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Hell’s Kitchen Vista

Hell’s Kitchen Vista provides a great photo opportunity, as well as a good place to stretch your legs. A myriad of huge boulders dot the site, including Balancing Rock, a local landmark noted by early travelers over the Emigrant Trail and visible to the west end of the turnout. This area is especially popular for recreational bouldering and climbing.

1,000 feet below the Vista is the North Fork Stanislaus River. During the Ice
Age, glaciers descending the North Fork Canyon met the Highland Creek glacier
and even extended down canyon to what is now Calaveras Big Trees State
Park. When the glaciers retreated, they left some moraines and lots of erratic boulders here at the Vista and in the canyon. These formations are called “roche moutonees,” a French term for the rounded glaciated granite.

Sapps Hill, visible to the southeast, is a volcanic remnant, while Whittaker’s Dardanelles are ragged extensions of the Dardanelles flow. At the bottom of the canyon lies the junction with Highland Creek, as well as Sand Flat, a primitive Forest Service campground reached by a rugged jeep trail west of the Vista.

Linger Longer:

Take time to walk the short trail that winds through the field of boulders and ponder the geologic forces that deposited them there eons ago. The trail takes you to a number of unique erratics, providing yet another outstanding photo opportunity. An interpretive panel near the parking lot provides information about raptors such as eagles and hawks that frequent the area. As you leave Hell’s Kitchen traveling east and travel towards Tamarack, keep an eye out on the north side of the road for Whale Rock, one of the three prominent character rocks on the pass.
  • Elevation: 6,760 ft.
  • Mile Marker: 21.1/39.9
  • GPS Coordinates: 38 25 25N -120 4 55W
  • Service Available: Car Clubs, Climbing, Geological, Vista