January 15, 2015 by Joe Kukura

A 4,300-Foot Majestic Backdrop to Lake County

The magical Mount Konocti in Lake County, California, is the youngest mountain in the California Coast Range, but it has a few unexplained phenomena up its sleeve. Located to the north of Napa and Sonoma in unspoiled Lake County, Mount Konocti is a domineering 4,300-foot volcano that provides an astonishing and scenic backdrop to Lake County’s hot springs, resorts and vineyards. Mount Konocti hasn’t erupted in about 10,000 years, but its wildlife, culture and sense of mystery are anything but dormant.

The breathtaking views from the Wright’s Peak Summit Trail, part of Konocti Regional Trails, have long been available only to the many species of birds found there, including bald eagles. But you can be among the first generation of people to enjoy Mount Konocti County Park,more than 1,500 acres of unspoiled, high-elevation natural scenery that, until recently, had been under private ownership. Mount Konocti’s park was recently purchased by the County government and transformed into public land, and the hiking trails feature orchards, ancient forests and a few unexplained mysteries.

Mount Konocti affords sprawling, panoramic mountain views like nothing you’ve ever seen. You can sit and watch the astonishing sight of clouds forming within the Mount Konocti microclimate below. You can see maul oaks that are more than 500 years old. From the top of the Wright Peak Summit Trail, you can see almost all 70 square miles of the massive Clear Lake. On some days, you can see well into the Sacramento Valley some 50 miles away.

History buffs will get goose bumps at the sight of the Mary Downen cabin, built in 1903. It was the first homesteader cabin built on the mountain by western pioneers. The cabin remains untouched from the original condition in which it has sat for more than 110 years.

But Mount Konocti has more than scenery to offer. The mountain is the source of many shamanic legends, some so powerful that a few of the locals will still tell you they’re true.

The indigenous Pomo people who lived on Mount Konocti some 11,000 years ago are the source of many of these legends. It’s hard to know what the term “Konocti” originally meant, considering that these Pomo people spoke seven different languages. In one of these languages, Konocti meant “big rock.” In another, Konocti was named after a powerful and magical chief who created the mountain. Yet another Pomo language says Konocti is a reference to the term “mountain woman,” an homage to the mountain’s resemblance to the silhouette of a woman lying horizontally and a creation myth involving a spurned woman.

Other legends of Mount Konocti are just intriguing — and plausible — enough that many locals still believe them to be true. It’s a proven geological phenomenon that rain falling on Mount Konocti never drains into any creek or river but is simply absorbed into the mountain. The Pomo people said that the water drained into a series of secret underground caves and a vast hidden lake beneath the mountain, a lake in which fish without eyes swim in the dark.

Satellite sonar imagery tests have determined that there is indeed a large opening beneath the mountain. Scuba divers have searched the depths of Clear Lake looking for openings to these underground caves but have found none. Still, the existence of underground caves beneath Mount Konocti is debated.

You can investigate these legends for yourself along the Wright Peak Summit Trail and the mystical peaks of Mount Konocti. Fresh and unspoiled hiking trails provide unforgettable views of forests full of ancient oaks, the magical Clear Lake and miles of mystical obsidian. Unlock the many mysteries of Mount Konocti with a trip to one of California’s most legendary mountain hiking destinations.

Photo credit: Nathan DeHart Photography