Hiking and rafting in Northern California

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of January 30-February 5, 1997
Through-hiking the Appalachian Trail
Hiking and rafting in Northern California
Late-season skiing at Colorado resorts
Making the most of five days in the Adirondacks
Utah skiing and mountain biking--in the same week

Hiking and rafting in Northern California
Question: I am looking to go rafting and hiking out west in August. Can you give some advise on the best places to go? I am not a skilled hiker but fairly active.

Theresa Mozzocci
Chicago, IL
[email protected]

To beat the August heat, hang around Mount Shasta for rafting and climbing
Adventure Adviser: August can mean low water levels and scorching temperatures, especially in the Southwest, so you'll need to look north for decent whitewater and hiker-friendly weather. Cutting through a densely forested canyon and surrounded by thousands of acres of high-alpine wilderness, the Klamath River in Northern California is a top contender. Thanks to its Class III-IV rapids and plenty of wildlife and side hikes, you'll probably be tempted to do a full five-day run from Happy Camp, on California 96, to Ishi Pishi Falls. If not, Turtle River Rafting Company (916-926-3223) runs numerous one- to five-day camping trips for $86 to $528 per person.

On dry land, head south to the Mount Shasta area via I-5 and then 15 miles southwest to Castle Crags State Park. Camp at one of 60-plus tent sites along the Sacramento River and then spend the next day hiking around the base of the craggy granite spires and domes that give this stretch of wilderness on the edge of the Klamath Mountains its name. If you've got a hankering to actually scale the crags yourself, sign on with a beginning or intermediate rock-climbing class with Shasta Mountain Guides ($65 per day; 916-926-3117).

Also worthy of a day hike or two is the Pacific Crest Trail, which passes through Castle Crags and into the southern foothills of the Cascades en route from the Mexico border to Canada. August is prime time here, as much of the snow in higher passes will have only just melted. Pick up the trail in the state park, or head south to Scott Mountain Campground, about 12 miles north of Trinity Center, off California 3. It's 18 miles through pine and fir forests and high-alpine meadows to Carter Meadows Summit, but you can always cut the trek short and turn around at one of many campsites--Boulder Creek Canyon and Eagle Creek Campground, to name a few--along the way. There are loads of short side trails leading to swimmable lakes and fishing holes. If you intend to camp, you'll need to pick up a free backcountry permit and maps from the Klamath National Forest office (916-842-6131). The town of Mount Shasta is about 290 miles north of San Francisco via I-5. For more details about what to do in the area, check out "Welcome to the Power Vortex" in the Destinations section of Outside's August 1996 issue.

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