Back to index Thornburg Canyon (East)

Trip Date:  06/08/2018

: 8.8 Miles

Vertical Gain: 1800'

Group Size: 3

Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard    Strenuous
Thornburg Canyon Route
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Raymond Tamarack Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 40.037
W 119 48.941
    End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates  
Car Shuttle Req'd:   No
Parking Directions:   Take Highway 89 to the town of Markleeville.  Turn west on Hot Spring Rd, than turn left to follow Pleasant Valley road.  This will turn into Sawmill Road, and then turn onto Forest Service road 71 and follow this High Vechicle clearance (or 4WD) required dirt road to the parking area where the signed start of the trail can be found.  Note that there are a couple crossings of Spratt Creek on this section of road and it may not be passable during times when the water is high.
Hazards of Note:   Route-finding skills were necessary before 2019 but the trail may have improved significantly with recent maintenance by multiple groups.  Previously this trail required orientation experience and good navigational skills.  This hike has been rated as "Hard" rather than "Moderate" due to this factor.

Crowd Factor:   Few.  Until this year (2019,) the Thornburg Canyon trail had not been maintained to any degree in more than a decade.  A group from Amador as well as the Amador ranger have been focused on this trail including defining it much more clearly.  
General Notes:
From the parking area, pass by the trailhead sign and head across and open area which will soon offer some impressive views of Raymond Peak to the southwest.  Continue up the trail above the canyon to your right and a couple of times you will find viewpoints down into gorgeous Pleasant Valley to the left.  This is a private valley that is not accessible, but offers impressive scenery along the way.  As you bend a sharp turn and head into a forested section, you will enter into the Mokelumne Wilderness, which was signed at one time but on this date the only thing left was a splintered post in the ground.  
About 2 1/2 miles in you will begin to drop down into the canyon, passing by some impressive protruding rock formations on your right (north) which tower high above you.  On the left is Thornburg Peak, and 8600' peak that can be readily climbed as a side trip if interested.  
The trail reaches a granite section about 4 miles in which begins to climb steadily, the location where we turned around on this trek.

There is a fairly large parking area here which we had all to ourselves.
Parking area

It seems pretty remote but there is actually a signed trailhead at the south end of the parking area.
Trailhead sign 

There is an impressive view of Raymond Peak to the southeast from early on in the trip.
Raymond Peak from the trail 

It didn't take long to find a number of trees down on the trail, but this one was small enough to tackle with our hand saws.
Trail work 

There are a few spots along the first mile which afford a look into the private and inaccessible Pleasant Valley below to the south.
Pleasant Valley 

In the canyon we even had the chance to test our stream crossing boots this early in the summer.
Crossing the stream

Some massive rock displays tower above as you make your way up the canyon.
Rock display 

This rocl outcropping was especially prominent and reminded us of a castle turret.
More rock

Mark and Greg making their way up the trail which hadn't seen any maintenance in nearly a decade.
 On the trail

Even though this has been an unmaintained trail for a long time, much of it was still in really good shape.
Open trail

Near our turnaround spot we found a weather monitoring box which had been released the previous winter with instructions for where to return it in Reno to the national weather service.
Monitoring discovery

Crossing the water on our way back once more.
Navigating the old trail

Making a note of the state of the old wilderness boundary sign on our way back out from the Mokelumne Wilderness.
Wilderness Boundary
Always surprising to find evidence like this on what feels like a remote trail in the middle of nowhere.

The GPS track of the east half of the hike from right to left and back. GPS Track of Hike