Overview* ACCESS ALERT!!......as of early October 2006, a private landowner has gated the road which accesses the 4x4 trail going up to the top of Tollhouse Rock. Currently, the SSCA (Southern Sierra Climbing Association) is working in conjuntion with the Sierra National Forest to install a user trail, which would start close to Tollhouse Road. Do not trespass or manipulate the gate the landowner has put in place. Please utilize the dirt area next to the road for parking. Please do your part to preserve access and the climbing history of this beautiful resource.
First developed in the early 70's by well-known locals Dwight Kroll, Barry Chambers and a host of others, Tollhouse Rock has been the prime choice for many Central Valley climbers when the weather gets nasty in the higher elevations or when taking a break from the chaos in Yosemite Valley. Located approximately 45 minutes northeast from Fresno, Tollhouse Rock is placed within the rolling foothills of the western Sierra Nevada, above the town of Tollhouse. Simply referred to as "Tollhouse", this 500 foot dome features challenging moderate multi-pitch routes and a handful of excellent toprope problems (5.6 to 5.12). Each route follows clean, high quality granite. Be sure to tighten your waist belt and don your best "steep slab face". Most of the Tollhouse multi-pitch routes require solid friction and smearing skills with "conservative" fixed protection as the norm. But don't let that scare you away, Tollhouse is also host to a good chunk of beginner lead routes located at the Sunday Slab area (single pitch, well-bolted 5.7's). And for those of you who just want to leave the lycra and quickdraws at home, the dome has a good number of traditional climb as well. Be sure to check out a few recommended classics: 'Tollhouse Traverse' (5.5), 'Elephant Walk' (5.7), 'Wandering Taoist' (5.9), Balls (5.9) or the 'Art Baker Memorial Route' (5.9).... a sustained finger crack on the second pitch is the hallmark!! Bottom line....Tollhouse makes for a great place to escape the large crowds, hone the slab skills and provide for a quick weekend getaway.
To access Tollhouse, take Hwy 168 East out of Fresno. If you are coming from the Bay area, take the 99 South to Fresno. Then exit off onto Hwy 180 East. Follow Hwy 180 East for approx. 5 miles till the Hwy 168 exit appears (stay near the right lanes to avoid being cut off by traffic merging in from Hwy 41). Once on Hwy 168 East, follow this for approximately 20 miles into the winding foothills, past the town of Prather. Hwy 168 will eventually come to a stop sign, 2.5 miles past Prather. Turn LEFT (Shaver Lake) at the stop sign. Next to the stop sign will be a sign stating "Tollhouse 7mi" (pointing straight ahead). DO NOT GO STRAIGHT AHEAD!! Again, to avoid complications and keep the travelling straight forward, stay on Hwy 168 (which eventually turns into a 4-lane highway) as it climbs up into the Sierra National Forest toward the mountain town of Shaver Lake. At the top of this section of the 168 (where the road narrows back to a two-laned highway), turn right onto TOLLHOUSE RD. If you pass Cressman Road, you've gone too far. Follow Tollhouse Rd. down for approximately 2 miles till a DIRT road appears on the left side. Ignore the left fork when you first turn onto the dirt road. Follow this dirt road as it contours the back side (north) of Tollhouse. A hardy vehicle or 4x4 is highly recommended (especially during the spring rainy season). The service road will eventually pass under some powerlines. After passing the powerlines, the service road provides an option to turn "hard" right and back up a moderately steep dirt trail. Either park here and hike up or follow the trail upward (4x4 mandatory). The trail heads up and passes under the powerlines again. Continue past the powerlines and follow the trail uphill under some black oaks (tricky terrain). The trail eventually splits with the left fork depositing out into open granite slab (park here for the 3rd class gully descent to access the base of Tollhouse and its multi-pitch routes). If the right fork is taken, the trail heads up to the very top wooded section of Tollhouse (a tricky, steep right turn is encountered; use caution). Park at trails end and follow a faint climbers trail through felled manzanita. The trail comes out onto the Cap Rocks area of Tollhouse. Several toprope climbs are located here.
* No permits are required to access Tollhouse. However, this section of national forest land is leased by PG&E. Please maintain a modest profile and be respectful of PG&E employees.
