Tahoe National Forest
Mileage: 4 miles one-way
Elevation: 6,400 to 6,800 feet
Use Level: Light
Season: June through October
Topographic Map: Mt. Fillmore 7.5'
Access: From Downieville head approximately 0.2 mile west on Highway 49 and turn right on the dirt road. This is the Saddleback Road. Continue on this road for approximately 8 miles until you reach a five-way intersection. Head straight through the intersection onto road 25-23-1. After another 0.3 mile you will reach a Y intersection. Head straight through (do not veer right). Proceed 1 mile to another "Y" intersection. Once again head straight through. Approximately 1 more mile down the road you will bear right onto road 25-23-1-2. This road is posted "Dead End - Road Not Maintained." Continue on this road approximately 0.6 mile and head straight through another intersection About 100 yards farther there is an obscure road that bears slightly left (this is the Poker Flat OHV Trail). Keep to the right and continue for approximately 1 mile to a turn-out at the base of Bunker Hill. Two-wheel-drive vehicles should park here and hike the last 0.6 mile down this road to the trailhead. Four-wheel-drive vehicles may choose to drive this last section.
Note: The access road from Downieville to the trailhead is a total length of 13 miles. There are some rough sections with moderate traffic. Extra caution while driving is recommended.
Trail Description: From the trailhead, the trail climbs moderately for 1 mile, reaching Chimney Rock at an elevation of 6,700 feet. Chimney Rock is a huge volcanic rock, 12 feet in diameter at its base, rising straight up for approximately 25 feet. At this point, with the splendid 360 degree vista, there is no need to try to climb to the top of the rock for a better view. The trail continues eastward, descending under a lightly forested canopy. It then starts to climb again around Needle Point and Rattlesnake Peak until it reaches the end of the Empire Creek Trail. Hikers who can arrange transportation may wish to descend the 2.5 miles into lovely Empire Creek Canyon instead of having to retrace their path to the Chimney Rock Trailhead. They can then be picked up at the Empire Creek Trailhead.
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication