BLACK BUTTES (8,030') CLASS 3
Location: 5 miles NNW of Cisco Grove, CA
Drive: Take Interstate 80 to the Highway 20 Exit signed "Nevada City," which is either 3.6 miles west from the Cisco Grove Exit, or 44 miles east from the Maple Street Exit in Auburn, CA. Drive 4 miles northwest on Highway 20 to turn right on the paved Bowman Lake Road, signed, "Sierra Discovery Trail" and "Bowman Lake 16" as well as "18 NF." Cross the bridge over the South Fork, Yuba River, and follow the winding, paved road, past Fuller Lake, with its former sign "Grouse Ridge L.O. 8" and "Bowman Lake 11." Continue to the junction, 6 miles from Highway 20, signed, "Grouse Ridge L.O. 6." Turn right here onto "14 NF" which is rough, dusty road. A high clearance vehicle, and careful, slow driving, is highly advised. After 1.3 miles, go straight at a junction signed, "Grouse Ridge C.G." still following "14 NF." Stay on the main road, ignoring the many logging spurs. Be careful on the short, bad spots. In some 5.1 miles, this main road passes another trail with sign. Then, come to the campground area with its brick outhouse. At the fork just before here, you can go either way. At 5.5 miles from the turnoff from the paved Bowman Lake Road, come to dispersed parking with a sign, "Trail," and symbols barring further travel of all vehicles. A nice vista is gained here, already. Black Buttes are seen prominently to the east. Park.
Climb: Take the trail east past the USFS signboard "Tahoe National Forest Grouse Ridge Trail 13E28" with a map and information. The trails, here, aren't shown on this map correctly or completely. Descend east on this trail, passing a wrecked truck. A side use trail descending to the right is to be ignored, with its ORV sign. Go right at a slightly further, trail junction, signed, "Glacier Lake Old Sand Ridge," as well as a sign for "Milk Lake Island Lake 1." In another third of a mile, go right again at a junction signed, "Glacier Lake Trail." In about 200 feet more, go right once again at another junction signed, "Glacier Lake Trail." For a bit longer hike, the trail left, over Sand Ridge, will also lead to Glacier Lake. Continue then, either way, to unsigned Glacier Lake. Once there, the Buttes are high above, immediately to the south. Locate a use trail, or scramble cross country, around the right (west) side of Glacier Lake and adjoining pond. Work to the south side of the lake, then head cross-country up talus to a short, but steep and loose, class 2-3 gully. This leads to the immediate left of the apparently highest and sharpest crag to the south of the lake. From the saddle at the top of the gully, the highpoint is only about 70 feet higher. Climb, then, a small, short, brushy talus slope to the west (right), and locate a very short use trail that leads to the right side of the crag, as seen from a rock slab at the saddle, or from the eastnortheast. Climb the 15 foot, class 3 section, from a small alcove with chockstones at the top, to the rightmost fin. This section does not have any exposure to the big drop to the north. Continue along with a short, 25 foot, class 1-2 boulder hop to the rocky highpoint.
Drive: Take I-80 to the Eagle Lakes Exit, which is 1 mile west from the Cisco Grove Exit or 46.2 miles east from the Maple Street Exit in Auburn, CA. Go left (north), under the freeway, from the west, or go right (north), from the east, and follow a sign to "Eagle Lakes Road." After a mile, turn right on a rocky, graveled road signed, "Indian Springs Trailhead" with another sign, "Eagle Lakes Road Grouse Ridge Trail." Drive carefully another 0.2 mile to a large, gravel parking lot with an outhouse and a map board. Park.
Climb: Take the very poor, rocky, 4WD road to the right of the map board. Another sign says, "Designated Route." In another 0.4 mile, go right at a spur fork. In 0.1 mile come to a five-way junction. Go straight, taking the road on the left of the rightmost road which is blocked by a fallen tree just beyond the fork. In 0.3 mile more, ignore a spur to the left. Pass two bypass side loops, avoiding muddy sections, and after another 0.5 mile, take the main road to the right. Shortly the road turns left (north). After a short distance, note a spur road that goes left and back. In another 0.1 mile, come to a fork; either way will go, but take the right, rocky bypass as this will be shorter. The left forks each have another spur road to the left, so ignore these. The last portion of the longer, bypass road has a really short stretch of pavement. At the top of the small hill, after the rocky bypasses, about 0.3 mile after these bypasses began, a fork with two signs, "Interstate 80 3 Eagle Lakes 3/4 Grouse Ridge Trail 3/4" and "Eagle Lakes 3/4 Grouse Ridge Hiking Trail 3/4" and "Fordyce O.H.V. Route Meadow Lake 10" indicate that the left fork is to be taken. The right fork heads toward Old Man Mountain by a long route not described in this guide. After 0.3 mile, after an open, rocky area, an arrow points to the right. Follow this arrow, and in 50 yards come to a three-way fork. Take the leftmost fork, descending to one of the Eagle Lakes. In another 0.2 mile, ignore a right fork which goes into the lake. In 0.1 mile, the road diverges left, and at a plain, open area, a trail diverges right, marked by two ducks. In another 0. 1 mile, go across an isthmus between two lakes. Here there is a two to three foot difference in the lake levels. After 0.2 mile more, cross a small stream/pond by either a rock hop or a log. Just beyond a small rise, you will come to the unmistakable Fordyce Creek Bridge, signed "Grouse Ridge Trail 13E28" with a sign "Spaulding Trail 1 Beyers Lake Trail 2 Grouse Ridge C.G. 4." Follow the trail left after crossing the bridge, at first following the creek downstream. Come to a sign "Spaulding Trail 12E40 Spaulding Lake 2 Bowman Lake 4." Go right at the next two junctions, one signed, "Beyers Lake Trail 1 Beyers Lake 3." When you arrive at Beyers Lake, the peak will be directly to the north. Climb cross-country over scree, and directly around or through brush, to the main ridge, which is highly visible, with the multiple summits. Make your way to the highest crag, about in the center of the cluster, and join Route A to climb it from the eastnortheast over the 15 feet of class 3.
WINTER SKI ASCENT: There is sometimes not enough snow to make a ski ascent. The snow conditions here, due perhaps to the lower elevations, are often not very good. However, Route B seems a likely approach, as again, the Bowman Lake Road is not plowed. An overnight tour with a base camp at Beyers Lake seems appropriate.
TRIP STATS: Route A, 1,300 feet gain with an additional 600 feet gain on the return, 4.5 miles one way; Route B, 2,700 feet gain, with an additional 240 feet on the return, 9 miles one way; winter ski ascent, same as Route B.
Notes: Much of the Grouse Lakes area is being acquired by the USFS. The Sierra Club fought off development here, with subdivisions to be built in many now fairly pristine areas. Great camping and hiking opportunities abound here with the many backcountry lakes.