Posted by: James Wapotich | September 21, 2018

Trail Quest: Antimony and Eagle Rest Peaks

Part of the Transverse Range, the San Emigdio Mountains frame the southern end of California’s great Central Valley, and link the Tehachapi and Temblor Mountains.

Both Antimony and Eagle Rest Peaks offer great views of the surrounding area, and provide a chance to explore the mountains north of Mount Pinos.

The hike to Antimony Peak is about five miles round trip, and from there it’s another six miles round trip to Eagle Rest Peak, for a total of 11 miles to visit both. The trail starts at roughly 6,660 feet of elevation, with Antimony and Eagle Rest Peaks at 6,848’ and 6,005’ respectively.

The longer trek to both peaks is a somewhat strenuous roller-coaster of a hike, involving 2,900 feet of combined elevation loss and 2,400 feet of combined elevation gain on the hike out; the numbers are then reversed on the return hike. The hike can take most of the day to complete. There is no water along the trail.

To get to the trailhead from Santa Barbara, take Highway 101 south towards Ventura. From Ventura, take State Route 126 east towards Santa Clarita where it meets Interstate 5. Continue north on Interstate 5 and exit at Frazier Mountain Park Road.

Follow Frazier Mountain Park Road to Cuddy Valley Road. Continue on Cuddy Valley Road and look for the signed turnoff for Tecuya Ridge Road on the right. The road is before the turnoff to Mount Pinos and the nearby campgrounds.

Tecuya Ridge Road is unpaved, and a high-clearance vehicle is recommended. At each of the intersections along the road, stay to the left. The road improves as it continues, and ends in a small loop at the trailhead for Antimony Peak, about 4.5 miles from Cuddy Valley Road.

From the parking area, the trail follows an old jeep road towards Antimony Peak. The trail quickly descends through a mix of pinyon pine and white fir, with an understory of scrub oak.

The jeep road was built in the 1940s, to access the mining area, and is now more of wide single-track trail. The grade becomes more moderate as the road wraps itself west around the summit north of the trailhead.

At the lower elevation, chaparral plants assert themselves in the mix, with ceanothus and yucca appearing. Along the trail I can see where deer have grazed on the yucca stalks.

The trail then rounds a corner, and Antimony Peak comes into view with is stark, exposed southern face. The mountain is composed of granitic rock, appearing white in the early morning light. Here, the trail passes through a gate, before descending down to a saddle.

From here, the trail follows a series of switchbacks that zigzag towards the peak, gaining 900 feet in less than a half-mile. It’s an impressive feat that not only was the road built, but was also used to carry ore and supplies.

At about the two-mile mark, the trail crests the top of the mountain and enters an open area dotted with Kennedy’s buckwheat. Here, at the saddle, the trail branches, although at first glance the routes to the different peaks are more subtle in comparison to the jeep road. To the left is the off-trail route to Antimony Peak. To the right is the off-trail route towards Eagle Rest Peak. And straight ahead, the old jeep road continues down the mountain another quarter of a mile to where the miners’ cabins were located.

The off-trail route to Antimony Peak heads east, uphill towards the summit. The route is marked with occasional cairns and is relatively easy to follow.

The trail quickly arrives at the summit, a small level area amongst the pines. At the summit is a USGS survey marker and, next to it, the peak register where one can add their name.

From the summit, the views through the trees extend east towards the Tehachapi Mountains; to the south towards Frazier Mountain and Mount Pinos; and to the north, towards Eagle Rest Peak, the San Joaquin Valley, and southernmost Sierra Nevada.

Returning to the old jeep road, from the saddle, the jeep road continues down the mountain another quarter of a mile, and arrives at an open clearing amongst the trees that is also dotted with Kennedy’s buckwheat. Scattered about the clearing is wood from the cabins, as well as rusting tin cans. At the edge of the clearing, under the trees, is an old stove.

The first mining claims on the north side of Antimony Peak were made in 1872, by Stephen Boushey and his partners. In those days, ore was carried down the mountain by mule into San Emigdio Canyon where it was smelted. From there it was hauled by wagon to Bakersfield.

