Visitor # 13653 since 12.JUL.2002
Be sure to check the CalTrans Highway Information page before heading out.
Below are trail descriptions accessible from CA-108 arranged in west to east order.
Leo Divinagracia ('90 4Runner) and I ('85 4Runner) met Terry Johnson ('89 Extra Cab) and his passenger Terry Bachle in the middle of a torrential downpour at the Pioneer Group Camp near Pinecrest, CA. at dusk on the 5th.
By morning the clouds had cleared somewhat and we packed up and reached the Niagara Rim trailhead about 10AM to air down and lock up. We drove out the gravel road to the far end of the trail.
This was my first time off-road with my new Swampers, so I opted for 10 PSI. Looks like they conform to the terrain fairly well at that pressure.
The Niagara Rim trail pretty much follows the ridge line. Here it crests a high point before a steep drop down into the meadow below.
At the next ridge, there are two routes, a rocky climb to the right of the tree or you can squeeze between the tree and a rock ledge, which is the line I am taking here.
The trail rounds a jagged lava flow. Here it drops about 6 feet straight down then makes a 90° turn to the left. From either direction, you would swear there is no trail ahead!
Here I am dropping down over the volcanic outcrop. I found that the side lugs on the Swampers grabbed the rock as I made the turn rather than grazing off as I was used to my BFGs doing. This whipped the steering wheel out of my hands and jammed the left front wheel into the fender. I'll have to be more careful in the future to keep these tire off things that I don't intend to climb!
For some unknown reason, 4-wheelers seem to park there trucks in crazy positions when they stop for lunch. This is fine and well, until you go to climb back in!
Along the trail, the Forest Service has included little signed loops for added difficulty. Here, the trail drops down below the slabs where he had lunch then proceeds to climb right back up. The rain had washed mud and loose sand onto the steep, off-camber granite making for a fun climb. Terry made it to the top with little difficulty, then Leo had to maneuver around a rock and got into a uneasy situation here. He had to hook up and winch ahead a few feet to make it to the top. I followed up in low-low-2nd gear and didn't slip a tire. Those Swampers rule!
After this point the trail is pretty easy. There is one additional "rock garden" on the way out. Terry drove up the lower part with ease. After getting back to the paved road about 2:30 PM, Leo and I aired up (the Swampers took about 20 minutes to go from 10-32 PSI). The Terry's went back to pack up the camp and everyone made it safely back home. Leo and I topped off gas tanks on cheap gas in Tracy on the way home.
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[Last updated: 26.July.2007]