Hiking in the Ponderosa Area


The following information is a partial extraction of "UPPER TULE HIKING TRAILS" Fifth Edition 1998 by Skip Premo. The original publication is not copyrighted. If you reproduce any of this material, please credit the Upper Tule Association. Additional copies ($2.95 ?) of the guide may be obtained by calling Skip Premo at (559) 542-2110 or writing him at Camp Nelson, 93208 or premo@ocsnet.net.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

Hikes [Easiest (1) to the Most Difficult (5)]

(1) The Sentinel Tree 30 minutes
(1) Trail of the 100 Giants 30 minutes
(1) Amos Alonzo Stagg Tree 30 minutes
(1) Camp Nelson Fire-Break 2-3 hours
(1) Dome Rock Climb 30 minutes
(2) Nobe Young Falls Scramble 90 minutes
(2) Jordan Peak Lookout 2 hours
(3) Old John Jordan Trail 2-4 hours
(3) Camp Nelson Trail 2-3 hours
(3) Needles Lookout 2-3 hours
(3) Freeman Creek Sequoias 2-4 hours
(4) Quaking Aspen - Slate Mountain 2-4 hours
(4) Windy Gap - Slate Mountain 3 hours
(5) Slate Mountain - Bear Ridge 2-4 hours
(3) Coy Flat - Bear Ridge 2-3 hours
(3) Belnap Sequoias Cutoff 1-2 hours


INTRODUCTION

John M Nelson, son Donald and daughter Emma filed for homestead on the land now know as Camp Nelson in 1886. They "proved up" their homesteads with commercially producing apple and pear orchards.

Recognizing the value of his locale as a resort for families escaping the brutal summer heat of the valley, he soon constructed a hotel and pack station, thus establishing Camp Nelson as a major recreational jumping-off place for Sequoia National Forest. camp Nelson was the hub for trails leading to Springville, the Forest Service's summer headquarters at Hossack Meadow, Jordan Peak, Junction Meadow and the back country, Quaking Aspen and Lloyd Meadows, Slate Mountain and points south, and Black Mountain and the Tule River Indian Reservation. The Forest Service has abandoned the lion's share of these trails because they are no longer necessary for fire-suppression, but blazes and other remnants of most of them are still to be found except where clear-cut logging has destroyed the trail and the blazed threes have been harvested.

As part of the commemoration of the Camp Nelson centennial, Chet Wheeler and the Upper Tule Association published the first edition of this guide consisting of six hikes in the Upper Tule area. The second edition incorporated a few trail changes and enlarged the type size. Skip Premo amended and added several area hikes, Ski Trails and up-graded the maps (not included as of yet) in the third and fourth editions.

Most of these trails can be hiked in one day by an experienced hiker without difficulty. None involves dangerous exposure of requires technical rock climbing skills. We recommend that you take the following equipment on any of these hikes.

For a more thought treatment of the area, we recommend "Self-Propelled in the Southern Sierra - volume 2: The Great Western Divides" by J.C. Jenkins and published by the Wilderness Press of Berkeley. It is written for bicyclists, hikers, back-packers and skiers and is usually available at Judy's Book Store in Porterville, the Ponderosa Lodge or at any local USFS Office.

With the few exceptions noted in the text, the trails are easy to follow. If the trail is not obvious, look for blazes in the bark of trees, aluminum diamonds or circles nailed to trees or "dusks" (piles of three or more rocks). The maps (not included as of yet) show the general trend of the trails, but frequently omit smaller details such as switchbacks. Please do not cut across switchbacks because it tends to break down the trail.

The difficulty for each hike is rated and follows the standards used by most hiking guides. If you are inexperienced or in poor condition, as easy hike may be difficult. To an experienced hiker in excellent condition, a difficult hike may be easy. Since these hikes to as high as 9,300 feet, the inexperienced hiker should take his time and rest frequently.

Remember that it usually takes on to three days to become acclimated to the altitude. At 7,000 feet 23% of all the air in the world is below you, so you have to breath 30% harder just to stay even.


THE SENTINEL TREE
Season: May thought November
Distance: 100 yards, round trip
Elevation: 7,200 feet
Difficulty: Easy - 30 minutes
Drinking water: None - bring your own

This really isn't a hike at all - It's more of a stroll. Anyway, have you ever seen that tree on the "Great Western Divide" while driving up to the top? I mean the one which can be seen standing prominently above all others. It is quite prominent to the southeast when viewed from the dump or from the Cedar Slope Inn. Those other trees on the ridge are your usual run of pines and firs. The Sentinel tree stands out because it is so tall. It's not particularly old, but it really is magnificent - and your can drive to it!

