Best Hikes in Modoc National Forest (CA)


Modoc National Forest is located in the northeast corner of California near Shasta-Trinity National Forest and Lassen National Forest. The forest derives its name from the Native American tribe, the Modocs, that used to inhabit the area. The topography is diverse, ranging from the forested Warner Mountain range in the east, to the high plateaus dominated by sage steppe and ancient lava flows around Alturas, and culminating at the Medicine Highlands (the largest shield volcano in North America) in the west.

The Modoc’s remote location ensures recreational visitors a quiet, peaceful experience away from the crowded trails and campgrounds of the Sierra Nevada forests. A backpacker can go days or weeks without seeing another human while visiting the South Warner Wilderness. Views from the Summit Trail in the wilderness extend from the snow-capped peaks of the northern Sierra Nevadas and Cascades, to the Black Rock Desert in northwestern Nevada. The best hikes in Modoc National Forest are described below. Also included are a couple hikes from Lava Beds National Monument which is surrounded by Modoc National Forest. Official Website.

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Nearest Metro AreaKlamath Falls, OR
Area Size1,654,392 acres
EstablishedNovember 29, 1904
Hiking Trails176 miles

Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Hikes in Modoc National Forest

  • Captain Jack’s Stronghold – 1.3 mile loop
    • Located in Lava Beds NM, this trail runs deep with the history of the Modoc tribe and their battle with the US Army in the 1870s. The actual hike is easy and flat but the historical markers make it worth stopping by.
  • Modoc Line Rail Trail – 84.7 miles point to point
    • The Modoc Line Rail Trail stretches 85 miles through 2,000 acres of remote ranch land and high desert landscapes. Segments of the trail are open to hikers, horseback, bikes, and high-clearance road vehicles. The trail began as a narrow gauge railway before it was abandoned in the 1990s.
  • Schonchin Butte Trail – 1.5 miles out and back
    • Beautiful hike up a cinder cone volcano in Lava Beds NM with great views of the surrounding wilderness. Although somewhat steep, this trail is manageable for the whole family.
  • Summit Trail – 22.4 miles point to point
    • With beautiful views to the west, this trail is most often taken in sections rather than in its entirety. The most popular section of this trail is the part that accesses Patterson Lake from Pepperdine Campground via the Pine Creek Trail. The northern terminus of this trail is at Pepperdine Campground; the southern terminus is at Patterson Camp.

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