Black Mountain (Ramona)

20150509DSC_0211-EditBlack MtnBack when they were naming mountains in San Diego, apparently no one bothered with a deconfliction log, because we somehow ended up with two Black Mountains. We’d hiked the smaller Black Mountain near Rancho Penasquitos earlier in the year, and this day I set out with one of my Facebook friends to tackle the more imposing Black Mountain of Ramona.

We met up at the Ramona Denny’s and carpooled to the trailhead together. I knew it was going to be an awesome hike when we saw both a coyote and bobcat as we were driving down scenic Pamo Road. We found our starting point where the Santa Ysabel Truck Trail turned off to the right, and parked our car on the side of Pamo Road.

The Truck Trail is usually open to vehicles, and appears to a be a popular offroading spot (as we would soon discover), but it’s really only suitable for high clearance 4WD vehicles. Of course we were going to do it the awesome way and hike to the top. Since we started pretty early, we had the road mostly to ourselves on the way to the summit, but we were passed by a number of Jeeps and dirt bikes on our descent.

The gate to the road was open (occasionally it is closed to vehicles, based on conditions, but you can always hike it) and we set off up the road.20150509DSC_0040-EditBlack Mtn

It was a grey and overcast day. We were getting an early start and the cool morning air encouraged us to set a brisk pace to keep warm. It had recently rained so the rocks and soil were dark with moisture.20150509DSC_0042-EditBlack Mtn

The incline was gradual at first, but quickly increased. While it wasn’t obscenely steep by any measure, it was enough to cause some protest from my leg muscles which hadn’t had a chance to warm up yet. I ignored the slight burn, knowing it would fade as we progressed, and admired our surroundings.20150509DSC_0051-EditBlack Mtn

At 1.3 miles we noticed a branch off to the right, but continued straight along the main road.20150509DSC_0055Black Mtn

At 1.5 miles Santa Ysabel Truck Trail branched off to the right, heading down towards Black Canyon. Once again we continued left along Black Mountain Truck Trail. 20150509DSC_0059Black Mtn

Shortly after we passed through a metal Forest Service Gate.20150509DSC_0061-EditBlack Mtn

The road bent northward for about the next .6 miles, then curved around heading south, following the contours of the mountainside.20150509DSC_0075-EditBlack Mtn

We found ourselves well above a green canyon full of oaks and sycamore trees.20150509DSC_0087Black Mtn

The occasional mojave yucca stuck out of the trailside chaparral, and the overpowering scent of sage filled the air.20150509DSC_0090Black Mtn

Around 3.1 miles we found ourselves passing through a sparse grove of oak trees that lined either side of the trail.20150509DSC_0094-EditBlack Mtn

Then, rounding a bend, the oaks receded and we were once again surrounded by sage and chaparral.20150509DSC_0096-EditBlack Mtn

We continued on, up the gentle but ever-upward slope. The view opened up briefly as we looked down a canyon and we could see the valley to the west.20150509DSC_0099-EditBlack Mtn

Around 3.7 miles the oak trees grew close to the trail again as the road wrapped around the ravine below.20150509DSC_0103-EditBlack Mtn

As the trail bent back towards the west, the trees gave way to low growing plants and boulders.20150509DSC_0104-EditBlack Mtn

Far in the southwest we could see Mount Woodson below the clouds.20150509DSC_0110-EditBlack Mtn

We climbed on and on. Shortly beyond the 4 mile mark, we rounded a turn and finally saw our destination – Black Mountain peak with its sparse population of pine trees.20150509DSC_0112-EditBlack Mtn

Heading northeast now, the road left the outside edge of the mountain and wound inwards across a small saddle.20150509DSC_0116-EditBlack Mtn

We started to encounter some rougher road at this point, with large puddles edged with thick, slippery mud. Our pace slowed as we carefully navigated the obstacles, trying to keep upright through the slick mud.20150509DSC_0121-EditBlack Mtn

We made it through the first patch of muck continued ever upward along the gradual incline. Here, the outside edge of the road was dry and easier to negotiate, so we kept to one side.20150509DSC_0123-EditBlack Mtn