* Camping is free. A "14-day" camping limit and a fire permit for campfires are the standard. All fire permits can be acquired at the Sierra National Forest HQ in the town of Prather (Hwy 168 passes Prather along the way to Tollhouse).
* There is no water source at the top of Tollhouse. Be sure to bring plenty !
Watch out for ATV's, 4x4's and gun toting locals. Be courteous to share the trail up and down the service road/trail of Tollhouse.
When To Climb
Perhaps the best time of year to climb at Tollhouse is spring and late fall. Tollhouse has been known for the valley heat to turn the place into a furnace around summer time. Tollhouse can be climbed during mild breaks in the winter season. However, the top of Hwy 168 and Tollhouse has seen its share of snow!
As mentioned, camping is free. There are spots to camp on the open slab area (left fork) or the wooded section on the top of Tollhouse. Use caution when choosing a site, there have been several abused spots where thoughtless recreationalists have broken bottles and scattered empty beer cans. Also, be on the lookout for the occasional rattlesnake basking in the sun in springtime!
For a supreme experience, camp at the Cap Rocks area. Beautiful vistas and the warming sun won't disappoint you!
Current weather conditions and temps for Tollhouse can be found on the Weather Channel
Be sure not to miss out on the annual Tollhouse Face-Off. Originally conceived and organized by Bergit Buss and Devon Swisher, this event is usually held on the last weekend of October (hopefully aligning with a fall harvest full moon). Fun is the key throughout the weekend. It's a chance to swap stories, climb with old partners and even an opportunity to bring a new piece of gear home. Leave the brightly colored spandex shorts and egos at home. This classic "get together", first started in the late 80's, is the grass roots of what a true climbing rendevous is all about. Highlighted events: the Midnight Simul-Climb of the Tollhouse Traverse under the glow of the autumn full moon, a local Fresno outfitter raffles climbing gear, and Face-Off theme t-shirt's are sold at the event. Last years theme......'The Resurrection'. Be sure to grab a few raffle tickets to score some booty and also support the ASCA
Places To Grub
Cheap Healthy Eats:
Shaver Lake Area:
- The Sierra House Resturant located in the town of Shaver Lake, 7 miles past Tollhouse Road on the 168. Woodfired pizza and stouty hops....nuff said!
-Try the Sawmill Resturant (also in Shaver Lake) for decent food and a history lesson ; )
The Town Of Prather:
- The Pizza Factory......a favorite among SPer's! Good beer: Red Hook and Sierra Navada on tap. Be sure not to miss the Chicken Garlic Pizza. A delightful way to finish off a weekend of climbing at Tollhouse
As speed soloing started to rear its ugly head these last several years, the locals from around Fresno and the foothill areas started their own unique speed soloed event affectionately called "The Lap". The Lap starts at the Hang Glider slab and descends the climbers trail via a 3rd class gully. Once at the base, follow the climbers trail that skirts the base of Tollhouse Rock to the northwest. Take this trail to the start of the Tollhouse Traverse, a 3 pitch 5.5 crack climb (refer to the SeKi guidebook for location). Ascend the Traverse to the summit (the last pitch can also be climbed up a 5.7 slab). From the summit (also known as 'Cap Rocks'), take the climbers trail through tunnelled out manzanita brush and out to the 4X4 trail back to the Hang Glider slab. Slamming a pint of Butterfield Porter prior to "The Lap" is optional. Best recorded time for "The Lap" is: 21 min. 20 sec. held by the page maintainer.
As a benefit to maintain Tollhouse's traditional nature, several locals from the central valley have been very active as stewards of Tollhouse. These stewards have spent countless hours of their own time and coordinated the rebolting efforts of many classic lines, with full support of the ASCA. Over the years, these people have initiated clean up efforts, access projects with the National Forest and assisted in the annual Tollhouse Faceoff. They have made it possible so that access is still maintained. So, the next time you clip to that shiny, bomb-proof bolt on 'Balls' (5.9), spend a starry night on top of Cap Rocks or simply meet one of these dudes out on the rock, be sure to show them some gratitude. Our hats off to all of you and the hard efforts of the ASCA!
Greg Barnes, Barry Chambers, Leni Reeves, E.C. Joe, Patrick Paul, Rene' Ardesch, Bruce Watts, Dwight Kroll, John Barbella, Rick Poedtke, Cam Donahoo, and Matt Schutz.