Best Hikes in Six Rivers National Forest (CA)


Six Rivers National Forest is located in the northwestern corner of California bordering the Redwood National Park to the east and the Klamath National Forest to the west. When it was established as a national forest by President Harry Truman, its initial 900,000 acres were carved from the western portions of the Klamath and Trinity National Forests and the southern portion of the Siskiyou National Forest. The Six Rivers National Forest is named for the six major rivers that run within its boundaries: the Smith, Klamath, Trinity, Mad, Van Duzen, and Eel. 

The Six Rivers’ headquarters is located in Eureka, with district offices (or “ranger districts”) in the communities of Gasquet (Gasquet Ranger District, which includes the Smith River National Recreation Area), Orleans (Orleans Ranger District), Willow Creek (Lower Trinity Ranger District), and Mad River (Mad River Ranger District).

The Six Rivers National Forest has hundreds of miles of trails for hikers. From a smooth path through the deep forest to a challenging ascent of the wilderness areas, opportunities abound for most experience levels. The best hikes in Six Rivers National Forest are located below. Official Website.

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Nearest Metro AreaEureka, CA
Area Size974,612 acres
EstablishedJune 3, 1947
Hiking Trails100+ miles

Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Hikes in Six Rivers National Forest

  • Craigs Creek Trail – 7.4 miles out and back
    • Miners and pack animals followed this trail in the late 1800s. As you climb to vista points high above the South Fork of the Smith River, notice the dramatic changes in vegetation. The trail ends at the confluence of Craig’s Creek and South Fork Smith River.
  • Devils Punchbowl Trail – 8.0 miles out and back
    • The Devil’s Punchbowl Trail is steep with many switchbacks; however, it can be enjoyed by the average hiker at a slow, steady pace. Two picturesque lakes and spectacular views of surrounding mountain peaks and valleys make this hike popular among more experienced hikers. The hike begins at the Doe Flat Trailhead.
  • Island Lake Trail – 12.9 miles out and back
    • Follow an old road down to the headwaters of South Fork Smith River and a small waterfall. After crossing the river, the steep trail travels through old-growth fir trees, climbing about 2000′ in the next four miles. Picturesque Island Lake rewards the experienced hiker a lovely spot for a wilderness camping experience—and there really is an island!
  • Myrtle Creek Trail – 2.0 miles out and back
    • This interpretive trail follows an historic mining flume, and spotlights the mining, cultural, and geologic history of Myrtle Creek, where more than 100 years ago miner Jim Slinkard found a 47- ounce gold nugget the size and shape of an axe!
  • Youngs Valley Trail to Raspberry Lake – 12.2 miles out and back
    • This trail was formerly a forest road that is now closed to vehicles. Camp in the meadow at the end of this trail and hike into the Siskiyou Wilderness on the Clear Creek Trail, Raspberry Lake Trail, El Capitan Lake Trail, or the Twin Valley Trail for spectacular mountain top views.

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