Chalk Mountain Climb

This is the first of the local peaks in our “Parade of Peaks” challenge that we climbed.  It’s 1609 feet high on the map.  But on the GPS we got 1643 or so.  Pretty much the same I guess.  I think we will definitely include this peak in our final list.

Type of climb: Out and back
Difficulty: 5
Trail grade: 7
Trail use: moderate on a weekend
Elevation gain: 1200′
Total climbing: 1440′
Round trip distance: 5.8 mi
How long: 2 hours 10 minutes RT
Quality of views: 8

Weather conditions when we did it: Clear
Red tape: None
Maps we used:
Water: None
Parking: Yes

How to get there:
From Santa Cruz, take Highway One for something like 22 miles, pass Waddell Beach and Ano Nuevo, then start looking to your left for an unmarked road called Whitehouse Road.  The road junction is across from a turnout off of the main highway.  Proceed up Whitehouse Road for 2.3 miles until you reach a small parking area and signs warning not to drive further along road as it is now private.  Park… Trail is obvious and heads directly up hill from road.

Hike description: Additional pictures
Redwood shaded trail climb with two viewpoints, to junction with ridge road.  Then road takes you to two more lookout points; the final being the top of Chalk Mountain.

The trail is a steep (at times over 20% grade), redwood shaded climb of 1.3 miles climb that gains almost 1000′ before joining a road. There are two view points along the trail during the climb up to the road.  First is at 0.5 miles, 900 feet.  The second is at 1.0 miles, 1200 feet.   Viewpoints are westward facing with views of the coast from Pidgeon Point to Ano Nuevo.   The trail intersects with the road at 1.3 miles and 1360 feet of elevation.  At mile point 2.0 (1570′ of elevation) there is a large turnout along road connected to a parking lot.  These are the best views of the hike looking south overlooking Ano Nuevo.   From here you can see the top of the climb to Chalk Mountain proper by looking carefully about a mile eastward along the ridge road to see an antenna nestled in the trees.  This is the summit of Chalk Mountain and is at 2.9 miles into the hike.  From here you can see into Big Basin and Mt McCabe (see write up) to the east.

After enjoying the views and using the outhouse (yes, there’s an actual outhouse at the top of Chalk Mountain) simply turn around and proceed back along the road, being careful not to miss where the trail leaves the road again at 4.4 miles.

Notes:

  • The first time you do this hike, you’ll probably want to go all the way to the actual top of Chalk Mountain (especially if you need to use the outhouse).  However after seeing it once, I think you can safely stop at the first lookout and get the majority of the value out of this climb.
  • There are other ways to the top of Chalk Mountain.  For instance, you can get there from Waddell Beach.  But this is something like a 14 miler with lots of up and down.  However I’ve heard that it’s gorgeous.  If you’re looking for an ordeal, try that route.
  • For those of you who are training for say hiking in the Sierra, this climb could be used as one of those ‘workout’ type climbs. In that case you could turn around at say the trail junction with the road and have your steep 1000 feet or so of climbing… or maybe jam up to the first parking lot (1570′) along the road before turning around.   There is a negligible amount of climbing after that.

 

More detail… To get there, we drove up the coast through Davenport, by Greyhound Rock, etc. until we get to Ano Nuevo Park.  Just before you get to Costa Noa there’s a no name road across from a highway turn out that turns inland.  Actually it has a name… it’s just not labeled except in very tiny letters on a transformer or whatever that is, on the side of Highway 1 is the name Whitehouse Road.

We drove pretty far along the road.  Not sure how far cuz I wasn’t paying attention.  But eventually you get to the trailhead.

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The parking area for the Chalk Mountain hike

The climb starts rather abruptly… you get out of the car, put on our hiking stuff… and right out of the gun barrel, the trail starts going up.  You start out at about 400 feet of elevation and in the next mile or so, you climb about a thousand feet… then in the half mile or so remaining,  you climb an additional say 200 feet to get to the first lookout.  I think this lookout is the best because you have a view of Ano Nuevo, Pigeon Point and out into the ocean.  As you climb you’re in lush, deep redwoods so it’s cool, and there are two vista points to pause at and take pictures.

Once you break out into the sunshine.  The trail starts to look a bit like the Sierras.  The redwood trees turn into shrubs and pine trees.

Then you come to a road.  It’s probably obvious but don’t go right onto the road.  According to the map, the road ends… go left, that’s where the top of the mountain is.  Oh and be sure to take note of the sign next to where the trail meets the road.  That will be your marker on the way back.  It’s easy to be talking as you walk along the road and miss the trail.   No idea what the sign says.  The writing is all sun bleached away.

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Now we’re out on the roads. This is the intersection of Chalk Mountain Road (which runs along the ridge top) and Whitehouse Road

We followed the road for a little while until coming to a structure at a hairpin curve that was obviously carved out.  No idea what all these solar panels were about but the view was tremendous.

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Not sure what this place was. It had lots of solar panels, a little building and a pole for Jack to climb

And Jack did a little climbing to get an even better view…

We could see the antenna at the real top of Chalk Mountain about a mile away so after some more gazing off at the view, we struck out down the road again.  Seemed like it took forever to get to the next antenna but it was a pleasant walk which followed the ridge.  Once we got there, the views were still tremendous ‘cept now we were looking inland.  Of course my preference is looking out over the ocean.

It was a very pleasant day… sunny, warmish, clear… kinda perfect. We all had things to do when we got there.  We ate, I changed my clothes into something cooler, Jack climbed another tower (this one was sturdier and higher), Donna examined the wildflowers and Kalika took a nap… oh and the outhouse at the top unexpectedly became a big attraction.

Then it was time to head back down.  Of course we took more pictures along the way.  The views continued to be pretty dialed ‘cept now we didn’t have to turn around to take it all in.

Found the junction with the trail and descended back into the redwoods.

Before this outing, I always thought of Chalk Mountain as an epic local climb.  But now I think of it more as one of the local “workout” climbs… sorta like Fall Creek has become.  It’s got this sustained, steep 1000 foot climb right from the parking lot and you’re rewarded with some awesome views so that makes it worth getting up there.  Up and back it’s about 4 miles then if you add in the trail/road over to the top of Chalk Mountain proper, it’s about 6 miles round trip.  But in the future, unless I simply gotta use the outhouse, I think I can miss the extension.

 

 

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