Taylor Hill P300
Peak 1,518ft
Red Hills HP P500

Fri, Nov 22, 2019
Red Hills HP
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile

I had a few days while my wife was off in Southern California to ref state volleyball finals. Weather reports for much of the state were showing very cold temperatures which dissuaded me from looking at higher elevations. I settled on spending a few days in the Red Hills, a collection of Sierra foothills near the junction of SR120 and SR49. 7,100 acres of this are managed by the BLM as the Red Hils Recreation Management Area which has been further designated as the Red Hills Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). Most of the terrain is rolling hills covered in grass and brush with a smattering of pines. Cross-country travel varies from easy to difficult, making route-finding a key part of how well one might enjoy things here. Jim Retmeyer and Marcus Sierra seem to have covered all the hills over the past years, providing some helpful GPX tracks on PB that I took advantage of.

Today's effort was a 6mi loop with 1,700ft of gain, covering 3 summits in the northern part of the ACEC. The parking lot off SR120 I used can be reached by any vehicle, though the last quarter mile was a little rough. One could make a shorter outing of this by using the road network to drive closer to the various summits, but it was less than 3.5hrs without doing so. I headed first to Taylor Hill, the easternmost of the three, following a dirt road down to paved Red Hill Rd, about half a mile. I then had to cross a creek before starting up to Taylor Hill, which became an exercise in absurdity. I chose the worst possible place to make a crossing, not realizing this as I started through knee-high blackberry brambles. This only got worse as I pushed on, growing to chest-level and tangled badly with woody shrubs on the creek. Thorns were grabbing my pants, shirt, hat, gloves, and some skin, too. I spent more than 20min to go about 100ft to get through this mess, finally reaching drier, easier ground on the other side. Only a few hundred feet to the north the crossing becomes trivial (it seems there's a spring feeding the heavy brush growth where I was crossing). The rest of the outing was a piece of cake by comparison. Another 25min saw me to the top of Taylor Hill. The summit and much of my route to reach it is actually outside BLM lands, but there was no fencing or signs to indicate this. The top had a simple duck with views overlooking Chinese Camp along SR120, with various mines, mills and ranches peppered about the landscape.

I descended back down to the pavement by much the same route (avoiding the brambles, this time), then started up to Peak 1,518ft on the west side of the road. This was mostly open grass, weaving around buckthorn and other brush until I found a very good trail as I neared the summit. I'm not sure where it starts on the east side, but it would be useful to get me down the west side of the summit. I paused only briefly atop Peak 1,518ft, finding little to hold my interest and more curious as to where the trail I'd found goes. I went off the WNW side, eventually merging into an old road which in turn merged with the S. Serpentine Loop Rd, a driveable route in the ACEC. I followed this dirt road as it heads NW for about 1/3mi, eventually turning west to head towards the last summit, the Red Hills HP. It sports more than 500ft of prominence and had the best views of the three peaks I visited. There was an ammo box holding a geocache logbook and the usual assortment of trinkets, none of which looked particularly interesting. Chris Kerth had been the last to make an entry back in February, climbing the same three summits plus another one I planned for tomorrow. My return went quickly as I was only a mile and a quarter from the parking spot, getting me back in about 30min to finish up soon after 3p. I probably had enough time for another peak elsewhere before sunset, but I was feeling a little lazy and called it a day.


comments on 11/23/19:
I have not been to this Red Hills area. Any idea why they call it a "area of critical environmental concern"?
anonymous comments on 11/25/19:
Soil erosion? Frequent wildfires? Invasive species present? Not enough bears or mountain lions or frogs? Cow grazing damage to native grass? To much past recreation? Or something else?
I provided a link to the BLM site on my first response - it has some rare plant species and unique soil/vegetation mix.
another anonymous comments on 11/25/19:
The Geotripper blog has a post on the Red Hills. Apparently the soils are not well suited to most plants due to the underlying serpentine and other ultramafic rocks. https://geotripper.blogspot.com/2014/03/life-in-harsh-environment-spring.html
anonymous comments on 11/29/19:
Thanks Bob. I did not realize the underscore "yes" comment was a link. Very helpful.
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