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The California Crest Trail

Updated: Jan 9

Nearly two years of work went into culminating the granddaddy of overland routes in California. The California Crest Trail is a 2,150 mile adventure that snakes its way through the Basin Ranges, Sierra Nevada, Cascades, Klamath Mountains, and Coastal Mountain Ranges. The current iteration of the trail snakes its way from the California Desert to the quaint oceanside village of Mendocino, showcasing California in all its natural splendor and grandiosity.

Route Overview

Adventure Rating: Dakar (Flagship Route)

Trip Length: 2,150+ miles, 4-10 weeks

Season: Varies by location. Be sure to check the seasonal recommendations for each of the 4 segments below. Terrain: Approximately 2/3 dirt, 1/3 pavement

Recommended Vehicle: Stock 4x4 or dual sport motor cycle. Lifted AWD vehicles and Sprinter 4x4s should be able to manage the main route. There are numerous alternative routes, which are suited to high clearance 4x4s.

California Crest Trail Summary

The California Crest Trail was started out as a crazy idea-- multi-week vehicle supported backcountry experience that would highlight California in all of its geological splendor and ecological diversity. The "main" route suitable for stock 4x4 vehicles and dual sport motorcycles (proper all terrain tires for both vehicles and motorcyles are recommended). For those with high clearance 4x4s that wish to take on more technical terrain and challenging trails, be sure to read up on the numerous alternative routes at the bottom of each segment section. The California Crest Trail can be driven in either direction, and given the wide range of climates, completing the route in a 1-2 month window may be a challenge unless you're willing to endure the brutal triple digit heat of Death Valley and the California deserts in mid-summer (because you wont' be able to traverse some of the high mountain passes, like the Sweetwater mountains and certain trails within the Central Sierra). Most folks will take on 1 or 2 segments at a time. We recommend you take on whatever suits your skills and schedul- whether that's doing a single segment, or the entire route in all its glory!

The California Crest Trail is divided into 4 distinct segments:

  1. The Basin Ranges / 660 miles

  2. The Sierras / 596 miles

  3. The Southern Cascades and Klamath Mountains / 609 miles

  4. The Coastal Ranges / 492 miles

Each of these segments creates a unique experience, and within certain segments, like the Basin Ranges, you'll find a wide range in landscapes and ecological zones. Given the length of the route, we could easily write a short book on the adventure, but we're not going to do that. What we can tell you is the route is stitches together a series of connectors and overland routes developed by Overland Trail Guides, and a number of the Backcountry Discovery Trails developed by the US Forest Service.

The current library of routes that play major parts in the California Crest Trail Include (from (south to North):

  • Sweetwater Adventure Trail (still in development)

  • El Dorado Backcountry Discovery Trail

  • Tahoe Backcountry Discovery Trail

  • Plumas Backcountry Discovery Trail (USFS)

  • Lassen Backcountry Discovery Trail (USFS)

  • Modoc Backcountry Discovery Trail (USFS)

  • Shasta-Trinity Backcountry Discovery Trail

  • Six Rivers Backcountry Discovery Trail (USFS)

  • Lost Coast 4x4 Trail

  • Mendocino Backcountry Discovery Trail (USFS)

Below, you'll find some general details about each segment-- what you can expect in terms of terrain, ecological zones, history, a list of discovery points, and more.

Segment 1

The Basin Ranges

Trip Length: 660 miles, 1-2 weeks

Season: Mid-Fall through mid-spring is recommended for the southern section to Big Pine. North of Big Pine, the route is typically open Summer through early fall. Some high mountain passes (Sweetwater Mountains) may not be clear or snow until July.

Average Technical Rating: 2-3

Peak Technical Rating: 4

Typical Terrain: Graded and sandy dirt roads, bump and eroded jeep tracks, some highways, sandy washes.

Alternative Routes: Yes! See bottom of this section for more info. Permits: You'll need passes for Death Valley National Park and Bodie State Historic Park.