Soon enough, however, we came to a wide point in the road that was a total mess. I’m not sure if some offroaders had been doing donuts here or what, but the road was deeply chewed up, and we sank into the soft, deep soil. There was no dry edge that we could escape to, so we slogged slowly through the doughy soil. The moist earth clung to our shoes, weighing us down and further slowing our progress.20150509DSC_0125-EditBlack Mtn

We finally escaped the quagmire and continued our ascent. We had crossed the saddle and were once again on the mountain’s side.20150509DSC_0128-EditBlack Mtn

We were passed by a group of mountain bikers, one of which had even more colorful things to say about the mud then we did as he was forced to dismount. They seemed a bit incredulous that we were hiking the entire distance to the summit.20150509DSC_0131-EditBlack Mtn

At 5.4 miles we found a nice shady stretch where oak and sycamore trees once again overhung the trail. A large, cement block structure stood at the side of the trail. The structure was actual a cistern of sorts, full of water, apparently fed by a spring. We took advantage of the seating opportunity and idyllic setting to enjoy a short rest break.20150509DSC_0135-EditBlack Mtn

After a short respite, we continued on again, plodding ever uphill.20150509DSC_0146-EditBlack Mtn

The clouds began showing some brief signs of breaking up, which cast some awesome shadows on the surrounding valleys.20150509DSC_0152-EditBlack Mtn

So far, the incline had been steady but gradual, and not overly taxing. Around the 6 mile point, however, we found a steeper stretch.20150509DSC_0156-EditBlack Mtn

The ascent was further complicated by more soft, gooey mud that had recently been churned up by a vehicle.20150509DSC_0157-EditBlack Mtn
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As always, the effort was worth it.20150509DSC_0158-EditBlack Mtn

At the top of mud hill was… more mud. And actually, more hill too. We came to a large open area with a closed gate at the far end, which we ignored. We turned right as the road made a nearly 180 degree bend, passed through another open gate, and continued ever upward.20150509DSC_0217Black Mtn

We started seeing the charred remnants of pine tree trunks on the slopes around us. Encouragingly, small pine saplings were also present, but oddly almost all of them were on the edge of the road.20150509DSC_0172-EditBlack Mtn

We continued following the winding road until we at last spotted the distinctive form of weather station equipment that marked the peak.20150509DSC_0190-EditBlack Mtn

Knowing we were close to our goal, we quickened our pace. Right at the 7 mile point, we reached the copse of pine trees we had spotted from below.20150509DSC_0193-EditBlack Mtn

To the left, the fire road dead-ended and a narrow single track continued on to the official summit.20150509DSC_0194Black Mtn

We had to climb over a downed tree that spanned the trail and navigate some rocky and overgrown patches of trail.20150509DSC_0196-EditBlack Mtn

After the nice wide fire road we’d been on, this final stretch was much more rugged, but it was beautiful.20150509DSC_0199-EditBlack Mtn

Finally, we squeezed around some overgrown brush, scrambled up a couple of rocks, and reached the top. We had to share the summit with some solar panels and other equipment, but found some nice rocks to sit on and enjoy the views.20150509DSC_0208-EditBlack Mtn

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To the southeast was Sutherland Reservoir, looking rather dry and sad.20150509DSC_0205-EditBlack Mtn

We ate some snacks and had a nice rest, but before long we started getting cold and headed back.


Directions:
From downtown Ramona, head north on 7th street. Turn right onto Elm Street and continue for 1.4 miles. Turn right onto W Haverford Road then left onto Pamo Road. Follow Pamo Road for 5.2 miles to the gated Forest Service Road entrance on your right. Park along Pamo Road. map

Total Distance: 14.5 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Total Ascent: 3193 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: None
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
View route on Google Maps

One thought on “Black Mountain (Ramona)

  1. Looks like the rangers forgot to close the gate at the bottom. They do it to prevent the severe damage from vehicles in the mud. Glad you got up there when it wasn’t too hot.