| Sherman Solitude - East Ridge from Thompson Park
Every 14er is special*, either especially beautiful and/or challenging, or especially forgettable. If the latter, I like to find an alternative route that makes it unforgettable, in a good way.
Outside of winter, Sherman can be forgettable. Extremely crowded, not much elevation gain, extremely crowded, and windy. Except for the last issue, this route solves these problems and provides a wonderful hike above the crowds with elk as your only climbing companions.
I hiked this solo, but it was a weekend camping trip with my wife and the dogs. So this was a camping trip first with a 14er hike added, keeps everybody happy! I drove out not knowing if we would find a suitable site along the forest road out of Thompson Park. I am going to try and describe the camping options at this trailhead as best as possible. While this website has an incredible wealth of route beta, I find it difficult to find information on dispersed camping options near trailheads. If you frequently camp prior to hiking, this information can be just as important when choosing a trailhead/route.
From Fairplay, drive just over a mile south on U.S. 285 and turn right onto County Road 18 (aka 4 Mile Creek Rd). About a mile down the road, you can continue straight on 4 Mile Creek Rd or turn right and follow directions to Thompson Park through the adjacent neighborhood. I recommend going through the neighborhood as it is shorter/smoother and eliminates FR 18.2B, which is bit narrow and rough. We drove up the tougher way looking for potential camping sites along the way and drove out the easier route. The route through the neighborhood is very will signed.
The turn off for FR 18.2B is on the right in a clearing just past the Horseshoe Campground. It is signed with one of those brown plastic strip markers, hard to see. The road crosses the clearing and turns sharply to the right up a ridge. There are two camping sites on FR 18.2B between the Horseshoe Campground and the intersection of FR 18.2B an FR 423, which is marked as the trailhead in Roach's 2nd edition 14er book. Both of these sites are on/near the apex of the road. The site on the east side of the road looked very appealing, with views to the East, but we wanted to get as close as possible. FYI, I was driving a 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe. It was about as much road as I wanted to handle (new vehicle), but mainly because of the crappy low-profile highway tires. I'm a bit conservative, so it was probably not as bad as I recollect. 4WDs, Subarus, 2WD trucks, and SUVs with decent clearance should have no problem. I would not take a 2WD car up this road.
Turn left at the junction of FR 18.2B and FR 423. For those with a large group or 2WD vehicles, there is a nice campsite in Thompson Park proper, closer to the intersection vs. exit from neighborhood. As we drove up FR 423 towards the Sacramento ghost town, we grew increasingly concerned we would not find a suitable camping site. I don't believe we passed any worthy/practical sites before we found the site we settled on. The image below includes the coordinates of our camp. The site was located along the road, but was perfect. Large, level, nice grassy area, established fire ring, and plenty of supplemental firewood. After stopping here, I walked further up the road and saw one/two other sites, but not nearly as good and the road became progressively worse and narrow.
Forest service map of area.
The campsite. Nice grassy area for tents and dogs.
Another view of the campsite.
View of the road. We pulled the car in across the road so the dogs could roam the grassy area.
Any good camping hike begins with grilled meat and a nice bottle of red wine!
Steak, asparagus, and mac 'n cheese for the pre-hike dinner.
No camping dinner is complete without some nice red wine.
Now onto the hike. I got a later start than expected. The dogs were up and out of the tent every hour during the night, something they ate I guess. I started out around 8 AM, bluebird day. The first portion of the hike is along the 4WD road. If you have Roach's 2nd edition book, the route he describes is no longer valid as it crosses private property. You must continue straight up the main 4wd road versus turning right towards the old Sacramento town site and over Point 12,032. Leave the road once you clear the stream on the right and head towards White Ridge. No route finding issues at all except weaving around the low scrub pines and willows before heading up the ridge. Rather than describe the straightforward route, I added captions to photos taken along the hike. Enjoy!
Looking back East over South Park at start of hike.
First view of Mt. Sherman (center-right) summit from 4wd road. Not long after this you leave the road and head towards White Ridge (left).
Looking northeast. This ridge, at right, comes off of Point 12,032, the route shown in Roach's 2nd Ed.
Herd of elk, my hiking companions. Had to clap my hands and shout a few times as they insisted on intersecting my path.
Old mine ruins below the summit of White Ridge.
View of Mt. Sherman from atop White Ridge.
Looking down on the Leavick site and road lined with cars.
I've never seen so many people on top of a 14er.
Looking towards White Ridge after leaving the summit of Mt. Sherman.
Looking Southeast off the summit of White Ridge.
Small tarn coming off the shoulder of White Ridge.
Post-camping trip crash.
I wouldn't have seen a soul on this hike until the summit, except for passing two couples in the saddle between White Ridge and Sherman. They were also trying to escape the sea of humanity atop Sherman. It took me 3 hours up and 2 hours down. This was a great hike and even better campsite. Only two hikers and about a half dozen ATVs passed by us during our 2-night, 3-day stay. No other vehicles. And if you are the type that needs to be connected while feeling like you are in the middle of nowhere, we had exceptional 3G service (AT&T).
*Except for the current standard route on Mt. Columbia, which is unforgettably unpleasant. I plan to revisit via the East Ridge.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):