From the Great Western Divide Highway turn west about 1/2 mile south of Quaking Aspen Campground on the dirt road which goes to Quaker Meadows. The Friends Church operates a summer camp for disadvantaged inner-city youths at the meadows. They have a special-use permit from the Forest Service for their philanthropic efforts. If it is a nice summer day, you'll be able to hear the joyous shouts and squeals emanating from their large swimming pool. Please be a thoughtful and considerate guest.

As you approach the camp, nearly a mile in, you will come to a small softball backstop. Park you car near the ball diamond and stroll off to the right and back a little bit. You are now at the very tip-top of the Wheel Meadow Grove, which extends all the way down-river, past Cedar Slope and abuts the McIntyre Grove at Camp Nelson. Admire the Sentinel Tree and sit a spell on one of the benches placed there by the Friends.

If you feel particularly energetic, follow the signs down to the King David's Tree which is about a quarter-mile down-slope on a switch-back, steep trail. King David's tree is the second huge specimen you come to and the trail stops just beyond it. It is bisected at the base by fire and it measures 25 feet in diameter inside the bark. On the way back, be sure to study the "leaner" along the way. How can it possible withstand many more snowfalls without crashing down.


TRAIL OF THE 100 GIANTS
Season: May through October
Distance: 1/2 mile, round trip
Elevation: 6,400 feet
Difficulty: Easy - 30 minutes
Drinking water: Available at Campground

This trail is the authors' favorite for showing our venerable Sequoias to visiting geriatrics, infants and friends with respiratory distress. We have yet to tire of visiting this lovely area and are delighted to be asked to go along.

It begins 10.7 miles south of the Ponderosa Lodge. It is just across the "Great Western Divide highway" from Redwood Meadow Campground of the Long Meadow Sequoia Grove. This gentle trail (6% maximum grade) is suitable for wheel chairs and loops its way through the grove. Many fine interpretive signs are found throughout.

The Giant Sequoias (Sequoiadendron Giganteum) are the largest trees in the world. The branches of the old ones, growing 100 or more feet from the ground, are 6 - 8 feet in diameter and are larger than most trees. Giant Sequoias are native only to the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. No county, except Fresno and Tulare, has more than one of the 59 or so Sequoia groves. Fresno has but three. you are indeed in a most exceptional part of the world. This is "Sequoia Country".


AMOS ALONZO STAGG TREE HIKE
Season: May through November
Distance: 1/2 mile round trip
Elevation: 6,500 feet
Gain & Loss: about 300 feet
Difficulty: Easy - one hour
Drinking Water: Some at Alder Creek, 200 yards

Turn off Highway 190 on Redwood Drive 2 1/2 miles above Camp Nelson. continue on about 5 miles through Alpine Village and Sequoia Crest subdivisions. At the end of Redwood Drive it turns down hill and sharply to the left to become Alder Drive. Go straight ahead on the dirt road until you come to a clearing and the remains of a once-busy logging camp. Park here and begin your hike on down the same road for about 1/4 mile. The trail down to the Stagg Tree is signed.

This tree is the sixth most voluminous living thing in the world, and is THE largest specimen under private ownership. It was dedicated to Amos Alonzo Stagg, the great pioneer football coach, on his 99th birthday anniversary.

The owner has generously granted public access. Please respect his property by not smoking or littering.

Statistics:

Height: 243 feet
Mean Diameter at Breast Height: 22.8 feet
Mean Diameter at the Ground: 29 feet
Volume of wood in main truck: 42,560 cubic feet

The Stagg Tree is in the Alder Creek Grove (the creek is just down the road a piece) and is the largest tree outside of the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The volume of the Stagg Tree is 81% of that of the largest, the General Sherman Tree in the Sequoia National Park.

It is not know why these magnificent trees do not propagate naturally elsewhere, because they grow very well almost everywhere they are transplanted - New Zealand, Spain, Germany, Australia, Europe, China, Japan, North Coastal California, etc. Notice how many young trees have sprouted in the surrounding area since the white woods were logged from the grove in the 1950's. The young Sequoias are the feathery ones with the pointy tops which look like upside-down icicles. Notice how prickly the needles are and that they grow all around the twigs.


