Sacramento County High Point Trip Report

Carpenter Hill

Date: December 14, 2001
Author: Dan Baxter

A big rain storm passed through during morning on my 200-mile drive to Sacramento, the result of a big cold front, hence visibility was phenomenal by California standards, and even lowly Carpenter Hill would afford great views. Much has happened in Sacramento County (as in most of California) since the 1994 publication of Gary Suttle's book. Sacramento has grown since then, and certainly grown a great deal since I last set foot there in 1977. The area around Carpenter Hill is developing rapidly.

The highway exit off US 50 is now called E Bidwell/Scott Rd. Go north 1 major intersection. If you go to Broadstone, the second major right, which is (as far as I can tell) the Clarksville Road of the topo maps and Suttle's book, this road is now a 4 lane road up to an area of major housing construction. There is currently no viable parking at the top of Broadstone (no parking zones, bike trails, closed new roads), and the continuing dirt road to Carpenter Hill is posted with no trespassing signs.

The first right down Bidwell, however, has viable options. This is Cavitt Drive, which quickly curves south along the western base of Carpenter Hill. This road currently ends in a residential suburban complex which is only partially completed (e.g. Caithness Drive has houses). I parked at the intersection of Catterline and Redington, 2 streets that currently have only street lamps and plowed lots, without even house foundations as yet. The summit of Carpenter "looms" overhead (loom is a tough word for the lowest county highpoint in California, one of only 2 below a thousand feet) with its bevy of radio towers.

My walk up to the summit and back to the car took 18 minutes, complete with the prerequisite photo ops. This was entirely across grassy fields. Middle Palisade this was not! I did cross one barb wire fence, which was not posted. At the summit was another fence surrounding the radio towers; I did not go in there. Neither is there any need to. The summit benchmark is 10 feet to the west of the fence, on a small rock outcropping which is the obvious true summit.

It may be California's lowest highpoint, but the views were noteworthy. The Sutter Buttes, the coastal range (including Mount Diablo), and the Sierras could all be seen on this windy, cold front passing day. For those of us interested in birding, grassland birds and raptors were well represented.

The "ascent" was quick, but it set me back hours for my return home. It put me on the highway at 4 pm on a Friday. The Sacramento area is no place for those of us not used to the horrendous traffic of metro California.