Last week, as I was making plans to visit the Snow Mountain Wilderness, I discovered that the vast majority of people I talked to had never heard of Snow Mountain. This is too bad because efforts are underway to create a Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument. This would protect the land for future generations while improving coordination between the agencies who plan for fires, manage recreation and clear out invasive species and/or marijuana grow sites. There is already a lot of support for the proposed National Monument, but if more people knew about the area, there might be greater momentum behind the cause.
Basics: This hike begins at Deafy Glade (pronounced “Deefee”) and climbs 4000-ft to the east summit of Snow Mountain (7056′). It’s 14 miles, roundtrip. The steepest portion of the trail is in the first 3.5 miles – between Deafy Glade and Summit Spring. Alternatively, it’s possible to start at the Summit Spring trailhead. This shorter route is approximately 8 miles roundtrip but requires an extra 30 to 45 minutes of bumpy dirt-road driving. (The pavement ends just after the Deafy Glade trailhead.) Snow Mountain can be hiked or snowshoed year-round, but heavy snow in the winter will close the last few miles of the road to Summit Springs. This hike is dog friendly and great for backpacking.
Red Tape, Reservations and Camping: There are no permits, quotas or fees for hiking this peak. A campfire permit is required if you plan to use a stove while backpacking – check the Forest Service website. Bear cans are recommended but not required.
If you plan to car camp, Dixie Glade campground is located right next to the trailhead. It’s comprised of 8 sites that are first come, first served. There are also a handful of OHV campgrounds several miles before the trailhead including: Fouts, Mill Creek, and Gray Pine Group. These are outside of the wilderness area and in the heart of the OHV territory.
Directions to Trailhead: Exit I-5 at the town of Maxwell in Colusa County and head west along Maxwell Sites Road. Follow signs for Stonyford (making right turns onto Sites Lodoga Road then Lodoga Stonyford Road). Once you reach the town of Stonyford, turn left onto Market Street. One block later, turn left again on to Fouts Spring Road (aka M10). Follow Fouts Spring Road for the next 12 or 13 miles. The pavement ends at the Deafy Glade trailhead, shortly after the Dixie Glade campground. Google Map link to trailhead.
Trail Description: Rob has wanted to climb Snow Mountain for quite some time. He always said “we should hike it when there’s snow!” Unfortunately, there is no snow this winter. Some friends invited us to go camping in the area, so we decided to join them and hike the peak – snow or no snow. We camped at the Gray Pine Group site in the heart of OHV territory. After a windy night, we woke up around sunrise and made the short drive to Deafy Glade. We signed the register and hit the trail by 8:30am.
The trail starts out deceivingly flat. It follows an old road as it contours around the hillside then eventually descends to South Fork Stony Creek (about 1 mile in). There is no bridge at this creek crossing. SummitPost describes the crossing as crotch-deep on a 6-ft person in mid-May. This would be challenging but we are in a drought. We hopped on a couple of rocks and were quickly across.
From Stony Creek, the trail climbs at a 25% grade for the next half mile or so. It flattens out at Deafy Glade meadow where the (apparently abandoned) Bathhouse Trail splits off to the east. There are a few good spots for backpackers to camp next to the meadow.
The trail continues following some old logging roads and eventually gets steep again. Our map labeled this section as “Morale-Buster Hill.” From the meadow, it’s approximately 2.8 miles up to the junction with the Summit Spring Trail. Upon reaching Summit Spring, you are halfway to the summit and you’ve climbed over 2000-ft.
We took a long break at the trail junction, then continued onwards along the Summit Spring trail. We were still climbing but at an easier grade. The terrain was open with epic views for about a half mile; we then turned back into the forest. We passed the High Rock trail junction and Cedar Camp. From Cedar Camp, it’s another 2.3 miles to the summit. Shortly after Cedar Camp we left the denser forest and entered a burned area. We could see the top of Snow Mountain ahead of us.
I tried to look for morels as we hiked towards the summit. I thought I had a good chance at finding some: the weather seemed warm enough and we were walking through a burned area. It was either too dry or I simply didn’t look hard enough because we didn’t find any.
We reached the summit at 1:30pm. It had taken us 5 hours to cover the 7 miles and 4000-ft from Deafy Glade. We sat, ate lunch, took photos and spent about half hour at the top. We could just barely make out Shasta and Lassen in the distance. Soon after we finished lunch, a large cloud covered up the sun and an icy wind picked up. Rob (ever prepared) had forgotten his jacket so we quickly made our way down to warmer territory.
It was a long hike back to the car. It took about 3 hours, but it felt like forever. We passed three separate groups of friendly backpackers. Amongst them we saw three dogs, all with cute little dog backpacks! We also spotted several ticks. My feet were hurting pretty bad by the time we finished mile number 14, but overall it was a fun day. We made it back to Gray Pine before dark and in time to make a delicious taco dinner on the campfire.
The map we used for our hike can be downloaded for free on the Snow Mountain Hiking Association website. (Click on Maps, then select Summit Spring.)
Additional information on the proposed Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument can be found at: berryessasnowmountain.org
The Forest Service info for recreation, permits, etc. in the area can be found on the Snow Mountain Wilderness page.