CAMP NELSON FIRE-BREAK
Season: All year around
Distance: 3 miles, round trip
Elevation: 5,000 feet
Difficulty: Easy - 2-3 hours
Drinking water: Nelson Creek

This trail is an all-year trail, although at times you may need "moon boots" to get through the snow. It follows the fuel-break which surrounds Camp Nelson proper and extends from Highway 190 all the way down to the river. However, I like the central portion of the trail because it has easier access from Camp Nelson.

Walk to the north end of Sutherland Drive and onto the trail which starts just past "Lot 1, Tract 1". the trail goes down slope and into a cedar thicket, the trees of which don't seem to have grown an inch since I walked through there as a kid, over fifty years ago. You may cross a running seep in the springtime. If so, watch you step. It's quick sand!

Before you get to the small creek, turn left up ridge. follow this trail on up to the cleared fuel-break and continue on to the east (your right). You wander through a lot of bear clover and pass the cabins at the top of the "Loop" but they are unobtrusive, as are all the cabins you pass.

Soon you'll be jumping across Nelson Creek and on up around the cabins at the top of Grandview. Next you pass the end of Trails End Drive and cross the dirt service road to Camp Nelson's water company. From here the trail circles around Cloverleaf through an open stand of beautiful ponderosas, before you slide down into a gully which debouches at Nelson Drive. If you turn left, cross the road and take the trail on up to Belknap Campground. If you go straight across you'll end up, difficultly, at the river. A right turn will take you down past Soda Spring, which if you follow that trail will also take you down to the river at Tom Ferguson Drive. This will take you back past Oak Knoll to the foot of Poop-a-low hill (which was so named because Model T's would poop out in low gear and have to back their way up - reverse was a more powerful gear in those days - and it was steeper then).


DOME ROCK CLIMB
Season: May through November
Distance: 1/4 mile, round trip
Elevation: 7,221 feet
Difficulty: Easy - 30 minutes
Drinking water: None - bring your own

The view of the Kern Canyon, 3,000 feet below, from Dome Rock is topped only by the views from Slate Mountain and the Needles Lookout - and is considerably closer and easier. (One of the authors' children was married here in a beautiful outdoor ceremony. It was the middle of May and at the end of the service the bride and groom were pelted with a snow flurry instead of the more traditional rice.)

Drive 1.9 miles south from the Ponderosa Lodge on the "Great Western Divide Highway" to the signed Dome Rock turn-off (left turn) (road 21S69). Follow this dirt road to the end, keeping to the left where it forks. You may find rock climber's camped at the large cul-de-sac at the road's end where there is a gate across the road leading to the top of the dome. This road is for access to the helicopter landing area on top where the choppers were stationed before the heliport was moved to the other side of the highway.

The roadbed provides a gently pathway to the top of the dome. The more adventuresome can cross-country it without fear of becoming lost. Be sure to notice and appreciate what a hard-scrabble life the trees must endure in order to get sustenance from this almost solid piece of granite. The granite bulges to the northeast are the "Needles". Johnsondale and Lake Isabella are down-canyon to the right. To the west is Slate Mountain and the proposed Peppermint downhill ski area.

This rock as well as the Needles are world-class climbing challenges. Climbers are active all summer and fall so please do not throw or allow anything, including your own bods, to roll over the side. Several unfortunates have died by foolish mishaps at the edge.


NOBE YOUNG FALLS SCRAMBLE
Season: May through October
Distance: 1/2 mile, round trip
Elevation: 6,200 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous - 1 1/2 hours
Drinking water: In the creek

About 1/4 mile south of the signed Crawford Road on the Great Western Divide Highway (6.7 miles south of the Ponderosa Lodge) is an abandoned logging road on the east side of the highway. Turn in here and park your car at a suitable turn-around. Continue on down the road for about 1/4 mile from the highway until the faint sounds of babbling Nobe Young Creek become the unmistakable sounds of falling water (but definitely not a roar). Careful scrutiny will reveal the falls.

Look for a suitable place to slip and slide down slope to the creek. If you are fortunate you will find a fisherman's trail where someone else has slid down the bank. On reaching the creek, go upstream to the falls. They are taller (100-125 feet) than most of the falls east of the Mississippi River and are particularly picturesque when the creek is full of snow-melt. Be sure to bring a camera!

For the adventurous, the falls have a ledge and small amphitheater (45'W x 40'D x 12'H) where you can go behind the falls and look out -- Just like Niagara Falls! -- or perhaps you will be content to just sit and hold court over all nature's subjects before you. There is also a very nice overlook at the top of the falls, but it is definitely not for acrophobics. Be very careful of your footing on this hike and please do not try this scramble all by yourself.