Fuel Considerations: Be prepared to travel 200+ miles between fuel stopsf rom Beatty, NV (near Ryholite ghost town) and Big Pine. If you plan to do any of the alternative routes in Death Valley, the distance between fuel stops may exceed 250 miles. Carry extra fuel as needed.

Segment 1
Route Details

The California Desert and the Basin Ranges highlight the segment 1 experience. To the west, the rugged and domineering eastern Sierra creates the perfect backdrop for backcountry adventure travel. Segment 1 is the driest and hottest of the 4 segments that make up the California Crest Trail. Within Death Valley you'll find the hottest, driest, and lowest elevations within North America. And within 1 miles of Badwater Basins (282 feet below sea level), stands the highest point in the lower 48 (Mt Whitney, elev. 14,505'). You can expect to come across a variety of cacti and desert flora like Joshua trees, mesquite, and desert holly. Pinyon-juniper and bristlecone pine are typically found at higher elevations. Segment 1 features some of the most rugged terrain (still suitable for a stock 4x4), and those wishing to take on more technical trails should check out the numerous alternative routes featured below. The Basin and Range province has a rich history in mining, and many of these old mines and ghost towns are featured as discovery points along the route (Bodie, Ballarat, Rhyolite, Leadfield and more). As the route makes its way northway, the track makes its way through a number of higher elevation mountains and passes, including some quick jaunts through the eastern Sierra (Coyota Flat). At over 11,600 feet, the barren and rugged Sweetwater Mountains feature one of the highest drivable roads in California, with exquisite views of the Basin Ranges and the High Sierra to the west. Segment 1 concludes just south of Topaz Lake, where highway 89 meets highway 395.

Camping Recommendations There's a ton of great opportunity for dispersed camping along this segment of the California Crest Trail. Some of our favorite locations include:

  • Trona Pinnacles

  • Hole in the Wall

  • Eureka Dunes

  • Russell Camp

  • Saline Valley Warm Springs

  • Lee Flat Joshua Tree Forest

  • Coyote Flat

Segment 1 Discovery Points

  • S1 DP1 - Trona Pinnacles

  • S1 DP2 - Barker Ranch

  • S1 DP3 - Ballarat Ghost Town

  • S1 DP4 - Wildrose Charcoal Kilns

  • S1 DP5 - Mosaic Canyon

  • S1 DP6 - Harmony Borax works

  • S1 DP7 - Furnace Creek Visitor Center

  • S1 DP8 - Badwater Basin

  • S1 DP9 - Artist's Palette

  • S1 DP10 - Keane Wonder Mine Mill

  • S1 DP11 - Rhyolite Ghost town

  • S1 DP12 - Goldwell Open Air Museum

  • S1 DP13 - Leadfield Ghost town

  • S1 DP14 - Titus Canyon

  • S1 DP15 - Ubehebe Crater

  • S1 DP16 - Teakettle Junction

  • S1 DP17 - Racetrack playa

  • S1 DP18 - Panamint Valley Overlook

  • S1 DP19 - Salt Lake

  • S1 DP20 - Inyo Mountains

  • S1 DP21 - Saline Valley Warm Springs

  • S1 DP22 - Saline Valley North Pass

  • S1 DP23 - Highway 395

  • S1 DP24 - Coyote Flat

  • S1 DP25 - Mono Craters

  • S1 DP26 - Mono Lake

  • S1 DP27 - Mono Lake Tufa Reserve

  • S1 DP28 - Bodie Ghost Town

  • S1 DP29 - Masonic Mining Camp

  • S1 DP30 - Sweetwater Mountains

Segment 1 Alternative Routes

Goler Wash / Mengal Pass

Trail length: 68 miles, 1-2 days

Peak Technical Rating: 4-5 Recommended Vehicle: High Clearance 4x4 A fun 1-2 day adventure, with featuring popular locations like striped butte and geologist's cabin.

