Category Archives: Backpacking/Hiking

Kibbie and Many Island Lakes

This was our first backpack outing of the year.  We usually do an easy one for our first trip of the year to dust off all the gear.   This trip is perfect for that.  It’s only 4.3 miles into Kibbie Lake with a mere 650 feet of climbing, and most of that climbing is in the first 1.3 miles.   Of course the area is gorgeous so it’s not a waste of time.

Kibbie Lake is in the northwest quadrant of Yosemite Park.  Unfortunately, that area had been ravaged by the Rim Fire back in August of 2013.  This was an unbelievably huge fire.   It was big news back then.  But we had no idea just how huge it was until we drove through a chunk of it on our way to the Kibbie Lake trailhead near Cherry Lake.  Fortunately, the Kibbie Lake area was beyond the northern reach of the fire (barely) so the fire damage we saw was from older fires.

Our trip had three parts.  Day 1 was the drive to the trailhead and the hike into Kibbie Lake.  Day 2 was what turned out to be a fairly aggressive day hike (15 miles with say about 10 miles being cross country).  And then Day 3 was the hike out and a side trip to see the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir (which neither of us had seen before).

The hike in wasn’t really notable so I won’t spend much time on it here.  The terrain for the hike in is a fairly steep climb until the trail junction.  As I said, you gain about 650 feet in 1.3 miles.  After that it’s flattish with some ups and downs.  There wasn’t really any water to speak of so bring what you need from the trail head.

Once you arrive at Kibbie Lake, you’ll immediately see some flat areas right next to the lake.  These are nice of course.  However they’re almost right on the trail coming into the lake and they’re closely packed together.  So unless you like the company of other nearby hikers, and are okay with incoming backpackers tromping through your camp, I’d suggest moving on.  That’s what we did.  There are LOTS of great sites on the west side of the lake.  The only difficult part (and it’s not that difficult) is to find your way across the outlet of Kibbie Lake to get over to the west side.  Once you do that, just pick yer spot.

Next day we set off on what turned out to be a pretty damn awesome day hike.  We had no goal really.  I had a buncha boxes I wanted to check off.  But since I’m such a lazy ass, I didn’t really expect to actually check off any of em.

  1. I wanted to hike along the Kibbie Ridge Trail to see what that was like.  (Turns out that it’s not that bad.  Certainly not as tough as the first 1.3 miles in.).
  2. I wanted to find the Sache Spring.
  3. I wanted to look out over the rim of the Cherry Creek Canyon.
  4. I wanted to go to Many Island Lake.

As it turns out… we were able to do all of these things… And they were ALL awesome.

The Kibbie Ridge Trail, while not overwhelming, got better and better as we climbed higher, and is a pretty descent trail.

And Sache Spring was simply amazing.  The water was cold but not too cold.  And it tasted SO good.  I’ve never had water that tasted like that.  I usually don’t care much for the taste of water, but I easily drank about 60 oz. while standing there.  It was like a little oasis around the spring too.  No sign though.  So except for all the nearby greenery, you could walk right by it.  It’s a little bit off the trail so be on the lookout.

Then later I got to look out over the rim of Cherry Creek Canyon.  The trail doesn’t go along the edge so you have to hike say a half mile to get there.  You can see the detour on the topo.  I took a buncha pictures.  Go to our additional pictures link to see more than you need to see.  It was just that awesome.

Then we hiked a bit further along the trail and at what we thought was the appropriate time departed the trail to cut over to Many Island Lake.  That lake is awesome.  If I were going to design a lake, that’s pretty much the lake I would design.  It’s kinda perfect.  Again, check out the pictures to see what I mean.  And the coolest thing is that it’s hard to get to and hardly anyone knows about it.  We saw no signs of humans.  We totally had the whole place to ourselves.  We’re probably gonna go there again someday but this time stay the night.

Now the only part left was to get back to our camp three or four miles away and something like 1300 foot descent back to Kibbie Lake level.  The first 3/4s of that distance was smooth sailing over granite.  But then there was the brush.  Oy!  While it’s not impenetrable (we demonstrated that cuz we got through it),  it’s the next closest thing to impenetrable.

At last we made it back to our campsite, made a quick dinner and collapsed into our sleeping bags.

Next day we hiked out.


Climbing El Sombroso and Bald Mountain

Road zig zagging up to the top which is the high point at the upper left of the photo

Road zig zagging up to the top which is the high point at the upper left of the photo

Type of hike: Out and Back

Difficulty: 6 – Route is entirely on old road, but steep in places

Trail grade: A bit of a climb at first followed by about a 700 foot decent down to where the Baldwin Trail joins the Woods Trail.  After crossing  Rincon Creek and Guadalupe Creek, the trail climbs from about 1700 feet to 3000 feet at the top of El Sombroso.

Trail use: A few people… more when we joined up with Woods Trail

Highest elevation: ~3,008 at top of El Sombroso.  We parked at 2,328′.

Total climbing: 2,603′ but that included climbing a hundred feet or so to get up Bald Mountain.

Round trip distance: 12.1 miles including 1.4 miles round trip to Bald Mountain

How long: About 4 hrs 30 minutes

Quality of views: Pretty awesome… gotta be at least a 9.  The top of El Sombroso was disappointing though.  Hard to see anything because of all the brush.  But there were places where there were views of the entire Bay Area … and then there are almost constant views of Mt. Umunhum.

Weather conditions when we did it: Sunny, 70 degrees-ish, mostly clear ‘cept for some haze

Red tape: None

Maps we used: Internet, Google Earth, Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve

Water: None – bring what you need.  There are a couple creek crossings so I guess you could pump and filter if you wanted

Restrooms: At parking lot.  Restroom was wonderfully clean


Parking: In a lovely parking lot off Mt. Umunhum Road

How to get there:  Starting at the intersection of Highway 17 and Highway 85, go south on 85 for about 2.5 miles and exit onto Camden Avenue and turn south (towards the mountains).  Go down Camden for about 2 miles and then turn right on Hicks Rd.  Follow Hicks Rd for about 7 miles, passing Guadalupe Reservoir, and up a large hill until you reach the Hicks and Mt Umunhum intersection.  Continue driving about 1.3 miles until a gate bars any more vehicular access up the road. Park here.

Now for a few of the details…

Select this link to go to lotsa pictures

This was an outing with Donna’s hiking group.  This included Joan, Anita, Judy, Tai, and Chris.  We all piled into the van for the trip to the trail head.

From the parking lot at the trailhead we decided to knock out Bald Mountain first so with lively legs we went the 0.7 miles over to the view point.  From there we had a lovely view of Guadalupe and Almaden Reservoirs.

After this short warm up, it was time to get started.

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This hike was a bit different from most of the hikes we’ve done in that it was entirely on road.  So for the most part we just walked and talked our way to the top of El Sombrosa.  There was quite a bit of walking though… so lotsa time for talking.  However, besides being long, the road was steep in places.  And of course all the heavy breathing had an impact on a the talking.

Anyway, we eventually arrived at the top.  Kinda weird top though.  Power lines ran right over the peak.  That and the fact that we had never left the road took some of the adventure out of the outing.  But the views were stunning.  And we were in good company.

We stopped for lunch at a road intersection near the top….  Checked out the views for a while… And then headed back the way we came.  On our way down, since we were now facing that way, it was very noticeable that we could see the van off in the distance, parked at the Bald Mountain parking lot.

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And all the while the cube at the top of Mt. Umunhum sat brooding above us.  The trail basically wraps around the eastern side of Mt. Umunhum so the cube was almost always visible.

It was a very pleasant outing.