Thanks to a fire line recently cut through, there is a shorter route to the tope of the falls.  Park off the highway at the Crawford road, cross the highway and you will find yourself along side Nobe Young Creek.   Follow the fire line down-creek for a quarter mile or so until you come to the drop-off and the falls.  The scramble down to the beautiful view at the bottom is just as challenging as the one previously described.


JORDAN PEAK LOOKOUT
Season: Mid-June through October
Distance: 2 1/2 miles, round trip
Elevation: Trail head - 8,500 feet

Jordan Peak - 9,100 feet

Gain - 600 feet

Difficulty: Easy - 2 hours
Drinking water: Spring north side of road 20S71

Take the North Road (21S50) from Quaking Aspen. It leaves Highway 190 about 1/4 mile west of the entrance to the Quaking Aspen Campground. The North Road is well signed and is well-paved for the first 5.5 miles to the junction with road 20S79, which goes to the Golden Trout Wilderness Pack Station. Take the left fork (20S50) for another 2.0 miles. Road 20S71 bears to the left here and is usually signed "Jordan Peak Lookout". The signed trail head is at the cul-de-sac at the end of the narrow dirt road. This excellent trail is voluntarily maintained by Jeffery Lantz.

It is steep but short, a scant mile leading through a partially logged red fir forest. At the summit, you are treated to an excellent view of Camp Nelson, Slate Mountain, Sequoia Crest, Moses (the rocky ridge) and Maggie (the nicely shaped peaks) Mountains, the higher mountains near Mineral King and in the distance, above the valley smog, the Tehachapi's and the Coast Range.

Microwave equipment covers the tower for communicating with headquarters and for relaying messages into the Kern River and Kern plateau. Power is provided by large arrays of solar cells.

Please respect the privacy of the lookout. If the lookout is not busy, you may be invited up the tower for a superb view.

To return to your car, take the trail leading down to the OLD JOHN JORDAN TRAIL. Go down about 1/2 mile until you come to a signed trail and abandoned logging road (the remains of 20S71) bearing off to your left. The Jordan Trail and McIntyre Rock are about 1/2 mile further on. Follow this abandoned road about a mile back to your car at the cul-de-sac.


OLD JOHN JORDAN TRAIL

Season: Mid-June through October
Distance: 3 miles, one way
Elevation: Upper trail head - 8,000 feet

Lower trail head - 6,720 feet

Loss - 1,280 feet

Difficulty: Down: Easy - 2 hours

Up: Moderate - 4 hours

Water: Small creeks at either end

This historic trail (31E24) is a segment of one of the pioneer routes across the central Sierra. John Jordan was rancher down in the Yokohl Valley when gold was discovered in the Kern Canyon and out in the desert near Aurora and Bodie. He laid out the route and secured a permit to build a toll road across the mountains to the mining camps. He and his sons built this trail which went all the way across to Lone Pine, past Jordan Hot Springs (named in his honor). Tragedy struck at the Kern River crossing, where he drowned. His toll road was never completed.

Take the North Road (21S50) from Highway 190 just west of Quaking Aspen Meadows (See JORDAN PEAK TRAIL). After passing the pack station road (20S79), bearing off to your right, a further 1.1 miles brings you to a gated road bearing off to the left. Take this road (20S81) for 1.4 miles. You will pass Osa Meadow where the road crosses the Summit Trail (31E14). (Near this crossing are the remains of the old McIntyre Trail which led from Junction Meadow steeply down to Camp Nelson. It crossed Highway 190 between McIntyre Creek and Cedar Slope and ended in the McIntyre Tract just up from the Belknap Campground.) The trail head is well signed and the trail is voluntarily maintained by Jeffery Lantz. The actual foot path is somewhat difficult to find, but it is marked by a pile of "ducks" on the left side of the road. Don't go too far because the trail bears off to the left through a primitive campground and crosses the headwaters of McIntyre Creek.

After crossing the creek the trial is easy to follow. You soon cross the saddle between Jordan Peak and the site of Pacific Telesys microwave relay station which serves this part of the world. Keep your eyes peeled along the trail for tree blazes.

The rectangles were chopped over 50 years ago by the CCC crews out of Springville, If you are fortunate, you will find the vestiges of John Jordan's original blazes, which were equilateral triangles. The trail is fairly level for the first mile or so until you come to an abandoned drift fence and gate. The gate is adjacent to McIntyre Rock which is the large granite outcropping so prominently visible from Camp Nelson. It is worth a stop for a rest at this vista point stop the rock.