Echo Canyon

Trail length: 62 miles, 1-2 days

Peak Technical Rating: 4-5 Recommended Vehicle: High Clearance 4x4 Those looking to take the "scenic" route to Rhyolite, should check out one of Death Valley's best jeep trails.

Lippincott Pass

Trail length: 11 miles, 2-3 hours

Peak Technical Rating: 4 Recommended Vehicle: Stock 4x4 A rather short trail that provides a nice shortcut to Saline Valley. Lippincott features some of the best views in the Death Valley Backcountry. The trail isn't overly technical, but it is rather narrow in a few spots with lots of cliff exposure.

Dedeckera Canyon / Steele Pass

Trail length: 79 miles, 1-2 days

Peak Technical Rating: 5-6 Recommended Vehicle: High Clearance 4x4

This particular route features a number of highlights like Eureka Dunes, Dedeckera Canyon, Steele Pass Joshua Tree forest, and the Marble Bath. The waterfall section in Dedeckera Canyon features a series of 3 rock waterfalls. Novice and intermediate drives are recommended to have a spotter to navigate the waterfall section. The rest of the trail is relatively non-technical in nature.

Segment 2

The Sierras

Trip Length: 596 miles, 1-2 weeks

Season: June through mid-Fall. During years of heavy snow some higher elevation trails may not be open until July.

Average Technical Rating: 2

Peak Technical Rating: 4

Typical Terrain: Graded forest service roads, bumpy/rocky dirt roads, narrow and steep secondary roads and some connecting pavement.

Alternative Routes: Yes! See bottom of this section for more info. Permits: n/a

Fuel Considerations: Be prepared to travel up to 150 miles between fuel stops.

Segment 2 Route Details

Ahhhh, the mighty Sierra! The granite crags and snow capped peaks dominate the scenery as you ascend highway 4 surrounded by John Muir's country- the High Sierra! Pine and evergreens of all sorts dominate the forest; Ponderosa, Sugar, Yellow Pine, Douglas Fir, Incense Cedar and more. And with higher elevations, typically comes cooler temperatures (at least in relation to the valley floors below). The Central Sierra is dominated by granite peaks, many over 10,000 feet tall. As the route continues north, the forests become greener and more lush. The massive granite slabs and monoliths begin to gradually disappear, while serpentine becomes more prevalent to the north, near where the Sierra Nevada meets Mt Lassen and the Southern Cascades. Segment 2 features the highest density of rivers, lakes and reservoirs. So if going for a paddle on the SUP, a float in the good ol' intertube, or just a quick dip to cool down is your thing, this is your jam! The Northern Sierra (also referred to as the Lost Sierra), starting around the highway 49 corridor, is home to some of the richest and most productive gold fields in California History Those that relish in California's pioneer past, will love the high density of discovery points (over 60). Expect to see and run into more folks out and about in the southern half of this route. As you move north of highway 49, the trail traffic typically dies down quite a bit (outside of popular areas like Sierra Buttes and Gold Lake), and trail traffic becomes a rarity as you move further north of Gold Lake. Segment 2 concludes near the border of Lassen National Forest, which is a major transitional zone between the Sierra Nevada, and the volcanism that dominates the Cascades.

Camping Recommendations

  • Burnside Lake

  • Mud Lake

  • Hungalelti Ridge

  • Alder Creek (various dispersed sites)

