Carson Pass to Lost Lakes

The area surrounding Carson Pass is beautiful and far less crowded than the neighboring Lake Tahoe basin. This hike follows the Pacific Crest Trail, climbing the ridge under Elephants Back, through the Mokelumne Wilderness and into the heart of Toiyabe National Forest. In late summer, it’s possible to reach the Lost Lakes with an OHV. If you’re on foot, it’s best to visit when snow still covers the dirt road. We planned our hike for July 4th weekend- when Tahoe is overrun with visitors- and we found plenty of solitude. Continue reading “Carson Pass to Lost Lakes”

Murietta Falls

Murietta Falls. Other hiking blogs have referred to it as a “regional gem.” That might be true, but it’s certainly no Yosemite Falls. While the waterfall itself might leave a little to be desired, the hike is appealing: it’s incredibly steep (a good challenge!) and it provides nice views of the East Bay. Continue reading “Murietta Falls”

Western States Trail: Michigan Bluff to Deadwood

This hike is a workout. And if you want more of a challenge, try running it. The route follows a section of the Western States Trail: home to the Western States 100 Endurance Run. In addition to hosting the world’s oldest 100-mile ultramarathon, the trail from Michigan Bluff to Deadwood is on the National Register of Historic Places. It follows the old supply route between the mining towns of Michigan Bluff, Deadwood and Last Chance. Continue reading “Western States Trail: Michigan Bluff to Deadwood”

Mount Diablo’s Four Summits

This is probably one of, if not the most difficult day hike in the Bay Area. Reaching all four of Diablo’s summits requires a full day – it’s 15 strenuous miles with over 6000-ft of elevation gain. We knocked this out in 8 hours. And yes, my legs hurt the next day. Continue reading “Mount Diablo’s Four Summits”

Mount Agassiz & Mount Price – Desolation Wilderness

Pyramid Peak gets all the attention, but its two sisters in the Crystal Range are definitely worth a visit.  Mount Price (9975′) and Mount Agassiz (9967′) can easily be hiked in one day. The Lyons Creek trailhead offers a direct approach to both peaks from the west side.  The roundtrip hike is approximately 13 miles with over 3000-ft of elevation gain. Continue reading “Mount Agassiz & Mount Price – Desolation Wilderness”

Snow Mountain

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. Continue reading “Snow Mountain”

White Mountain Peak


At 14,252-ft, White Mountain Peak is the third tallest peak in California.  It is located in the White Mountain range, east of the Sierra Nevada in Mono County.  The peak is often considered California’s easiest 14er.  A dirt road goes all the way to the summit.  Some people reach the top on mountain bikes.  The hike is a long one though – 14 miles roundtrip with approximately 2000-ft of elevation gain.  Hikers are often defeated and turned back by extreme winds or the high altitude.  It is by no means an easy walk. Continue reading “White Mountain Peak”

Lake Aloha via the Ralston Peak Trail


Shortly after our last failed attempt at backpacking in Desolation Wilderness, I was ready to try again. We waited a few weeks for more snow to melt, then made our reservation for Lake Aloha (Zone 33). We snagged 6 of the allotted 25 spots for this zone.

Basics: This overnight hike was about 13 miles round-trip. This distance sounds easier than it is – the Ralston trail begins by climbing 2400-ft in a few short miles. Anyone looking for an easier approach can access Lake Aloha from the Echo Lakes area. From the route described in this post, it’s possible to take short detours to climb Ralston Peak or visit several other Desolation Wilderness lakes. Continue reading “Lake Aloha via the Ralston Peak Trail”

Quarry Road Trail to American Canyon

The Quarry Road Trail in Auburn State Recreation Area is perfect for trail running, easy mountain biking or hiking. It’s also dog and horse friendly. The trail is six miles long, and gently climbs a few hillsides along the river.


It has finally rained in California!  Not enough to save us from the drought, but at least the grass is a little less brown.  The snow conditions still aren’t great (heavy, wet snow) so rather than braving the holiday weekend crowds, we decided to saunter in the foothills. The next best thing to do after some rain is to go see a waterfall! So many waterfalls in California seem to just spring up out of nowhere for a few short weeks or days each winter. This one actually has water for a decent portion of the year.

Basics:  The Quarry Road Trail in Auburn State Recreation Area actually follows a portion of the Western States Trail.  It’s a wide dirt path that is perfect for trail running, easy mountain biking or hiking.  It’s also dog and horse friendly.  The entire trail is nearly six miles from beginning to end.  We extended our hike another mile by heading up the single track American Canyon Trail to some small waterfalls and a deep little hidden pool. Continue reading “Quarry Road Trail to American Canyon”

Chief Peak from Horn Canyon

Basics: Chief Peak is one of the pointiest summits looming above the Ojai Valley. At 5560 ft, it’s also the fourth tallest mountain in the Topatopa range. The majority of visitors hike this peak from Rose Valley – 9 miles round trip. Alternatively, it’s possible to hike a strenuous 15 miles round trip from Horn Canyon in Ojai. Once atop the narrow summit, you will be rewarded with impressive 360 degree views. This hike is steep, sunny (hot on many days), and uncrowded. Continue reading “Chief Peak from Horn Canyon”