At the gate another signed trail switches-back up-slope a mile to Jordan Peak, the lookout of which provides another memorable vista (See JORDAN PEAK TRAIL). The next mile takes you on a steady decline through a mature red fir forest to the headwaters of Nelson Creek where you start seeing pines and the signs of logging activity. A half mile further brings you to the end of this trail segment at a logging road spur leading off east form Redwood Drive, 1.1 miles from Sequoia Crest.

If you are starting the trail here, you must first take the logging road for about 3/4 mile to the sign which reads "Main Trail" and then follow the trail or the road for another quarter mile to the trail head sign which announces Jordan Peak Lookout.

The old trail continued down past Hossack Meadow (the original site of the summer headquarters of Sequoia National Forest - can you believe it?) and on down to Camp Wishon where it again rose up over the flank of Moses Mountain before dropping down into Yokohl Valley and on into Visalia. This route was chosen to avoid the 12,000 foot heights of Mineral King.


CAMP NELSON TRAIL

Season: May through October
Distance: 3.3 miles, one way
Elevation: Trail head: 5,120 feet

End of trail: 6,780 feet

Gain: 1,660 feet

Difficulty: Down - Easy, 2 hours

Up - Moderate - 3 hours

Drinking water: In the river & some springs

This hike takes you through the McIntyre and Wheel Meadow Groves of Giant Sequoias. Most of the hike is on a gradual grade up the Tule River. The last part of the trail is steep, meeting Highway 190 about 3/4 mile below the Quaking Aspen Campground. The trail is signed at this point "Camp Nelson Trail 31E30".

If you can arrange a pickup or a car shuttle, you can hike one way. This makes a wonderful short hike if you are not up to a round trip.

Drive east on Nelson Drive in Camp Nelson to its very end at the top of the McIntyre cabin tract. Pease be careful to park you car well out of the road and not in driveways leading to the cabins. The start of the trail is not easy to find, but once on it, it is easy to follow. For nearly two miles you pass through groves of Sequoias. About 1/2 miles from the start, the trail crosses to the south side of the river, which can be difficult, especially in the spring and early summer.

After about 1.1 miles, the trail meets a retired logging road that leads up to Cedar Slope, turn left on it for about 100 feet, then turn right on the trail. One of the interesting features of the Wheel Meadow Grove is the "Wishbone Tree", which has a hole burned through the base large enough to easily accommodate the trail. One can ride a horse through it without difficulty.

Just before the trail begins its steep climb to the highway, it again crosses a much diminished Tule River that can be a problem in the spring. A large fallen tree crosses the stream about 200 feet above the trail and is frequently used a bridge. The trial continues steeply up the slope for about 1/2 mile to 190.


NEEDLES LOOKOUT

Needles Lookout burned to the ground on Thursday, July 28, 2011

Season: Mid June through October
Distance: 5.0 miles, round trip
Elevation: Trail Head - 8,150 feet

Needles Lookout: 8,245 feet

Up & Down - 800 feet

Difficulty: Easy to moderate - 2-3 hours
Drinking water: None - bring your own

Take the needles Road (21S05) which leaves the east side of the Western Divide Highway about 1/2 mile south of the Quaking Aspen campground. Follow the road about 2.8 miles to the cul-de-sac at the very end. The trail head (32E22) is obvious.

The trail skirts the north flank of a hill using an old logging road for a few hundred yards, then narrows to a normal hiking trial. You pass through a forest of fir, ponderosa pine and some sugar pine. Shortly after leaving the logging road, you get a great view of your destination, the Needles Lookout, as well as the Freeman Creek Grove of Sequoias, Pyles Camp and Lloyd Meadows. The trails mounts a saddle and shirts the north flank of another hill. After dropping down to the last saddle, the trail climbs up the Needles Rock. The last portion of the trail consists of a series of stairs and catwalks that negotiate a knife edge ridge to the lookout.

With good visibility, the view can be spectacular. The lookout is surrounded by the Kern River Basin. Mt. Whitney lies to the northeast, Olancha Peak (the famous "Sleeping Beauty") to the west, Dome Rock to the southwest, Kern Canyon the south and the ancient Kern Plateau to the southeast. In the distance above the smog and haze are the Tehachapi's and the Coast Range.