  • Bowman Lake

  • Sawmill Lake

  • Faucherie Lake

  • Weber Lake

  • Gold Lake 4x4 Campground

  • Wild Plum Campground

  • Humbug Valley

Discovery Points

  • S2 DP1- Carson River

  • S2 DP2 - Markleeville

  • S2 DP3 - Hope Valley

  • S2 DP4 - Blue Lakes

  • S2 DP5 - Forestdale Divide

  • S2 DP6 - Elephants Back

  • S2 DP7 - Carson Pass

  • S2 DP8 - Caples Lake

  • S2 DP9 - Leek Spring Fire Lookout

  • S2 DP10 - Granite Slabs Playground

  • S2 DP11 - Alder Creek

  • S2 DP12 - Morrison Ranch

  • S2 DP13 - Alder Ridge Fire Lookout

  • S2 DP14 - South Fork American River

  • S2 DP15 - Ice House Observation Plateau

  • S2 DP16 - Bassi Falls

  • S2 DP17 - Uncle Tom's Cabin

  • S2 DP18 - Rubicon River

  • S2 DP19 - French Meadows Reservoir

  • S2 DP20 - Duncan Peak Fire Lookout

  • S2 DP21 - N. Fork American River

  • S2 DP22 - Big Valley Bluff Overlook

  • S2 DP23 - Bowman Lake

  • S2 DP24 - Faucherie Falls

  • S2 DP25 - Lacey Meadow

  • S2 DP26 - Webber Falls

  • S2 DP27 - Henness Pass

  • S2 DP28 - Keystone Gap Viewpoint

  • S2 DP29 - Forest City Ghost Town

  • S2 DP30 - Old Mountain House

  • S2 DP31 - North Fork Yuba River

  • S2 DP32 - Cannon Point

  • S2 DP33 - Downieville

  • S2 DP34 - Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout

  • S2 DP35 - Lakes Basin Viewpoint #2

  • S2 DP36 - Upper Sardine Lake / Sierra Buttes Viewpoint

  • S2 DP37 - Gold Lake

  • S2 DP38 - Mills Peak Fire Lookout

  • S2 DP39 - Frazier Falls

  • S2 DP40 - Middle Fork Feather River

  • S2 DP41 - Plumas-Eureka Mining Musem

  • S2 DP42 - Mohawk Stamp Mill

  • S2 DP43 - Jamison Mine Complex

  • S2 DP44 - Mt Fillmore

  • S2 DP45 - Onion Valley Warming Hut

  • S2 DP46 - Nelson creek

  • S2 DP47 - Feather river

  • S2 DP48 - Little Volcano

  • S2 DP49 - Claremont Peak

  • S2 DP50 - Serpentine rock

  • S2 DP51 - Spanish creek

  • S2 DP52 - Beckwourth trail

  • S2 DP53 - Bean Hill mine

  • S2 DP54 - Historic Twain General Store

  • S2 DP55 - Rush creek

  • S2 DP56 - North Fork Feather River

  • S2 DP57 - Seneca

  • S2 DP58 - Swiss mine

  • S2 DP59 - Butt Valley Reservoir

  • S2 DP60 - Yellow creek camp

  • S2 DP61 - Humbug Valley

  • S2 DP62 - Humboldt Peak

  • S2 DP63 - Colby Lookout

  • S2 DP64 - Deer Creek

Segment 2 Alternative Routes

Strawberry Pass

Trail length: 22 miles, 3-5 hours

Peak Technical Rating: 5 Recommended Vehicle: High Clearance 4x4

Strawberry Pass is a local favorite for the Jeep and off road crowds.

Pardoe's trail / Hungalelti Ridge

Trail length: 43 miles, 1-2 days

Peak Technical Rating: 4 Recommended Vehicle: High Clearance 4x4 (short wheelbase recommended) Pardoe's trail features two, prolonged rock gardens (referred to as the upper and lower rock gardens). The views of the high Sierra along the upper half of Pardoe's trail are next level. Mud lake, on the way to Pardoe's is also an excellent place to camp. There are a number of great camp sites near the upper rock garden as well.

Gold Valley

Trail length: 15 miles, 4-8 hours days

Peak Technical Rating: 4-5 Recommended Vehicle: High Clearance 4x4 Gold Valley is the main trail along this alternative route. The track features exquisite views of Lakes Basin and surrounding peaks. Expect a bumpy ride, and some trail traffic.

