Six Rivers National Forest

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Six Rivers National Forest Overview

The name says it all: Six Rivers National Forests is about water. Six rambunctious rivers flow through it: the Smith, Klamath, Trinity, Mad, Van Duzen, and Eel. And the mighty Pacific Ocean strongly affects its climate, moderating its temperature and sending daily misty fog when it's not sending rain and snow. The forest is next door to Redwood National Park, and has much the same lush character. However, while there is some coastal sequoia at Six Rivers, the dominant tree is Douglas fir. The Siskiyou Wilderness is Six River's wild highlight. The Siskiyou is a region of high craggy peaks, small glacial cirque lakes, and soft mountain meadows. The Clear Creek National Recreation Trail is a wonderful exploration into the heart of this wilderness, with lots of side trails if you want to get higher or even more remote.

The forest includes 366 miles of wild, scenic or recreational rivers—35 percent of California's Wild and Scenic Rivers. The Smith River National Recreation area is the highlight of this forest. The three forks of the Smith and their many tributaries form California's last free-flowing river system without a dam. In fact, 315 miles of these waterways are designated National Wild and Scenic Rivers—more than any other river system in the United States.

As well as six rivers, Six Rivers has six botanical areas. These sites are set aside to protect areas of extraordinary botanical value. For instance, the rare carnivorous California Pitcher Plant is found in the boggy areas of the Myrtle Creek Botanical Area. High upon the ridges, most of the areas offer expansive views of the surrounding landscapes, peaks, and rivers.

Hike the Summit Valley Trail
Located in the Gasquet Ranger District, Summit Valley Trail is a moderate, lightly used trail that serves up lovely views of the Pacific Ocean. The Summit Valley Trail will take you through some small mountain meadows that are beautiful with blooming wildflowers in the late spring and early summer. The trail then takes you into Summit Valley, a 3-acre meadow. Once you climb out of the meadow you'll reach a junction in the trail—old Summit Valley lookout site. This is an excellent vista point with a view to the east of the rugged Siskiyou Backbone and the Siskiyou wilderness. To the west you can see the Pacific Ocean.

More on hiking in Six Rivers National Forest

Bike Happy Camp Campground
Happy Camp is an advanced 20-mile dirt trail. This difficult ride begins with a 681-foot drop in 2 miles into the Cedar Creek drainage. After a level ride you will cross Cedar Creek and begin the climb to Groves Prairie. Groves Prairie is a natural meadow surrounded by huge, majestic fir trees and carpets of ferns. At Groves Prairie you will also find picnic tables and short, easy loop trails for hiking or mountain biking. It's a nice place to have a snack or just enjoy the scenery. From the Groves Prairie turn-off there is a climb to the highest point on the trip, 4,700 feet above sea level, and then a long, steep downhill drop of 1,273 feet in 3 miles. Last is the trek back to Happy Camp Campground. In all, this is a real workout, but you'll be happy you did it.

More on biking in Six Rivers National Forest

Paddle the Klamath River
Translated from Chinook, Klamath means swiftness. There's 200 miles of great rafting available here, from Oregon to California, making this river great for a short or longer trip. Within Six Rivers, you'll want to put in at Coon Creek. After Sandy Bar Riffle (Class III), look for Somes Bar, because you'll have to skip Ishi Pishi, a 300-yard whiteout, spiked with house-sized boulders and 15-foot holes. Named by the Karok Indians, Ishi Pishi means end of the trail. Or you can continue on to the coast. The sides of this daunting river are scattered with swimming holes, campgrounds, and trails.

Fish on the Trinity River
Here you'll find good Chinook, Coho, Steelhead, and Sturgeon fishing. September is the best month for fishing this river overall, but with so many fish to choose from, there's always something in season. The Trinity River is notable for its good Steelhead fishing. The best Steelhead fishing is from late August through the winter. The young "half-pounder" is ready to take a fly or lure, while the mature adults are more elusive and weigh between 3 and 5 pounds.

Drive the Smith River Scenic Byway
The Smith River Scenic Byway travels 33 miles along the river for which it is named, providing many spectacular views of deep green pools, white water rapids, and an abundance of waterfalls. Large coastal redwood forests are enticingly laced with rhododendron and azaleas. Beds of ferns line the byway.

Siskiyou Wilderness
The Clear Creek National Recreation Trail crosses 20.5 miles of the northern portion and provides access to some of the more scenic parts of the Wilderness. Steep forested ridges and steep craggy peaks with lower slopes densely covered with brush generally describe the Siskiyou Wilderness. You'll also find fragile mountain meadows, open glades, shallow lakes, and the Wild and Scenic South Fork of the Smith River, which forms a large portion of the western boundary. Clear Creek and the headwaters of the East Fork of the Illinois River flow perennially through the Wilderness. Summer populations of steelhead attract anglers. The area is noted for its great diversity of plant life that includes one of the world's largest concentrations of lily species and perhaps as many as 20 different species of conifers. Here grows the rare Brewers spruce (the "weeping" spruce). Forage is limited, and stock users are advised to carry feed. Summers are usually very warm, but cold can strike any night of the year and severe storms are common year-round.

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