Adams Peak (Sierra Nevada) 08-Aug-2016

Adams Peak Plumas National Forest California

Adams Peak (8,197 feet) is a little known and seldom visited peak in the Diamond Mountains east of Frenchman Lake, a popular fishing location off Highway 70 north of Reno, Nevada and south of Susanville, California.  This peak’s primary claim to fame seems to be that it is the northernmost peak on the Sierra Peak Section’s list (SPS List) – but it’s also on at least four other peakbagger lists.  Since it was on our way home from our hikes around Lake Tahoe, we decided to add it to our itinerary.  We found that this is one of those peaks where the drive to the trailhead seems to involve more navigational convolutions than the hike itself.

You can approach the trailhead from the west or the east but coming in from the west seemed like it would be easiest for our 2WD car.  From Highway 70, we went north on Highway 284 for about 5 miles to where gravel Forest Road 24N44 goes off to the right.  We followed 24N44 (easily passable for 2WD drive sedans if you’re careful) to a poorly signed 5-way junction.  Here we turned left and uphill on to gravel Forest Road 24N12X  (no sign) – again, passable for 2WD drive sedans but be very careful.  In about 1.8 miles, we came to an unsigned junction on the right for Forest Road 24N15X and followed that (or at least the most obvious tire tracks) for about 1 mile to a side road where we declared victory and parked.

Adams Peak Plumas National Forest
Our “trailhead” just off FR 24N15X

From our trailhead, we started walking up an abandoned road,

Adams Peak Plumas National Forest
The start of our hike on an abandoned road

which shortly junctioned with what looked like the continuation of the road we’d driven in on – but between here and where we’d parked this road was badly eroded and we would have needed a high-clearance 4WD vehicle to negotiate it. So we walked. The road itself was easy walking,

Adams Peak Plumas National Forest
Walking on the road

and soon Adams Peak came into view.

Adams Peak Plumas National Forest
Adams Peak from the road

Just at 6,800 feet, the road we were on made a sharp turn to the northwest and shortly thereafter we came to a cairn at the side of the road. Long story short, this is where you leave the obvious road you’re on and climb up a bit to connect with an old, old road that can be followed – there are some downed trees on it – up to a small meadow at around 7,400 feet. If you miss this turn, you are not going to find Adams Peak!

Adams Peak Plumas National Forest
Where the old, old road enters the small meadow at around 7,400 feet

From here, we had to do a short bit of cross-country travel up to an even larger meadow.

Adams Peak Plumas National Forest
The larger meadow

This looks like a dead-end, but there’s an obvious road in the trees on the east side of this meadow and we were able to find that road and follow it south for about 2,000 feet to a junction. Here the left fork plunges down the slope but the right fork turns and begins climbing south up a shallow draw toward the peak.

Adams Peak Plumas National Forest
The now ever fainter “road” as it begins climbing toward the peak

This road soon begins to deteriorate from a wide two-track to a narrow ATV track to a motorcycle track and then to something like a use trail. It’s not ever hard to find or follow but it does go straight up the draw – no switchbacks!

Adams Peak Plumas National Forest
The “trail” higher on the mountain

Soon we came to the twin summits of Adams Peak, only to find them guarded by thick buttresses of mountain mahogany and other unyielding, sharp plant life. At this point the LovedOne, whose legs had already suffered numerous never-wear-a-skirt-again insults this season, decided to chill in the shade and watch the mountain cut me to shreds. Yee Haw!

Adams Peak Plumas National Forest
Stern vegetation guards the summit

But others had noted that if you circled around to the saddle between the two summits, you could find some open, sandy leads that would let you get past most (but not all) of the vicious veg around the summit. And so it was and I was on the summit before the LovedOne could even start her nap.  There is supposed to be a summit register cylinder near this benchmark but I was unable to find it during a cursory search around the summit.

Adams Peak Plumas National Forest
The 1947 summit benchmark

The views were expansive but what stuck out was the Sierra Army Depot in the valley to the northeast. The Depot was established in 1942 but since 1995 has made its primary mission the receipt, storage, Care of Supplies in Storage (COSIS), repair, assembly, disassembly and shipment of major and secondary items. It does, however, continue to store conventional ammunition.

Adams Peak Plumas National Forest
Sierra Army Depot (arrow)

A true peakbagger would have fought their way through the veg to the eastern summit, but since I was already looking forward to refreshments at the Lassen Ale Works (Pioneer Saloon) in Susanville, I bailed, rejoined the LovedOne, and headed back.

Adams Peak Plumas National Forest
Looking toward Adams’ eastern summit

Because there was no route-finding going back, we reached the car pretty quickly, and were in Susanville in plenty of time for dinner and refreshments. This was a short hike (5.7 miles round trip; 1,500 feet of elevation gain) but one enhanced by the route-finding challenges (both driving and hiking) and the relative obscurity of this peak.  After the crowds in the Lake Tahoe area, it was kind of refreshing to be the only people on the mountain for a day.

Adams Peak Plumas National Forest
Our track to and from Adams Peak

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