Mckinstry Lake

Trail length: 23 miles, 2-4 hours Peak Technical Rating: 3 Recommended Vehicle: Stock 4x4 This is a nice and out-and-back trail to the picturesque McKinstry Lake. Expect fantastic views of the surrounding Sierra, and if you've got a heavily modified vehicle, you can try taking on the Rubicon Trail that crosses the route about half way up the mountain.

Poker Flat OHV Trail

Trail length: 25 miles, .5 - 1.5 days

Peak Technical Rating: 4 Recommended Vehicle: High Clearance 4x4 Poker Flat is another popular jeep trail in the Lost Sierra, which gets its namesake from the old Poker Flat mining camp, found along the banks of Canyon Creek.

Segment 3

The Southern Cascades & Klamath Mountains

Trip Length: 596 miles, 1-2 weeks

Season: June through mid-Fall. Check snow levels for higher elevation trails if traveling earlier or later in the season.

Average Technical Rating: 2

Peak Technical Rating: 3

Typical Terrain: Graded forest service roads, narrow and steep secondary roads and some connecting pavement.

Alternative Routes: Yes! See bottom of this section for more info. Permits: You'll need to buy passes if you plan to visit Lassen NP or Lava Beds NM.

Fuel Considerations: Be prepared to travel up to 230 miles between fuel stops. The longest section between fuel stops is from Four Corners (near Burney) to the town of Mt Shasta.

Segment 3 Route Details

Segment 3 is easily one of the most geologically and ecologically diverse portions of the route. The beginning of segment 3 is a transitional zone, where the northern Sierra Nevada gives way to the volcanism of Mt Lassen and the Southern Cascades. Working your way north towards Medicine Lake, the massive lava fields of the Modoc Plateau separate the Warner Mountains to the east (part of the Basin Ranges) and Mt Shasta to the west (Cascades). You'll also notice the forests in the Southern Cascades tend to be denser, and lusher than the forests of the Central Sierra. The lush forests give way to juniper, sage, and pinyon pine that dominate the lower elevations of the Modoc Plateau. And to the west of Mt Shasta and Interstate 5, lies the Klamath Mountains, which is home to one of the most expansive and diverse coniferous regions in the world (more than 30 species of conifer can be found in the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion). The beginning of Segment 3 is dominated by the presence of Mt Lassen, the southernmost major peak within the Cascade Range. When exploring the western flanks of the mountains surrounding Lassen Peak, we recommend making a visit to the incredibly scenic Brokeoff Meadows. Another popular destination along the route, is the always-impressive Burney Falls. Segment 3 works its way north through a series of buttes, crags, and lava field after lava field. The volcanism in and around Medicine Lake and the Modoc Plateau among the most impressive across the entire West Coast. Here you'll come across massive lava flows, entire mountains made of volcanic glass, and dozens of lava tubes (caves), especially in the vicinity of Lava Beds National Monument.

Turning west, at over 14,000 feet, Mt Shasta dominates the surrounding landscape. As you make your way around Shasta's southern flank, the high desert gives way to the dark and emerald forests the Pacific Northwest if famous for. Jumping across I-5, you've now entered the realm of the Klamath Mountains. It was in these mountains and foothills that were home to California's second great gold rush. Many geologists believe the Klamath are actually an extension of the Sierra Nevada province. Once you leave the pavement behind, there's not a whole lot of vehicle traffic along the dirt backroads of the Shasta-Trinity and Six Rivers National Forests. Highlights along this section include Castle Crags State Park, Tamarack Lake, and the East fork of the Trinity River. There's also a fantastic swimming hole along the South Fork of the Trinity River (S3 DP41). The views atop Pickett Peak and Horse Ridge are fantastic, affording 360 degree views. On a clear day you can see all the way to Mt Shasta, and both provide fantastic vantage points of the Klamath Mountains to the north, and the Coastal Ranges to the south. Segment 3 ends at the pavement of Highway 36, just shy of Ruth Lake- a fantastic location to swim, fish, or go boating/kayaking.

