MT. MILDRED (8,398') CLASS 1
Location: 6 miles SW of the Olympic Village, CA
Drive: Take I-80 to the "Foresthill Auburn Ravine Road," which is 2.3 miles east from Maple Street Exit in Auburn, CA, and head south to Foresthill. After 17 miles from the Interstate, take the paved "Mosquito Ridge Road" right, signed "French Meadows 36." Drive east 34.5 miles on paved "96" to French Meadows Reservoir. Crossing the dam, turn left at the junction. Proceed 5.1 miles to the end of pavement. Pass Ahart Campground, and pass a sign, "Talbot Campground 3." This is all excellent gravel road. After 1.4 miles more, go straight (right), following a sign, "Foresthill Divide," on "51." At another junction, in 0.9 mile more, go straight (left), following the main road. Go right, after 0.5 mile more, at the next fork, following a sign, "Granite Chief Wilderness Talbot Campground." After another 0.4 mile, come to the signed "Picayune Trailhead" and Talbot Campground. Park just before a deep stream crossing.
Climb: Cross the stream and follow the road/trail northeast along the Middle Fork of the American River. After a couple of miles, swing south on the trail through Picayune Valley. Go about 2 miles after crossing the small stream at the bottom of this valley, then, at about the 6,800 foot elevation, head cross-country southwest toward a saddle just left (east) of the peak. Follow the east ridge to the summit.
Drive: See Route A, Drive. Proceed to French Meadows Reservoir. Cross the dam, and turn left at the intersection. After 4.7 miles more, take road "68" right, also signed "Group Camps Gates." Head northeast along the main dirt road a mile or two, and try various dirt roads leading east toward the peak. You should get 2-3 miles up on logging roads. Park wherever feasible. Please keep notes on your route to make for a successful return.
Much of this approach is private land, and is being logged. Please respect the private property, and, if asked to leave, do so immediately.
Climb: Follow logging roads to about the 6,800 foot elevation, and then head cross-country east. You should reach a major, open ridge about where Pt. 8,509', or "Picayune Peak" sits. Follow the ridge right (south) over Pk. 8,458', and drop down to the left (east) side of Heavens Gate, a knife-edged basalt formation. A use trail traverses below the talus at the eastern base of these scenic columns. Ascend back up south and climb to the summit of Mt. Mildred.
Drive: Take Highway 89 to the Alpine Meadows Road, which is 10 miles south from the junction with I-80 or 3.9 miles north from Tahoe City (junction of Highway 89 and Highway 28). Turn west and drive 2.3 miles to the Alpine Meadows Trailhead, which is just across (north) from Deerpark Road. Park on the shoulder off the pavement.
Climb: Take the trail, signed, "Five Lakes Trail Five Lakes 2 1/2 Pacific Crest Trail 3 Whiskey Creek Camp 4," hiking up north and then left (west) through trees and brush past several signs warning of "private property." In 2.2 miles, pass the junction with the trail to Five Lakes. At a fork go right, following the arrow to "Pacific Crest Trail 1/2 Whisky Creek Camp 2." A short distance later, pass a sign facing west reading, "S**** Valley 2 1/2 Whisky Creek Camp 2." Go straight, noting the two trails leading back. About 0.5 mile further, go right at the junction with the PCT and sign reading, "Five Lakes Trail 15E31 Alpine Mdws Trailhead 3 Whisky Creek Camp 1 1/2 Barker Pass 11." A mile further, go left at a junction with signs, "Whisky Creek Trail 16E02 Whisky Creek Camp 1/2 Diamond Crossing 5 1/2 Granite Chief Mountain 3 1/2 Alpine Meadows Trailhead 4 Barker Pass 12." In 0.5 mile more, cross a creek and go past a few small cabins to another junction and go right, with sign "Picayune Valley 3 Diamond Crossing 5 Pacific Crest Trail 3/4 Five Lakes 2." After 2 miles, come to an indistinct junction with fallen signs reading, "Shanks Cove 2 Greyhorse Valley 4 Picayune Valley 1," and also "Whisky Creek Camp 2 Pacific Crest Trail 3."
You have two choices here. Going down to the left, you will later climb back up on rough trail to reach the trail's highpoint to head cross-country to the summit of Pk. 8109'. Follow the ridge west, with a good sized drop in between, to the summit of Mt. Mildred. Use trails may be followed part of the way.
Otherwise, from the indistinct junction, go right to drop to a saddle at the head of Picayune Valley. Follow the trail down (northwest) past a sign "During fawning season May 15 to July 15 dogs are prohibited on this trail" and a sign marking the boundary of a "State Game Refuge." Continue on the trail, dropping about 400-500 feet, and then head cross-country left (west), staying low to avoid riparian brush, then up the steep, forested hillside, joining Route A, to the saddle to the east of the summit. Follow intermittent use trails west along the ridge to the highpoint.
