Ascent of Berryessa Peak on 2016-06-15

Climber: Dan Baxter

Others in Party:Bill Baxter
Michelle Baxter
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Berryessa Peak
    Elevation:3057 ft / 931 m

Ascent Trip Report

June 15, 2016

By the time I completed summiting California’s 58 county highpoints in 2007 I already realized that their fun factor was really more related to their prominence rather than their elevation. Surprisingly of the 58 completed highpoints, I lacked 16 of the county prominence points. I’ve been slowly whittling that number down to a current 3.
Berryessa Peak has an elevation of 932 M (3057’) and a clean prominence of 420 M (1377’). It is the most prominent peak of Yolo County.
There was a surprising cold front with rain and snow up north, where I was heading with my brother & daughter to do some peakbagging near Mt Lassen and Shasta Lake area. So we decided to do some low elevation peaks a little more south en route. Berryessa was the first of three California county prominence points we summited.

The group has done quite a job fixing up this trail, which has come a long way since Bob Burd had a hard time even finding the trailhead (just a section of fence converted from barbed to barbless wire that he had to climb over). I highly recommend you view their website and its superb maps therein:

The trailhead now has a road gate at 50 yards or so before the 20 mile marker, and a walk-thru immediately to the left of the gate. The trailhead signpost lies just within and is not readily visible from the road.
There was much action at the trailhead when we arrived. A large CalFire contingent was there, complete with a helicopter and tanker truck. They were doing a prescribed burn in the field opposite the trailhead to eradicate non-native star thistle and later replace it with native grasses.
The first 1.6 miles of the trail follows a still active dirt road and passes through a nice savanna of valley and blue oaks. The trail marker at 1.6 is easily seen (unlike in Bob Burd’s day when he missed and passed it) and is a marked 4x4 wood post. Here one turns right and continues on another albeit lesser used road until it gradually peters out and becomes a trail. Now the steepest elevation gain begins as one climbs a ridge line without appreciable switchbacks.
3.1 miles into the hike one reaches a nicely constructed easement fence crossing and a long gentle climb begins as a grassy traverse. It seems the trail construction crew used adzes to improve the first half of this section, but the latter half would be quite slippery in wet weather as the slope is rather steep here. The trail is moderately used but there is some overgrowth of vegetation which includes the diminutive non-native star thistle, which for its size is surprisingly annoying in its ability to pierce through my mountaineering pants.
Nice views were found here of Snow and Hood Mountains, and Lake Berryessa.
The trail never actually reaches the ridgeline here(as described in the yolohiker pages) but gently climbs close to the ridgeline but under a rather scenic cliff line, atop which lies a private house. The grass soon gives way to a wildfire fighter’s nightmare, brushy chamise, which continues as you now pass gradually down into Green Creek Canyon.
There was no running water in either of the two branches of Green Creek. The latter had a mud puddle or two. The canyon was, however, moist, and overgrown in places. There was some poison oak, and bay trees.
The trail climbs out of Green Creek Canyon onto the main ridgeline. Here it becomes more open, and rocky.
Finally, at 6.0 miles the trail emerges onto the well graded road to the summit tower complex. Note there is NOT a trail sign here, so remember the spot so you won’t pass it on your return! Finally at 7.2 miles the summit is reached. The road meanders around a tower or two and ends at the obvious summit rock, which has benchmarks, a Richard Carey red can register, great views, and a rock conducive for my daughter’s nap. Fifty feet away or so are the foundation remains of the old lookout tower. The new tower complex provides a great Verizon 4G/LTE signal.
Overall the day used 5 1/4 hrs up (with slower hiking mates) and 4 1/2 hours down. The wild fire was out and the CalFire crew gone by our return. The day was cold, breezy to blustery as the storm was approaching, and I used only two liters of fluid.
Dan Baxter
Fresno CA
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3277 ft / 997 m
    Extra Gain:400 ft / 121 m
    Round-Trip Distance:14.4 mi / 23.2 km
    Route:BMT (Berryessa Mtn Trail)
    Trailhead:Mile Marker 20  580 ft / 176 m
    Quality:3 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Cold, Windy, Overcast
Ascent Statistics
    Time:5 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 

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