Camping Recommendations

  • Blackrock Campground (recommended on weekdays)

  • Brokeoff Meadows

  • Medicine Lake

  • Lava Beds National Monument

  • Shasta View Camp

  • Gumboot Lake

  • Tamarack Lake

  • Bear Flat Camp

  • East Fork Trinity River

  • Hobart Creek Camp

Discovery Points

  • S3 DP1 - Deer Creek

  • S3 DP2 - McCarthy Lookout

  • S3 DP3 -  The Narrows

  • S3 DP4 -  Bruff's Camp

  • S3 DP5 - Ishi Wilderness

  • S3 DP6 -  Mill Creek

  • S3 DP7 - Heart Lake Trail

  • S3 DP8 - Brokeoff Meadows

  • S3 DP9 - Nobles Trail

  • S3 DP10 - Lassen Peak Vista Point

  • S3 DP11 - Burney Springs

  • S3 DP12 - Cypress Trail

  • S3 DP13 - Cornaz Lake

  • S3 DP14 -  Hat Creek Observatory

  • S3 DP15 - Murken Bench

  • S3 DP16 - Hang Gliding

  • S3 DP17 -  Hat Creek Rim

  • S3 DP18 - Lassen Trail

  • S3 DP19 - Burney Falls

  • S3 DP20 - Fall River

  • S3 DP21 - Jot Dean Ice Cave

  • S3 DP22 - Medicine Lake

  • S3 DP23 - Medicine Lake Glass Flow

  • S3 DP24 - Arnica Sink

  • S3 DP25 - Glass Mountain

  • S3 DP26 - Timber Mountain Lookout

  • S3 DP27 - Lava Beds National Monument 

  • S3 DP28 - Doorknob Warming Hut

  • S3 DP29 - Callahan Lava Flow

  • S3 DP30 - Little Mt. Hoffman Lookout

  • S3 DP31 - Little Glass Mountain

  • S3 DP32 - Mt Shasta

  • S3 DP33 - Mud Creek Water Crossing

  • S3 DP34 - Castle Crags View

  • S3 DP35 - Tamarack Lake

  • S3 DP36 - East Fork Trinity River

  • S3 DP37 - Trinity Lake

  • S3 DP38 - Trinity Mountain 

  • S3 DP39 - Trinity River (main fork)

  • S3 DP40 - Hall City Caves

  • S3 DP41- South Fork Trinity River

  • S3 DP42- Horse Ridge Fire Lookout

  • S3 DP43 Pickett Peak Fire Lookout

  • S3 DP44 - Ruth Lake

Segment 3 Alternative Routes

Peligreen Jeepway

Trail length: 25 miles, 4-8 hours

Peak Technical Rating: 5 Recommended Vehicle: High Clearance 4x4

Peligreen Jeepway is a local favorite with lots to see. Full size rigs may want to skip Peligreen, as it's known to be rather tight in several spots, and the encroaching brush can lead to some new pinstripes on that vehicle of yours!

tamarack Lake jeep Trails

Trail length: 44 miles, 1-4 hours

Peak Technical Rating: 4-6 Recommended Vehicle: High Clearance 4x4 There is a short network of jeep trails that criss-cross the alpine filled slopes above and around Tamarack lake. And while the specific route/trails aren't highlighted in the gpx/digital mapping files, the network can be access by taking the the left fork up the hill about 50 years prior to reaching the main lakeside camping area. The network includes numerous trails, with options to get super rowdy (but also lots of go-arounds). High clearance and armor are highly recommended if you plan to explore this great little trail network.

Segment 4

The Coastal Ranges

Trip Length: 492 miles, 5-10 days

Season: June through mid-Fall. Most trails below 5,000' are open by May, but be sure to check snow levels for higher elevation trails if traveling earlier or later in the season.

Average Technical Rating: 2

Peak Technical Rating: 3

Typical Terrain: Graded forest service roads, narrow and steep secondary roads and some connecting pavement.

