Trinity Alps & Vicinity: Including Whiskeytown, Russian Wilderness, and Castle Crags Areas: A Hiking and Backpacking Guide

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9780899975016: Trinity Alps & Vicinity: Including Whiskeytown, Russian Wilderness, and Castle Crags Areas: A Hiking and Backpacking Guide
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The Trinity Alps mountain range in the northwest corner of California forms a rugged divide, tucked between the Coast Ranges and the Cascades in a half-million acres of wilderness. Nearby Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Russian Wilderness, and Castle Crags Wilderness all offer miles of trails and recreation areas to explore. The fifth edition of this classic hiking guide, in print for more than 25 years, has been completely revamped and now covers not only trails and cross-country routes in the Alps but in the nearby recreation lands. It contains descriptions of 48 of the best day hikes and backpack trips, and has all-new maps and elevation profiles for each specially selected hike. Over 600 miles of trail and cross-country routes are covered in this most comprehensive recreation guide to the area.

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About the Author:

Author Mike White has written and contributed to 15 guidebooks for Wilderness Press, including Top Trails Lake Tahoe, Top Trails Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Backpacking California, Sierra South, Sierra North, and Backpacking Nevada.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

TRIP 11

Granite Lake

Granite Lake is a fine destination for a dayhike or overnight backpack.

Trip Type: Dayhike or overnight backpack

Distance: 10 miles round trip, out-and-back

Elevation Change: 2100 feet, average 420 per mile

Difficulty: Moderate

Season: Early July to late September

Map: USGS Covington Mill; USFS A guide to the Trinity Alps Wilderness

Management: Weaverville Ranger District @ (530) 623-2121, www.fs.usda.gov/stnf

Nearest Campground: Preacher Meadow

With just cause, Granite Lake is a popular destination for both dayhikers and overnight backpackers. The lake sits in a scenic cirque basin in a sea of granite at the base of Gibson Peak. Offering brisk swimming and decent fishing, the lake has just about something for everyone.

Starting Point

40°58.409'N, 122°48.007'W Highway 3 crosses Swift Creek about 29.5 miles north of Weaverville, just beyond the turnoff east to Trinity Center. The road to the Swift Creek trailhead turns west 0.25 mile north of the Swift Creek bridge and 0.25 mile south of Wyntoon Resort. The narrow pavement on the initial stretch of the Swift Creek Road ends a mile from the highway, replaced by a well-graded dirt surface wandering southwest and then west, climbing steadily well above the level of Swift Creek. You pass a number of forks along the way, including a signed junction with the road to the Lake Eleanor trailhead, but the Swift Creek Road is clearly the main thoroughfare and junctions are usually marked.

A small flat, 6.7 miles from Highway 3, offers auxiliary parking and a potential place to camp. About 200 yards farther up the road is the actual trailhead, equipped with a large parking lot, horse unloading and tie area, vault toilet, picnic table, and signboard. You would do well to ignore the camping symbol near the horse tie area, as the “camp” consists of a slanted picnic table and a fire pit on a rocky slope. A sign for stock water points the way to a beautiful large spring below the parking lot, protected by a split-rail fence.

Description

The Swift Creek Trail begins at the north end of the parking lot near a sign reading FOSTERS CABIN 5, HORSESHOE LAKE 8, GRANITE LAKE 5. You begin by descending through a dry gully and then emerging onto a bench above Swift Creek 0.5 mile from the trailhead. Rumbling through boulders, Swift Creek definitely lives up to its name here. Some excellent campsites on the bench will tempt backpackers who have gotten a late start. Rare California pitcher plant grows in clumps in a marshy area farther up the trail. Something you will more than likely notice very soon into the hike is the old California license plates high up some tree trunks―markers for helping personnel locate snow-survey equipment in the winter.

At 1.5 miles from the trailhead, you begin to climb more steeply around the north side of a deep, narrow gorge cut through solid metamorphic rock by the persistent waters of Swift Creek. You’ll eventually hear the roar of two waterfalls at the upper end of the gorge, but they remain out of sight until you stroll to the overhanging outcrops along the brink. Reach a junction with the Granite Creek Trail branching southwest above the gorge, 1.9 miles from the trailhead.

Following a sign marked GRANITE LAKE, SEVEN UP PEAK, you contour almost level 200 yards to a humpbacked, steel-truss bridge over Swift Creek, climb up the south bank, and then cross a 200-yard-wide bench before switchbacking up the west side of Granite Creek canyon. The tread is steep and rocky until you cross two tributary streams. On a bench, 1.3 miles from the bridge, the trail turns closer to Granite Creek for a short stretch before climbing away again through a mature forest of Douglas firs, white firs, incense cedars, and sugar pines. After leveling out on a flat, the trail leads across another small tributary in a willow thicket, then dips into a dry draw, followed by a moderately steep climb over a moraine liberally sprinkled with erratic granite boulders. You draw close to Granite Creek again near where the creek cascades over a metamorphic rock sill, about 2 miles from the bridge. Above the cascade the trail is nearly level, following a mellow stretch of the creek through a wider part of the canyon. A half-mile farther, the canyon narrows again and you climb over the toe of a red-rock talus slide past another cascade. Head-high azaleas and tall ferns line the trail in a lush dell above this cascade. Breaking out into the open at the foot of a slender meadow, you have your first unobstructed view straight up the canyon of the looming hulk of 8400-foot Gibson Peak.

After a moderate climb along the fringe of the meadow and through a belt of trees, the trail jogs northwest to climb over the end of a metasedimentary rock dike running all the way across the canyon. Turn southwest again through patches of meadow and brush on the floor of the sparse forest to an icy spring in the middle of a wide band of alders, willows, and vine maples, about 3 miles from the Swift Creek bridge. At the edge of talus falling from a glacier-carved, red-rock hump on the northwest side of the canyon, you turn south and snake up the side of another dike, only to find yet another dike ahead and a cascade above. A short climb northwest up a fern-covered side canyon leads to the top of the third dike, where you turn back south and then west to enter the lower end of Gibson Meadow.

A screen of willows hides the creek in the lower meadow, and firs north of the trail shelter an excellent, large campsite, heavily used by horse packers. The trail skirts the north and northwest side of the large, wet meadow, passes two lily ponds, and then turns away from alder-choked Granite Creek up a side canyon before the moderately steep pitch into Granite Lake’s basin. A short stroll from there leads to the east shore of the deep, 18-acre lake.

Cliffs and huge blocks of granite around the south half of the lake lead up to the magnificent bulk of Gibson Peak. Sunset colors on the peak, reflected in the lake’s surface, are unforgettable. Some unbelievably large incense cedars can be seen above the northwest shore, worth the effort to search out and observe―they may be the largest cedars you’ll ever see. Good campsites may be available on a ledge that the trail crosses on the way around the northwest side of the lake. Just below the lake, a use trail leads to a site beneath shady conifers and then continues over the outlet to additional sites on a hump of granite. Even if you don’t plan on camping on this hump, the easy stroll to this spot offers the best view of the picturesque lake backdropped by the northeast flank of Gibson Peak. Fishing remains fair to good in Granite Lake for eastern brook trough up to 10 or 11 inches, probably because reaching the shoreline requires a trip through thick brush or over blocky talus.

At the conclusion of your visit, retrace your steps 5 miles to the trailhead.

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