This route offers all of the diversity that the Sacramento Mountains have to offer. Starting down in the edge of the city you work your way through desert scrub, then into the very sandy and rocky drainage of a wide and steep sided canyon. The drainage narrows over the next few miles and eventually you are working over hard rock defiles, over and around drainage ledges, through puddles and streams with the occasional small waterfall thrown in. As the trail moves to the upper reaches of the lower canyon, the drainage narrows...there are towering cliffs and old mines to play with. In the very lower sections there are many side drainages that allow for hours of play... moderate bouldering opportunities for those wishing a bit more off trail excitement.
Staying on the trail and climbing out of the narrow lower portion the canyon opens to broad meadows... moving with the stream into hardwoods, cedars then finally, away from the drainage and up the sides of the canyon into the towering pines and douglas firs of the upper range. At the far upper end the trail cuts sharply up the sides of the canyon to Alamo Peak at 9200'.
The elevation gain and length of this route makes for a solid challenge. The sandy mileage in the bottom miles combined with some potential for route confusion at the top of the lower drainage can create a long day for any hiker attempting to complete the entire up/down route in a single day... that can be a really long 21 miles. The route is split at the 7 mile point by FR90, a logical short turnaround or shuttle for those desiring a bit of an easier effort. It is not a bad idea to do that foreshortened route the first time out to get a feel for the challenges before taking on the entire hike to the peak.
Beginning at the lower trailhead, you walk up the canyon drainage and into the wide, dry riverbed. This first 2.2 mile section is very open and sun exposed, and the trail signs have mostly been shot down by the locals. Simply follow the riverbed. At the end of that first section the drainage splits... you want to follow the right hand branch. (T103.. takes off up the left hand drainage at this point) For the next 4 odd miles there may not be a discernible path, but the narrow canyon bottom is easily maneuvered. At a point you will come to some old city waterworks ruins below a dramatic caprock overhang on the canyon wall. Above this is a large water puddle, followed by a slickrock slope... work your way up and out of the drainage on the left side. Above this area the trail leaves the stream bed and begins following or running near old city water drainage pipes. There is also an old mine works above the drainage on the left.
After leaving the drainage bottom You will soon reach an intersection with an access road (for maintaining city water lines on the ridge far above to the north) and you turn right and continue up the canyon on this access road. This road will lead you up through some nice hardwood forest then out into a broad meadow... the largest of such in the Sacramento Mts. At the upper end of the meadow the trail crosses FR 90.
You may either cross FR 90 and work your way up the right side of the meadow, eventually connecting at the far upper end of the meadow with T109... which will carry you on up the mountain to Alamo Peak, or you may turn to the right on FR 90 and connect with T109 at it's trailhead, shortly after leaving the meadow.
It is 3 miles and 2,000' up to the Peak. The views are exceptional from the upper switchbacks, some of the only open views available from the higher ridge trails.
The observatory on Alamo Peak is interesting... a big black globe... a bit scary when encountered unawares.
Don't linger too long at the top... that's a long, hard hike back to the car.
This forest is subject to closure each spring due to high fire danger. check to make sure that the trail is open before attempting this route in May/June... although really it is too hot then anyway. Go somewhere else and play. - May 01 2009 imikeOne-Way Notice:
This hike is listed as One-Way. When you hike several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example