Alternative Routes: n/a Permits: n/a

Fuel Considerations: Be prepared to drive up to 100 miles between fuel stops. The two longest sections to consider are from Covelo to Lake Pillsbury (Soda Creek Store), and Ruth Lake to Petrolia (near Mattole Beach).

Segment 4 Route Details

Segment 4, the Coastal Ranges, traverses some of California's most iconic landscapes. And while this segment is the least rugged in terms of topography and high elevation mountain peaks, the overwhelming beauty and charm of segment 4 is immediately evident. The route passes through some of the most productive farming regions in the world.

The rolling oak studded hills of Western Trinity and Souther Humboldt counties are home to perhaps the most productive region of high quality cannabis in the world. It was in these hills of northern Mendocino and Southern Humboldt that local farmers traveled to south Asian, and smuggled high quality cannabis seeds back into California. And while there's certainly a dark underbelly to the region that has stubbornly persisted since full recreational legalization in California, stick to the route and you'll be just fine (OTG has put in thousands of miles traveling these backroads and we've never had an issue). And of course there are the coast Redwoods, the tallest trees on earth. And Humboldt Redwoods is home to some of the largest stands of old growth redwood forest, including the absolutely mangificent Bull Creel area, which is home to the highest density of 350' or taller redwoods on earth. And while the 32 mile drive along Avenue of Giants gets tons of press, Mattole Road through the Bull Creek Flats could easily be the encore for Avenue of Giants. The redwoods are simply bigger, taller, and overwhelmingly awesome! And then we have the coastline. The northern section of the Lost Coast through King Range National Conservation Area will amaze first timers with its rugged and while coastlines, where mountains rise suddenly from the blue depths of the Pacific. The Mendocino Coastline to the south exudes charm, with its numerous tide pools, sandy coves, and quaint villages like Albion and Mendocino. The Napa and Sonoma Valleys have gained an international reputation for producing some of the best wine in the world. To the north of Sonoma County extends the Mendocino Wine Country, which has started to build quite the reputation for itself. In terms of libations and culinary options, the sections around Ukiah and the Mendocino coast afford numerous opportunities to experience high quality California cuisine, top quality microbreweries, and of course the wine! The terrain of segment 4 is relatively non-technical in nature. Stock AWD vehicles should be able to manage the entirety of the route, but it may get a bit bumpy on certain sections like Hull Mountain (Mendocino NF) and Saddle Mountain Road (Lost Coast). Highlights along this section include the drive through Humboldt Redwoods and through the Mattole River Valley which leads to the Mattole river mouth and beach- quite the spectacle to behold especially from Prosper Ridge at sunset! The section south of Mattole River along the Lost Coast includes steep dirt roads with magnificent views of the King Range and the pacific 3,000' feet below. Local Roosevelt Elk can often be spotted gathering around Needle Rock Visitor Center, which also provides an impressive vantage point of the endlessly blue Pacific. The route then moves inland, cutting east across northern Mendocino County into the Mendocino National Forest. There are numerous swimming holes near where the Eel and Black Butte Rivers meet near Covelo. Atop Anthony Peak, which happens to be the highest elevation in Mendocino County, it's said that on a clear day you can see Lassen Peak to the east and the Pacific to the west. To the south, Hull Mountain affords views of lake Pillsbury and the surrounding coastal ranges. Down at Lake Pillsbury, there are some fantastic swimming holes (and campsites) just west of the dam, about a mile or two from Soda Creek store. The final leg of segment 4 snakes through the paved and dirt county backroads of Mendocino County, before reaching Highway 1 along the coast. The California Crest Trail concludes with a quick drive through the quaint coastal village and artist community of Mendocino, before reaching its terminus at Big River Beach. Big River Beach is the place to enjoy a cold beer or glass of wine while watching local wildlife like harbor seals and river otters, and of course the breaking waves of the brooding Pacific.

