Six Rivers National Forest

Six Rivers National Forest is situated in the northwest corner of California where it provides visitors with a shady, quiet, clean-air respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. The one million-acre forest contains about 366 miles of river in total, with hundreds of miles of hiking trails for all the avid backpackers who come to the forest looking for valleys to descend and mountains to climb. The forest is varied in its terrain due to its elevational shifts. The land begins at nearly sea level and rises to a peak of 7,000 feet. Hikers may choose between steep mountain climbs, shady deep forest walks, trails that follow the flowing waters, or a leisurely stroll through one of the botanical areas.

A forested valley in Six Rivers National Forest
Six Rivers National Forest is a wild and wonderful place.

Summers in Six Rivers tend to run high with temperatures of 80 – 100 degrees. But don’t worry, there is plenty of room to swim and cool down here! Not to mention, there are many miles of trails that run through deep, old-growth forests that keep you shaded for the entire walk. The cooler rainy season begins in October and lasts until April, so spring is always a great time to visit, especially for flower enthusiasts! Winters are very mild, with temperatures dropping into the 40s and 50s. However, at higher elevations, snow is still common the higher elevations.

About Six Rivers National Forest

The six rivers that make up the namesake of the forest are the  Smith, Klamath, Van Duzen, Mad, Trinity, and Eel rivers. All six of these rivers run through this single forest, which was created out of donated portions of Klamath, Siskiyou, and Trinity National Forests by president Harry S. Truman back in 1947.

The land facilitates all manner of camping. There are historic cabins available to rent, as well as campgrounds, RV sites, large group campsites, and dispersed camping. Dispersed camping is allowed anywhere in the forest unless any signage says otherwise for an area. If you are new to this style of camping, remember to set up at least 200 feet away from any water source and 50 feet from any trails or roads.

There won’t be any drinking water or restrooms available in the middle of the wilderness. Make sure you know how to purify your own water if you plan to camp away from the developed campsites. And of course, bring your own trowel and biodegradable toilet paper. Always abide by the pack it in / pack it out rule: that means whatever you bring with you, leaves with you! You will need to devise a system for safely concealing and carrying your own leftovers and waste.

While you do need to reserve a campground should you choose to go that route, it is worth it for amenities such as fire rings, picnic tables, vault toilets, drinking water, and parking.

Tents set up with a campfire - Six Rivers National Forest is a haven for camping enthusiasts.
Six Rivers National Forest has many amazing campsites.

Recreation in Six Rivers National Forest

Come to Six Rivers for the rainbow trout, stay for the scenery and relaxation! You can fish from ponds or rivers, all are well stocked with smallmouth bass, bluegill, eastern brook trout, catfish, and even goldfish. Many of the lakesides are set up with amenities much like the campgrounds, such as picnic tables and restrooms. For a complete list of lake and pond fishing sites, click here. For river and stream fishing sites, click here.

If you are indeed looking to camp while fishing, we suggest going to Fish Lake Campground. The lake is alive with bass, trout, and bluegill, with a boat ramp for all non-motorized boats. The campground contains 24 different sites for either tent camping or RV parking. Fire rings, bathrooms, picnic tables, and drinking water are available. A 5-mile trail system surrounds the lake, so when you’re ready to take a break from the water, there’s still plenty to see in the area’s mixed hardwood conifer woods. Close by are Klamath, Trinity, and Salmon Rivers, all great places for swimming and rafting! Call 877-844-6777 to reserve a campsite.

Wilderness Areas

The following 5 designated wilderness areas are either fully or at least partially present in Six Rivers and are available to explore:

The forest also supports six different botanical areas. These are places where endangered populations of native California plants thrive. Of course, we urge you not to pick any of the flowers, no matter how gorgeous!

Tread lightly, stay on the path, and be on the lookout for flashes of color all around you. You could see anything from pitcher plants and purple onion flowers to burgundy lupine and golden fawn lily. What you see will greatly depend on which ecosystem you are in. Check here to see short descriptions of each botanical site! You could be surrounded by the tough succulents of the sunbaked serpentine soils, or you could choose a trail that follows the streams of delicate azaleas that adorn the riverbanks.

Who knows? Perhaps you may even see a Lassics lupine, California’s rarest wildflower. In 2003 the species was falling dangerously close to extinction. Biologists banded together and, every summer, hiked to the remote locations of these little purple blooms and installed wire cages around them to keep rodents away. Much to everyone’s heartbreak, a 2015 fire wiped out a great portion of the precious population. The conservation status of the plant is currently being evaluated. More on this story here.  

A wildfire - Lassics Lupine was hit hard by a 2015 wildfire in Six Rivers National Forest.
California’s rare Lassics Lupine had a growing population in Six Rivers National Forest, but sadly were heavily affected by a 2015 wildfire – Photo by Joanne Francis on Unsplash

Visit Six Rivers National Forest

It isn’t hard to decide to add Six Rivers to your destinations list, the hard part is deciding which region to explore first! A picnic after some horseback riding, or maybe boating before setting up camp beside the lake? While you plan, make sure you check out this Alerts and Notices page the USDA has created for Six Rivers National Forest. Here you can get the latest information on trail closures, regulations, and fire bans.

Want to have a quick and easy route to America’s national forests on your desktop or in your pocket? Just save The National to your reading list!

Have fun, be safe, and leave no trace!

 -By Heaven Morrow

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