Please respect the privacy of the lookout. Visiting hours are generally between 9 and 6. Not more than six visitors are allowed on the tower at once.


FREEMAN CREEK SEQUOIAS

Season: June through October
Distance: 6 miles, round trip
Elevation: Trail Head - 7,100 feet

Camp Ground - 5,900 feet

Gain/Loss - 1,200 feet

Difficulty: Easy down - moderate back, 2-4 hours
Water: Trail crosses creek near top

Go to the end of State Highway 190 (1/4 mile west of Quaking Aspen Campground) and take the "North Road" 0.4 mile past the little meadow on your right to a junction with a dirt road to your right. Take the dirt road and then bear left on road 21S99A to the very end, 0.1 mile past the gate. Park there and you will see the well signed trailhead - "Freeman Creek Trail - 33E20".

The trail skirts an elongated meadow to your right and the air is full of the delicious odor of Jeffrey pines. The trail soon passes a boggy area nd 1/2 mile further on it crosses the upper reaches of Freeman Creek. You now enter the Sequoia Grove. Soon you see the Sequoias of the Freeman Creek grove surround the rather large meadow along the creek. This is the eastern-most grove of Sequoias. Note that the trees are almost all very young - perhaps less than 1,000 years old - and there are no fallen giants. Also there are many immature trees around -they are the ones with the feathery, pointly tops which look like inverted icicles. These are the signs of young, very vigorous Sequoia groves - unlike the tired groves in the North.

The trail parallels the creek for a while and then veers to the north to cross a ridge where it commences to switch back down a ravine which is forested with sugar pine and black oaks. When the trail levels out you are again creek-side in the grove and there are several campsites about. Proceeding further down the trail reveals even more campsites.

Unless you have had the time and foresight to position a shuttle on the paved, yellow lined road at Lloyd Meadows (a 35 mile, one way, return trip by road), you should retrace from here. Beyond the campsites the trail is almost level on in to Pyles Camp at Lloyd Meadows. It is dry, dusty and is an excellent place for studying rattlesnakes.


QUAKING ASPEN - SLATE MOUNTAIN

Season: Mid June to Early October
Distance: 4 miles to the junction
Elevation: Trail Head - 7,160 feet

Summit - 9,300 feet

Junction - 9,050 feet

Gain - 2,100 feet

Difficulty: Up - Moderate, 4 hours

Down - Easy, 2 hours

Drinking water: Spring at side of trail half way up

This hike takes you to the highest point in the Upper Tule Area, Slate Mountain. The 360 degree panorama is well worth the effort.

From the Western Divide Highway, take the Quaker Meadow Road (21S78) to the steel gate, which may, or may not be open. A good parking spot is located about 200 yards before the gate on the north side of the road. Walk along the road to the Summit Trail head (31E14), which is about 100 feet before the gate.

For the first mile and a half, the trail is nearly level, gradually climbing through meadows, forest and two clear cut areas, then it begins a steady climb. After about a mile, the trail passes through a saddle between a large rock outcrop on your left and the mountain on your right. From the top of the rock, you get an excellent view of the Kern River Canyon. The trail continues up the east face of Slate Mountain for about a half mile, crosses a major saddle and continues up the northern face. The summit of the trail is reached where it crosses a ridge to your right. This is the junction of the Bear Ridge Trail (31E31) and the Summit Trail (31E14).

The summit of the mountain is a pile of granite boulders and is reached by a short trail-less climb to your left.

Continuing on the Summit Trail to your left takes you about 4 1/2 miles to Windy Gap. Turning right down the Bear Ridge Trail takes you to either Belknap Campground (6 miles) or Coy Flat (7 miles). See WINDY GAP - SLATE MOUNTAIN TRAIL and SLATE MOUNTAIN - BEAR RIDGE TRAIL.


WINDY GAP - SLATE MOUNTAIN TRAIL

Season: Mid-June through October
Distance: 4 1/2 miles to the junction
Elevation: Trail head - 7,550 feet

Junction - 9,050 feet

Gain - 1,500 feet

Difficulty: Moderate - 3 hours
Drinking water: Creek south end and spring at Freezeout

Drive to the well signed trail head at Windy Gap either by going south on the Great Western Divide Highway 6.4 miles and then 3 miles up the Crawford Road or by going to the north end of the Crawford Road (21S94) at Rogers Camp, about 4 miles south of Coy Flat on mountain road 192A (20S94) and then further south about 10 or 12 miles on the Crawford Road. You can't miss it.

