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Hiking Stats as of 11/21/2018
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 325
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet
Day 3 of my 20 day vacation (and the last one before my Mom comes out for a visit) was likely to be my last hiking opportunity for about a week, and as such I wanted to make the most of it. Once again recent rains meant unsettled weather in the Sierra, so I was searching for more local peaks to visit. I came up with Chalk Mountain, a CC listed peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In looking at the map I realized I could also make a brief side trip to Mt. Bielawski, the highpoint of Santa Cruz county and a CC listed peak. This would give me 25 county summits and 61 CC peaks.

Mt. Bielawski

After walking the dogs I set off for the 80 minute drive from my house to the Christmas tree lot where Mt. Bielawski is found. The lot was well signed from the Skyline Blvd, and I drove up the single lane track to the parking area where I was the only car. I had every intention of telling someone what I was doing, and was actually glad when I was approached by what I believed to be the owner. He was wearing a shirt promoting rock climbing, so this seemed like it might work out. I told him I wasn't here for a tree, and he immediately asked if I was "one of those highpointers" as he laughed. I said I was and he told me to follow him up. It took all of about 2 minutes to walk around a few trees to where the benchmark was located. It looked like there was a bit of higher land just beyond the benchmark, and the owner said I should go ahead and tag what I needed to. I did so, and on the way down he told me that he gets about 25 such visits a year. He asked where I drove from, and when I told him Tracy, he said I came a long ways. I told him that I was on the way to Chalk Mountain (I didn't want him to think I would drive this far for 5 minutes of walking)and he said he had just been to Big Basin the previous week. He pulled out his cell phone and proceeded to give me driving directions to to the Park Headquarters. My thanks to the owner, and if I need a tree next year I will be back!

Chalk Mountain

I arrived at the Big Basin State Park HQ a few minutes before 11 AM, and immediately saw that this was a popular place. I wound up parking across the street from the HQ station, and walked over to pick up my parking pass ($10 fee). I attached it to my car and started out. At first this reminded me of the Muir Redwoods on the slopes of Mt. Tam - very touristy. There were many well defined trails going all over the place, but it was hard to figure out which one would actually lead somewhere. I took a few wrong turns and wound up walking through some sort of performing area, with a stage and bleachers carved from logs. I finally found a sign pointing me in the direction of the Sunset Trail, which would be my main route on the day. The Sunset trail was not heavily traveled, and was in need of some significant trail maintenance. But neither of these factors really bothered me, although I wondered what my $10 fee was going for. I would have hoped it would be used to clean up rather than build more benches out of logs.

The Sunset trail has many ups and downs consisting of several hundred feet, as the trail crosses no fewer than 4 creeks and streams, all the while not gaining any net elevation. I thought perhaps the roller coaster was nearing its end as the trail emerged from the the forest understory but before long it was back down, this time heading down to Berry Creek where the Sunset trail ends. It is possible to follow the current trails and make your way over to Chalk Mountain, however, this would add several miles as the trail takes a circuitous route. Instead, I continued along the easily visible but no longer maintained trail as it crossed the creek. A sign indicating that I was heading down something that was "a through trail" marked the start of a steeper uphill section, but despite the lack of maintenance it was easy to stay on course. Ribbons tied around trees marked the route, although this was not really needed it was nice to know I was on course.

It didn't take long to emerge on the top of the ridgeline where I could now see Chalk Mountain which was still a few miles away. The road was easy to follow, well graded for horse travel and it was a matter of just following it all the up to the top of Chalk Mountain, where I arrived a bit after 2 PM. The views from the top were better than I had hoped, thanks in part to the low clouds which always create a picturesque scene. I could barely make out the ocean off to the west, and a picnic table was well placed to take advantage of the surroundings. I walked around the top for a bit, looking for a register or benchmark but finding neither. It had been about 8.5 miles to the top, and although I knew I could save a mile by not repeating my early miscues when I couldn't find the trail, I was a bit tired and decided to get going.

I took the same way down, and didn't see anyone the entire trip back (I had seen a few people prior to the Berry Creek crossing on the way up but nobody after that). Back up and over all of the streams and creeks, over the downed trees, and finally back to the HQ a few minutes after 5 PM. This is one route where there is nearly equal elevation gain and loss on both the ascent and descent, with nearly 2,500 feet of gain on the way up and another 2,000 feet of gain on the way down. But all in all, a fun route that doesn't seem to be taken very often at all, one that I would recommend for a nice long dayhike.

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(3 years ago) dean gaudet said:

there's an alternate approach to chalk mountain which avoids the crowds at park HQ: start from waddell beach. very large lot there (no fee). it's a 14mi 3700' climb from that starting point. http://alltrails.com/tracks/chalk-mountain-from-waddell-beach