Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mt. Konocti, Part 1, Wright Peak - Lake County Park

Mt. Konocti is located on Clear Lake's south east shore adjacent to the small town of Kelseyville in Lake County, CA. Standing at 4299', Mt. Konocti is clearly visible from all points around the lake. (You can see another view of Mt. Konocti from the Mendo Rock post) The mountain is part of the Clear Lake Volcanic Field which consists of volcanic cones and domes that range in age from 10,000 to 2.1 million years old. Mt. Konocti is thought to contain a large empty magma chamber that is possibly connected to Clear Lake. Old legend says that in the drought of 1818 Native Americans discovered a cave that connected to a large underground lake under the mountain. Other legends tell of people dropping items into cave shafts and later finding them floating in Clear Lake. Many caves where blasted closed in the early 1900's for public safety and the private land holders had discouraged exploration until recently. I found some scientific evidence that suggests the theory is at least valid. Scientists have detected changes in barometric pressure suggesting the mountain is "Breathing" or that air is moving in and out of the mountain. 

Until the fall of 2011 the mountain had been off limits to the public because much of the mountain was private land. After many years of negotiation between the County, State, BLM and private land holders Lake County's largest park opened. There are two trail options, both start at the same place and both are about 3 miles one way. One trail will lead you to Buckingham Peak and give you a better view of the lake. The other trail will take you to Wright peak, the high point of the mountain, location of a CalFire lookout and more of a 360° view. The tower is being leased to the County and may be open to public access at times, but I have no further information on that. At present the trails are only open for hiking but future planed uses include horseback ridding and mountain biking. Currently you can obtain a special use permit for non-hiking uses (707) 262-1618.

To access the park take Main St. in Kelseyville to Konocti Rd/County Rd 518. After about a mile the road will turn to dirt and continue for the next 3 miles. Don't let the dirt road turn you away! This is one of the best maintained dirt roads I have ever used, I easily made it to the trail head in my Girlfriend's Mazda 6. After you pass the entrance sign you will see a parking and picnic area to your right, you can park there or continue on to the parking area with a restroom just up the road on the left.

The trail starts just up the road from the parking area. You will pass the gate and continue for about a tenth of a mile. Very visible signs will guide you away from the road and to a well marked trail taking you around an orchard. This is private property please be respectful, access through this property is essential to keeping this park open. The trail shortly rejoins the road from here you can see a sub-peak of the mountain, Clark Peak a very distinct conical formation.

Now back on the road the climb begins, if you are going to Wright Peak you will be picking up 1600' of elevation in 3 miles that averages an 11.3% percent grade, averages meaning it's steeper at parts. The trail/road continues on with great views of the Kelseyville/Lakeport area. At about the 1.5 mile mark, known as the junction, you will reach a fork in the road and a bathroom. Here you have two choices, left to Buckingham Peak or right to Wright Peak. The hike to Buckingham is perhaps slightly easier with less of an elevation gain. Also I am told there are some interesting rock formations near Buckingham peak. I took the right to Wright peak, the top of the mountain, my testosterone forced me to choose this trail. Must stand on top of mountain (caveman voice).

Jump over to part 2 for Buckingham Peak.

A short distance up the Wright Peak trail the vegetation changes and you will find yourself in an oak grove. There is another intersection with a short spur trail that can take you to an old homestead site. Just beyond the oak grove is another restroom, here the trail curves around the back of the mountain and you get your first look toward the cites of Clearlake, Lower Lake and a view of Mt. St. Helena. As you continue on there is another spur trail this one to Howard Peak, the second highest peak of the mountain. At this point you have one last push to reach the top.

Once on the Summit of Mt. Konocti the view is beautiful. To the north-north-east you can see Sanhedrin and Hull mountain. To the north Goat Mountain and Snow Mountain, the highest point in Lake County. To the east you can see peaks on the Cortina Ridge in Colusa County and Blue Ridge in Yolo county (and on a clear day the Sierra foothills). To the south Mt. St. Helena in Napa, Sonoma and Lake county, and Boggs and Cobb Mountain in Lake county. Finally to the north east Cow Mountain and Mendo Rock on the border of Mendocino County.

Overall this hike was a little harder than I had expected although the reward was a magnificent view. The view is not as unobstructed as the video makes it look, I had to move around the peak to get the composite 360°. This is a good hike in spring or fall. In winter the peaks may have snow on them and in summer temperatures can be in the 100°'s, additionally the park may close due to high fire danger. Also this is rattlesnake country and there is no water on the mountain. One last thing, the trail is extremely well marked, if you use Google maps it shows the road a little off of where it is don't worry about it just follow the signs. I have included some links for additional resources and historical info.

Again I have tagged this post with both horse trails and mountain bike labels, while these are future planned uses of the park currently they require a special use permit for all non-hiking activities, (707) 262-1618.

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View Mt. Konocti in a larger map

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