Duration: 2 days
Difficulty: moderately strenuous
Distance, elevation gain/loss:
one way, via Jim Donnelly Trail: 7 miles, +2380/-1040 feet
one way, via Lyman Willson Ridge Trail: 6.3 miles, +1750/-410 feet
Trailhead: Hunting Hollow on Gilroy Hot Springs Road
Permits/fees: Backpacking permit and parking fees required; self-register for Grizzly Gulch Zone
• Camping by a small pond
• Steep climbs and descents
• Best poppies in the park (early April)
• Panoramic views from Steer Ridge and Wagon roads
• Rich variety of spring wildflowers.
Elevation - one way, via Jim Donnelly Trail
From the parking lot, cross/ford the creek. In a few hundred feet turn left onto Jim Donnelly Trail (Steer Ridge Trail, a shorter alternative, is more difficult due to the very steep grade).
Climb steadily at a moderate grade through meadows and groves of bay and oak trees, adorned with lacy lichen. Coast live oaks provide deep shade, welcomed on a hot day.
At 3.2 miles, at the junction with Steer Ridge Road, stands an old bay tree with large rocks under its crown - a pleasant spot for a break.
Continue up Steer Ridge Road along the open grassy ridge, dotted with oaks.
A barren rocky area just east of Willson Peak offers one of the best display of serpentine loving spring wildflowers - poppies, cream cups and bird-eyed gilias.
Turn left onto Serpentine Trail and descend to the creek. Follow the Grizzly Gulch Road along the creek (downstream).
Tule Pond Trail will be on your right, just past the pond. For a shorter trip, consider camping here.
Cross the creek and start climbing through an open oak woodland, along the crest of a minor ridge.
The grade becomes increasingly steep as the trail enters chaparral-covered slope near its end at Wasno Road. Turn right, and in 0.3 miles you will reach the Wagon Road, with an outhouse at the junction. Unnamed road leads to Wasno Pond.
On the way in or out, use Hunting Hollow Road, Lyman Willson Ridge and Bowl trails to Willson Camp, and then Wagon Road all the way to Wasno Pond.
In the wet season, expect multiple creek fords on the Hunting Hollow Road.
Lyman Willson Ridge trail is much steeper than gradual Jim Donnelly trail.
Scenic and nearly level Bowl trail contours a grassy hillside, with great wildflowers in spring. Couple reliable springs are located near Willson Camp.
Wagon Road offers excellent panoramic views - a glimpse of Hurricane Pond in Canada de la Dormida, ups and downs of Center Flats Road, distant ridges of northeast areas of the park.
Camping at Wasno Pond
Wilderness-style camping, no designated sites.
Outhouse at the junction of Wasno and Wagon roads, 0.1 miles away.
For the best location, walk up the small ridge on the north side of the pond.
A large grassy area by an interesting rock formation has plenty of flat ground. Blue oaks provide partial shade.
Camping at Tule Pond
Wilderness-style camping, no designated sites, no outhouse.
Camp at a small flat area (enough room for a couple of tents) on the north side of the Grizzly Gulch Creek, just downstream from the Tule Pond.
Partially shaded, this creekside meadow is carpeted with shooting stars early in the spring.
These water sources may be seasonal:
• Wasno Pond
• Tule Pond
• Grizzly Gulch Creek
• Willson Camp springs (if taking the alternative route)
When creek has high water
If Hunting Hollow Creek is impassable after heavy rain, you can scramble along the hillside from the concrete bridge on Gilroy Hot Springs road to Steer Ridge and Jim Donnelly trails.