Nestled deep in the Sierra National Forest hidden from the average tourist, away from the hussle and bussle of everyday city life, lies Balloon Dome. I dubbed it "Half Dome's Sister" from the original Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Only the true adventure enthusiasts will make the effort to witness untouched beauty that rivals many in the National Parks you see today. Balloon Dome stand 6879 tall with a killer steep gorge which the San Joaquin River rushes through. We could hear the cascades all day and night.
After I discovered this place online through google maps, I spent hours and multiple days researching about this hidden gem. There is very little information about this area so I knew this was going to be a bushwacking adventure. There is an overgrown trail that leads to a bridge, however it does not lead to a summit where I wanted to camp and soak in the views very few have witnessed before.
We drove over 5 hours from our home in Vacaville, California which led us deep into the national forest. The closest town is Oakhurst which is roughly 30 miles away. After you head into the forest, there is one town to get some food which is called Jones Store. Nothing but roads and more side roads after that so this last minute stop will ensure you have everything you need. I found it weird that in the middle of the national forest there was private property with a small village of cabins near here. Many of their backyards were meadows. I need to move here ASAP!
Once we made it down the sketchy 4x4 5S84 road to the Cassidy Trailhead, we got everything set up and started our hike. The beginning takes you over the Granite Creek bridge and then you head right into the Ansel Adams Wilderness in Sierra National Forest. There is a quota for overnight camping of course so make sure you get your backcountry permit if you are staying overnight. I embedding the route we took to reach the summit of an unknown peak. It is short but half the hike was off trail. Once we made it to the top, it was well worth the research, time put in, and the hike to enjoy the incredible views.
One downfall of this was it was very foggy, we had about 20 minutes total visibility to view Balloon Dome then the fog would roll in. It stayed until we woke up in the morning. I set up a time-lapse to capture the insane cloud movements
1. Ensure you have a 4x4 vehicle heading the road down to Cassidy trail. If not you will extending your hike 5+ miles most likely.
2. If you are looking to summit Balloon Dome, at around 9-10 miles you can make it in a day and back. Do a little more research and you will find a trail online to give you guidance on how to do so.
3. Plenty of creeks for refilling your water. Just stay away from the stagnant pools in my opinion.
4. Bears are prominent in the area. Hike at your own risk. Bring a bear canister as well.
5. If you want to have a camp fire make sure there are no restrictions on the National Forrest website.