The two-mile trail from the mine down into the canyon was supposedly called Tail Hold, or Tailholt, Trail because it was so steep it required holding onto the tail of one of the mules when climbing it. The trail led down the west side of Antimony Peak, into San Emigdio Canyon, where the smelters can still be found today.

In the early 1940s, the U.S. Bureau of Mines surveyed the area, digging trenches and exploratory drill sites to determine its potential as an emergency antimony reserve.

The brittle, silvery metal expands when solidifying and is used as an alloy of lead and tin in the manufacture of machine bearings, ammunition, batteries, and metal casings.

For the hike to Eagle Rest Peak, return back up to the saddle. The peak is visible from the saddle and can make for a compelling destination.

From the saddle, the trail traverses the north side of mountain westward staying below the summit that’s just west of Antimony Peak. The trail passes through a small stand of Jeffrey pines, before then joining the ridgeline that leads down towards Eagle Rest Peak, and from there, passes through mostly pinyon pine mixed with interior live oak. Much of the route is marked with cairns.

On the ridgeline, the grade starts off reasonable, but then rapidly starts descending as the trail loses over 1,100 feet of elevation in just over a half-mile. After its relentless descent the trail arrives at a low saddle. I try not to think about the hike back out.

From here, the off-trail route begins an equally vigorous ascent of the unnamed summit between Antimony and Eagle Rest Peaks. The trail gains roughly 500 feet of elevation over the next quarter of a mile.

Along the more exposed southern side of the unnamed summit, chaparral plants such as manzanita, silk tassel, and yerba santa assert themselves. On the ground I can see fresh bear tracks. Other animal sign along the trail include fox, bobcat, coyote, and mountain lion.

The trail then crests the unnamed summit, traversing across the top of it. Here, the trail becomes a little less distinct with wild grasses growing amongst the trees. With less available rocks to create cairns, hikers have tied plastic ribbons or flags to some of the trees to mark the route.

After crossing the almost mesa-like summit, the trail continues with more relentless descending. Then, at last, it becomes more forgiving as it continues over a mini-summit on its way down. Here, the route is a little more brushy. On the ground, I can now see fresh bear tracks coming and going, and know that at least the bear made it back out.

The trail then arrives at an open grassy saddle. In spite of its low elevation, the saddle offers nearly panoramic views of the area with San Emigdio Canyon to the west, Eagle Rest Peak to the north, Lost Canyon to the east, and the slopes of Antimony Peak to the south.

From here, the trail begins its final ascent to reach Eagle Rest Peak. The trail gently climbs to a rise, before then starting up the hillside for another steep ascent, passing through a mix of grassland, pinyon pine, and juniper.

At one point, I mistakenly turn off the trail, traversing westward, perhaps trying to spread out the ascent, but quickly realize my error. The off-trail route is remarkably uniform in its wear pattern and fairly well-marked with cairns, making it somewhat easy to differentiate it from game trails.

As the trail continues its ascent to the peak, it starts to require some rock scrambling, and becomes more challenging to follow as it makes its way up through the sandstone, with the final push along an outcrop of sandstone, just before it reaches the summit.

At the summit, are several massive sandstone boulders. Here, the steepness of the climb is immediately offset by the sheer drop off on the other side. The views are equally impressive, stretching north out across the wide expanse of the southern San Joaquin Valley.

After a brief rest, I retrace my route, making it back to my car just after sunset.

This article originally appeared in section A of the September 17th, 2018 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press

Antimony Peak San Emigdio Mountains jeep road trail hike los padres national forest

Antimony Peak in the early morning light

Eagle Rest Peak hike trail San Emigdio Mountain San Joaquin Valley Los Padres National Forest

Eagle Rest Peak with the southern San Joaquin Valley in the distance

Eagle Rest Peak trail hike San Emigdio Mountains Los Padres National Forest

Scenery along the trail to Eagle Rest Peak looking east

Eagle Rest Peak hike trail san emigdio mountains los padres national forest

Scenery along the trail to Eagle Rest Peak looking west

Eagle Rest Peak trail hike san emigdio mountains los padres national forest


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