The Summit Trail is (31E14) heads north from there and for the first 3/4 miles it gently rises a hundred feet or so through well-watered fir and Jeffrey pine. For the next 1 1/4 mile you climb 800 feet in earnest. It is a fairly steady 15% grade. Presently you crest the ridge. Take the trail to the north. There is a trail to the south, but it only goes to a vista point 1/2 mile or so away. The point overlooks Kern Canyon nearly a mile below.

One mile past the junction you will pass Freezeout Meadow on your right where there is a spring alongside an old deer hunting campsite. It is a little way off the trail and down hill so is not a good candidate for filing your canteen. The trail from here north undulates through old growth red fir forests along the Great Western Divide which separates the Tule and Kern Rive drainages. Many vista points (you have to find them, they are unsigned) provide opportunities for good views of the Tule River Indian Reservation, the valley and Coast Ranges beyond. The views are typical "California", thought the vantage points are rare.

After passing the 9,302 foot peak of Slate Mountain off to your right (it is that jumbled pile of granite boulders) you will have traveled about 4 1/2 miles from the trail head and will be at the junction of the Summit Trail (21E14) and the Bear Ridge Trail (31E31). The trail to the right goes 4 miles to Quaking Aspen Meadows. The one to the left goes 7 miles to Coy Flat or 6 miles to Belknap Campground. (See QUAKING ASPEN - SLATE MOUNTAIN TRAIL & SLATE MOUNTAIN - BEAR RIDGE TRAIL)


SLATE MOUNTAIN - BEAR RIDGE

Season: July to October
Distance: 3 1/2 miles to top of the grove
Elevation: Junction - 9,050 feet

Top of the Grove - 6,500 feet

Loss - 2,550 feet

Difficulty: Down - moderate, 2 hours

Up - difficult, 3/4 hours

Drinking Water: Spring 1 mile north of junction

The Summit Trail head (31E14) and the first portion of the hike up to the junction of the Bear Ridge Trail (31E31) are described in QUAKING ASPEN - SLATE MOUNTAIN TRIAL or WINDY GAP - SLATE MOUNTAIN TRAIL.

The Slate Mountain summit is south and the Bear Creek Trail bears off to the north. It is not marked and frequently is hard to follow. When in doubt, look for blazes on trees and piles of rocks ("ducks"). Follow the trail down the ridge and keep looking for clues as to its location.

A little less than a mile from the junction, the trail reaches a broad saddle where it curves east into a bowl and then turns north and passes west of a spring-fed pond in Lost Meadow near the base of the bowl. Shortly you will come to Little Pack Saddle Meadow where there are a couple of rustic camp sites near an excellent spring, the effluent of which flows along the surface for a short distance before again sinking into the ground. It does not usually cross the trail. You are exactly one mile from the junction.

There is a "Bonzai" forest of pines and firs across the meadow at the crest of the ridge. The dwarf trees struggle to survive on the wind-swept rocky sand. Some of the firs grow only about six feet high, yet are so old as to have cones on their uppermost branches. Cross-country hiking west around Nelson Peak (trail 31E33, if you can find it) will get you to Rogers Camp and MountainAire.

Continue on down the trail which is easy to lose - but then you really have not lost much. Stay on the ridge because for the next half mile there are some spectacular views of the Nelson valley from the rocks west of the trail. After another 3/4 miles the chinquapin gets thick and the trail skirts around to the right under it. Then you pass some rocks and then the trail regains the ridge about a half mile from the chinquapin detour.

The trail leaves the ridge a little more than 3 miles from the junction and goes westerly across a small drainage before mounting a second ridge trending north-northwest. Presently you come to a dry meadow at the top of the Belknap Camp Grove of Sequoias, 3 1/2 miles from the junction. The trail from here down is covered in the COY FLAT - BEAR RIDGE TRAIL.


COY FLAT - BEAR RIDGE

Season: Mid April through October
Distance: 3 1/2 miles to top of the grove
Elevation: Trail head - 4,600 feet

Top of grove - 6,500 feet

Gain - 1,900 feet

Difficulty: Up - Moderate, 3 hours

Down - Easy, 2 hours

Drinking water: Very unreliable spring at the top

This trail is the authors' favorite. It is a steady climb, ending in a beautiful redwood grove, at the very top of which is a spring and a dry handing meadow surrounded by pillars of large Sequoias.