Drive: Take Route A, Drive, to French Meadows Reservoir, and, after crossing the dam, go left and proceed 0.7 miles to signed, "Chipmunk Ridge 3" and "48." Go right up the hill, and pass a sign, "Rough Road." High clearance vehicles are needed to complete this drive. Passenger vehicles could proceed to a point within hiking distance of the vehicle parking.
Take the main road, ignoring the obvious spurs. After 3.3 miles, take a right fork following a sign to "Hell Hole Reservoir 6." The left fork continues along Chipmunk Ridge (see Notes) and dead-ends after 2.8 miles.
Continue on "48" past a fork, after 0.5 mile, taking an unsigned dirt road to the left. After .45 mile more, go right at a fork. There are no signs here and at all further junctions and forks. Drive over a ridge, and gain a view of Hell Hole Reservoir to the right. Descend slowly, as the road becomes rougher, with many bumps. Ignore a road to the right, and cross a bridge after another 1.6 miles. Follow the main road, taking the left forks if there is any doubt. After 2.7 miles more from the bridge, come to a bad section in the road. There are turnarounds, and some parking near here. Good high clearance vehicles will proceed to a fork about 50 yards after a short wash-out is crossed, and turn left. After about 0.3 mile more, a small, flat, clearing to the left (north) is reached. A poor logging road climbs steeply north from here. Park. Further on the main road, another deep creek bed is reached. If one comes to Shanks Cove trailhead, the boundary of Granite Chief Wilderness, you have gone too far.
Climb: From the small clearing, take the poor logging road north which climbs steeply up the hill. The goal is to climb to a low saddle just east of Pt. 7,242' on the southwest ridge of Mt. Mildred, the ridge to the north. One passes a gate shortly. It is possible to discern and follow an overgrown, faint road bed which leads to the saddle. Hike to this saddle, and then turn east up the ridge, which has a semblance of a road bed, then use trail, around to the left (north) of the first crags on the ridge. Either follow use trails along the ridge, or climb right and gain the ridge. After another small hill, Johnson Monument (7,680+') stands sharply to the right (southeast). This is a spectacular, 100 foot high pinnacle which overhangs near its base. It doesn't appear to be free-climbable. The rock is knobby agglomerate, and climbing is not advised. The southerly slope to approach the Monument is rubbly, loose, hardpan in places.
Continue up along the southwest ridge of Mt. Mildred, and one can avoid some brush by sidehilling to the left through red fir forests. Either ascend directly up to the southwest ridge when possible, or sidehill further to the northnorthwest ridge which comes up from Heavens Gate. A faint use trail leads to the summit in both cases.
WINTER SKI ASCENT: The Mosquito Ridge Road is not plowed. It is forgivable to ride a ski lift, if permission from the resort can be obtained, from either the Olympic Village or Alpine Meadows, to assist in crossing the Sierra Crest along Route C, and heading by a direct route coming from the east. This will be a very long day. As out-of-bounds skiing is highly restricted or outright forbidden, don't press hard or rigidly plan on using this way.
TRIP STATS: Route A, 2,800 feet gain, 6-7 miles one way; Route B, 2,200 feet gain with an additional 500 feet gain on the return, 5 miles one way; Route C, 3,500 feet gain with an additional 1,500 feet gain on the return, 8.5 miles one way; Route D, 2,000 feet gain, 2 miles one way.
Notes: Heavens Gate is a
nearby basalt formation that is worth a visit by hiking a short
distance down and northnorthwest from Mt. Mildred summit.
From the east, the hike to the summit using Route C is probably faster than driving the three plus hours each way through Auburn to the Routes A, B, and D trailheads and, then, the 2-3 hours hiking to the top.
From Pk. 8109' on Route C, one will view Johnson Monument, a huge, undercut pinnacle on the southwest slopes of Mt. Mildred. Route D passes directly by this feature.
On the driving approach to Route D, the Chipmunk Ridge Road may be taken to proceed the 2.8 miles to the end of the road, and then gain a cross-country route to follow Chipmunk Ridge to the top. This route drops and climbs a total of several hundred feet, with several bumps to cross, and eventually joins Route D at the low saddle just east of Pt. 7,242'. It appears that the distance each way is roughly 3 miles.
It also appears that a logging road climbs to about 6,400 feet elevation up Dolly Creek, the drainage to the west of Mt. Mildred, and a cross-country route east can be used to gain the top.