road in May. My first effort this time was to return to that route, using Forest Route 11 that climbs the Hawkins Creek drainage from the dam at Lake McCloud. I found the road blocked by a washout two years ago when trying to descend to the lake, and found out today that the road has not yet been repaired. Letting Google Maps make the second effort, I drove out to SR89 heading east, then south on dirt Tate Creek Rd. This ended in a locked gate at the boundry with Sierra Pacific property a little over a mile from the highway. My third effort took me futher east on SR89, then south on FR39N06 and Grizzly Peak Rd. The name of the road was encouraging and I managed to drive roughly half the distance until I was stopped by another locked gate. Now past 11a, I was itching to get at least one P1K today. As I was driving up the road I told myself I'd hike it if I could get within five miles. When I was stopped by the gate, I noted my GPSr showed 5.01mi to my destination. The gods were laughing at me. It would be more than what my GPSr showed in reality as it was simply a rough route estimate, but I decided to go for a hike.

It wasn't the best of hikes, mostly because I'm not fond of road hiking. It was warming quickly and would be in the high 70s before I was done. I took about 60oz of Gatorade which sufficed, though I would be dehydrated before I was done four hours later. The route would entail about 2,000ft of gain, including a side trip to Pigeon Hill on the way back. The road has numerous forks, but goes all the way to the summit of Grizzly Peak. Most of the route travels through private forest with little shade when the sun is overhead. Views of Mt. Shasta can be seen occasionally, as can Grizzly Peak in the last two miles. Once the ridge was attained in the last mile, the route had some spectacular views along the ridge separating the McCloud River drainage to the north and the Pit River drainage to the south. A lookout tower once stood on Grizzly's summit, but is no more, just some concrete from the foundation. A small telecom shed and antenna are to one side. I had planned a rest at the summit, but was inundated with annoying flies that drove me away after only a few minutes.

Pigeon Hill is located a mile and a half northeast of Grizzly Peak, only 1/3mi from the roadway. The PCT parallels the road for a short distance between it and the summit. This came as a surprise as I was nearing Pigeon Hill on my way to Grizzly, and I followed it hoping it might go over Pigeon Hill. I found it never gets more than about 100ft from the road here, and the brush on the south side of the summit is horrendously thick. On the way back from Grizzly Peak, I took another shot at it from the southeast corner, where some forest cover offered easier travel. This lasted only a short time and I spent more than 30min working my way through some heavier sections - a lot of work for a minor summit. The summit is open to partial views among a sea of manzanita, hardly worth the effort to reach it. On the way back, I did a better job of avoiding bushwhacking by taking a less direct path that veered more to the north. This took me through areas that had been logged in the decades past, the brush not as thick as encountered on the ascent. It was nearly 4:30p by the time I returned to the Jeep four hours after starting out.

Bear Mountain

I was hot, tired, and not all that enamoured by situation. A cold beer on the drive out helped considerably. It would take me an hour to drive back out to SR89 and then further east to Bear Mtn. This summit lies in the national forest, though part of the five mile dirt access road travels through Sierra Pacific property. The road was in good condition, but gated 3/4mi from the summit. I spent 20min walking the remaining road to the summit where a decommissioned lookout stands next to a telecom tower. The lookout was locked but the observation deck open. The insides looked much like it did back when it was in service. Signs I saw along the road and a bare mattress inside suggests they might rent this one out, though covid19 probably put a stop to that in the past year. Views overlook a sea of forest as far as the eye can see. Mt. Lassen can be seen far to the south, and the ever-present Mt. Shasta can be seen to the west. I wandered around the rocks outside the lookout, finding a benchmark but no register. Upon leaving, I decided to shortcut the road with an all-cross-country descent off the southwest side. Oddly, this was the most fun I'd had all day. It was clear that I prefer wandering through forest understory more than I do walking on roads and bushwhacking. It helped revive my spirits further as I returned to the Jeep by 6p.

Toad Mountain

Back on paved Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, I headed north, intending Harris Mtn to be my last stop. Along the way I noted a Toad Mtn about two miles south of Harris Mtn and made a detour to visit it. I was able to drive forest roads within a quarter mile of the summit on the north side where the road was blocked by a downed tree. I parked here and headed up to the summit cross-country through forest, taking about 15min to reach the top. A small pile of rocks held a Bighorn Bill register from 2007. Unfortunately, both cans that held it had rusted through and the small notepad had no plastic bag to protect it. It did not appear to have seen another visitor since it was left. I left one of my own that I was carrying, placing it in the rusted tins with the older notepad. A fairly easy summit that few folks ever visit.

Harris Mountain

This last summit would take more work as I only managed to drive within 2/3mi before getting blocked by downfall. There are no old logging roads that I could discover and the the ascent was steep and moderately brushy, taking more than half an hour. Once on the peak's South Ridge, I found large boulder features along the route and a suprisingly large pile of smaller ones forming the highpoint at the top, surrounded by forest. A battered USDA benchmark from 1946 was found on one of the boulders. I found no register and was disappointed that I had forgotten to bring one myself. It was 8p and close to sunset while I was at the summit, time to head down. I used an alternate route to the southwest, somewhat steeper but no real brush to contend with, getting back to the Jeep in less than 20min. I drove only a short ways back to the better Forest Route 13 before deciding it was a decent place to spend the night. It would take another hour before it would begin to cool down below 70F. With dinner and other chores, it wasn't until 10p before I was in my sleeping bag. Not really sure why it took so long to get to bed, but it wouldn't take long for me to be asleep...


Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

This page last updated: Fri Jun 4 20:00:48 2021
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: