Klamath National Forest Trails:
Klamath National Forest
Klamath National Forest Overview
Klamath National Forest epitomizes the landscape and legend of California's far north. Its terrain fully reflects the multifaceted character of the area, ranging from high desert to lush rain forest. Mount Shasta lords over all, inescapably visible from nearly every nook and corner of the forest.
But it's the Klamath Mountains that lie at the heart and soul of this forest. The Klamaths are the oldest of the Pacific coastal mountains, dating back about 500 million years. These mountains are complexridgelines running in all directions rather than in neat paralleland they're deeply cut by moving water. Glaciers crown the higher reaches.
Steep mountains and ample rain and snowfall add up to fast-moving water, and in all this the Klamath is richly endowed. The Klamath River is world-renowned for its whitewater and wealth of wildlife. The Salmon and Scott Rivers are less well known but no less deserving of praise. Solitude is all but ensured on these waterways.
And don't overlook the forest's amazing wilderness areas. The Marble Mountain Wilderness is one of California's largest expanses of wildlands. It is a region of many lakes, meadows, and old-growth forests that rise dramatically from surrounding lowlands. The jewel-like Russian Wilderness may be tiny but it's a biological winner. More than 17 species of conifers nestle in its soaring peaks, including the only known stand of subalpine fir in California.
And, yes, this is Bigfoot country. Several sightings of the hairy, smelly, elusive man-beast have been reported in the forest. So bring your camera or, better yet, video recorder. Your fame, or at least a much-trafficked Web page, may be just a button-push away.
Raft the Salmon River
The forest's namesake, the Klamath River, is justifiably famous. It flows wild and fancy-free for almost 190 miles from its source to the ocean. But if you're itching for a river off the beaten track, try the Salmon River, one of the Klamath's tributaries. The river starts you off gently, with five miles of Class II whitewater. From there, it's "let 'er rip." The whitewater class amps up to IV and V, a constant string of thrills. The most common put-in is in the town of Forks of the Salmon.
Bike to Carter Meadows
Carter Meadows is one of the most pleasant areas in the Klamath National Forest—rugged mountains, great scenery, meandering creeks, open meadows. Think cool, quiet, and sublimely beautiful. From its beginning at a ridge-top trailhead on the Scott River-Salmon River divide, the route drops through the trees for a mile of single-track down to the meadow. For an alternative route through the lower meadows, be on the lookout for an old "put to bed" road across the creek from the trailhead at Trail Gulch. It offers a little more challenge and a lot more solitude—a real treat for the seasoned rider.
Bird the "Flyway"
Butte Valley is a high desert valley that birds adore, especially raptors. On the drive in, look for various species perched on irrigation equipment. Then turn into the Butte Valley Wildlife Area on Meiss Lake Road for some get-out-of-the-car viewing. But it's to the wetter Klamath Basin to which birds (and birders) flock. It's right on the "Pacific flyway." Depending on the time of year, you might encounter large flocks of geese, tundra swans, American widgeons, hooded mergansers, and perhaps trumpeter swans. As far as raptors, in winter be on the lookout for bald eagles, hawks, and owls.
Gain Views of Mount Shasta
The Pacific Crest Trail crosses the Oregon-California border in the Klamath National Forest. And what a crossing it is! The stretch from Mount Ashland campground to Grouse Gap shelter is one of the prettiest around. The hiker is treated for much of the way with stirring views of Mount Shasta. The scenery immediately around you is wonderfully diverse: peaceful mountain meadows, craggy rocks, dense Douglas fir, and madrone forests. This area does double-duty in winter as a cross-country ski destination.
Fish a Stocked Cirque
Depending who's counting, the Marble Mountain Wilderness has 80 to 100 alpine cirque lakes. Many of these lakes are stocked annually with trout, making this a backpacking angler's dream destination. You can get a list of stocked lakes from the forest. Brush up your map-reading and bushwhacking skills and find an off-trail lake for complete solitude and outstanding fishing.