From Camp Nelson, drive down Coy Flat Drive, across the Tule River and through the Coy Flat Tract. On your right, about 1/4 mile beyond the last cabin, there is a parking area about 100 feet before Bear Creek. The well signed trail head (31E31) is across the road. The trail heads uphill and switches back to an old logging road, by-passing a 1983 slide that destroyed part of the old trail. About 1/2 mile from the trail head, you pass the Coy Flat water tank on your left. Shortly the trail switches back to the right. Be sure to notice the huge Manzanita bush under which the trail passes. You can easily ridge a horse under it without losing your hat. A couple of hundred yards further on you reach the Bear Creek side of the ridge, and are greeted with a beautiful view of Slate Mountain and Rogers Camp. The forest has changed from fir-cider-ponderosa to golden oak-manzanita-buck brush with a profusion of wild flowers. This south facing slope is quite hot in the summer.

After a half mile on this south face. the trail switches back to the left and up to the sugar pine forest a the top of the ridge, 1 1/2 miles from the trail head. A side trip to a vista point is in order here. To gain a panoramic view of Camp Nelson and Pierpoint Springs Resorts, hang a left and go west along the level ridge for about a hundred yards. It is a good picnic spot, offering both sun and shade as well as the view.

The trail follows the crest of the ridge easterly for about 3/4 mile. Presently you will come to one the two poorly defined trails (31E23) which bear off northerly to the left and down slope through the lower Belknap Camp Sequoia Grove to the Belknap Campground. These trails are described in BELKNAP SEQUOIAS CUT-OFF TRAIL.

Continuing on the Bear Ridge Trail you follow the north side of the ridge for another 1/4 mile before entering the upper half of the Belknap Camp Sequoia Grove. The Kathryn Tree is the large one on the left which lost a 6 by 8 foot limb from the crown during the winter of 89-90. You are now about three miles from the trail head. Dogwoods are on your left and then you pass the Patriarch (Matriarch ?) Tree with his 14 daughters to your right before gaining the ridge at the "X" tree, at the foot of which grows a carpet of "elegant cat's ears" in the spring.

If the trail disappears, stay reasonably close to the crest of the ridge and head straight up. You will find the trail near the top of the slope. After passing the "corkscrew tree" there is a pretty little dry meadow at the tope of the grove which is surrounded by some large Sequoias with remarkably smooth bark - no furrows at all! It is a delightful picnic area. The unreliable spring is about 100 yards above the meadow behind a log below the trail.


BELKNAP SEQUOIAS CUT-OFF

Season: April through November
Distance: 1 1/2 miles to the junction
Elevation: Trail head - 5,000 feet

Bear Ridge Junction - 6,000 feet

Gain - 1,000 feet

Difficulty: UP, Difficult - 2 hours

Down, Moderate - 3/4 hour

Drinking water: Usually reliable spring by fallen giants, east of trail

This unsigned (31E23) trail starts in the McIntyre Tract adjacent to the Lasswell cabin which is the 5th cabin upstream from Belknap Campground. The trailhead is alongside the remains of an abandoned fence, which you can find by close scrutiny of the area. It goes up several switchbacks at slopes in excess of 30% and passes one vista point with a view of Camp Nelson to the west.

After slightly less than a mile the trail peters out and the terrain levels off. You are now in the lower half of the Belknap Camp Grove of Sequoias. There are several recent (1983) giant windfalls here and the gently slopes of the area make it a fine picnic spot. Two of the giants are almost at right angles to one another and a spring is located within their embrace perhaps 150 feet from the corner intersection. Out of the bark of these fallen goliaths, which make wonderful scenic rest stops, sprout many young firs, pines and even Sequoias.

The trail through the grove is very hard to find, but is marked by piles of rocks ("ducks") and by pairs of aluminum rounds mailed to trees. To follow the trail, you must travel between markers such that the next one is always visible from the last marked tree. When you have difficulty, put your back to the tree just under the marks on the opposite side of the marks you just hiked to. Do not process until the next trail marker is in view. Should you go ahead and get lost anyway, proceed up-slope to the top of the ridge (about 1/2 mile, but it will seem like 5 or 10) where you will meet the fairly well maintained COY FLAT - BEAR RIDGE TRAIL (31E31).

If you are still on the trail you will come to a "Y" where you can take the left trail on up to the upper half of the Sequoia grove, where you will pass several really large trees. The right branch will take you to Coy Flat. The "Y" is identified by a cluster of four aluminum rounds, rather than the two which customarily mark this trail.


 

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Last update was Tuesday August 27, 2013