Camping Recommendations

Segment 4 travels through many areas where dispersed camping isn't permitted. If you're outside of National Forest, your best bet is to camp at one of the sites or campgrounds listed in the digital mapping file. Some of our favorite places to camp in the Coastal Mountains include:

  • Hobart Creek Camp

  • AW Way County Park

  • Mattole Beach

  • Usal Campground (recommended on weekdays)

  • Skunk Rock camp

  • Grizzly Flat

  • Trout Creek

  • Camp One area in Jackson Demonstration Forest

  • Jughandle Creek Farm

Discovery Points

  • S4 DP1 - Mad River

  • S4 DP2 - Black Lassic

  • S4 DP3 - Van Duzen river

  • S4 DP4 - Zenia

  • S4 DP5 - Eel River

  • S4 DP6 - Dyerville Loop

  • S4 DP7 - Avenue of the Giants

  • S4 DP8 - Humboldt Redwoods Visitor Center

  • S4 DP9 - Rockefeller Redwood Grove

  • S4 DP10 - Bull Creek Flat - Big Tree Area

  • S4 DP11 - Honeydew Green Bridge

  • S4 DP12 - Mattole River

  • S4 DP13 - Mattole Beach & River Mouth

  • S4 DP14 - Prosper Ridge Viewpoint

  • S4 DP15 - Punta Gorda Lighthouse

  • S4 DP16 - Saddle Mountain Road Viewpoint

  • S4 DP17 - Needle Rock Visitor Center

  • S4 DP18 - Usal Beach

  • S4 DP19 - Usal Road

  • S4 DP20 - Chandalier Drive Thru Tree

  • S4 DP21 - Black Butte River Ranch

  • S4 DP22 - Black Butte River

  • S4 DP23 - Twin Rocks

  • S4 DP24 - Anthony Peak Fire Lookout

  • S4 DP25 - Hammerhorn Mountain

  • S4 DP26 - M1 Golden Hills Viewpoint

  • S4 DP27 - Blue Banks (Serpentine Rock)

  • S4 DP28 - Bald Mountain Viewpoint

  • S4 DP29 - Monkey Rock

  • S4 DP30 - James Hull's Grave

  • S4 DP31 - Hull Mountain

  • S4 DP32 - Lake Pillsbury

  • S4 DP33 - Gravelly Airstrip

  • S4 DP34 - Gravelly Valley Tule Elk Herd

  • S4 DP35 - Fort Bragg-Sherwood Road

  • S4 DP36 - Historic Fort Bragg Downtown

  • S4 DP37 - The Skunk Train

  • S4 DP38 - Noyo Harbor

  • S4 DP39 - Point Cabrillo Lighthouse

  • S4 DP40 - Russian Gulch Bridge Viewpoint

  • S4 DP41 - Russian Gulch Sinking Hole

  • S4 DP42 - Historic Mendocino Downtown

  • S4 DP43 - Big River Beach

  • S4 DP44 - Mendocino Overlook

Topography & Biomes The California Crest Trail passes through some of the most biologically diverse and rich ecoregions along the West Coast, along with some of the most desolate and unforgiving deserts. At the south, you'll travel through the Mojave and Great Basin Deserts. The deserts have vast valleys between rugged mountains, sandy roads, and razor sharp volcanic rocks i some locations. The Sierra and southern Cascades are known for their expansive conifer forests, ranging from high desert, but becoming more lush as you make your way northwards. The majestic granite domes and buttes of the central Sierra become more subdued as you make your way north, eventually giving way to the volcanism that birthed the Mt Lassen, Mt Shasta, and the southern Cascade Range millions of years ago. Miles long lava flows of black and burnt maroon volcanic rock flow down the flanks of these massive cinder domes. Did you know that Mt Shasta is actually comprised for four cinder domes? And while Mt Rainier may be over 200 feet taller, Mt Shasta is actually larger when compared using total volume.

The Southern Cascades also happen to be the precipice of three other geological provinces, and here you'll find a wide variety of changing landscapes and flora over relatively short distances. The high deserts of the Basin and Range province, northern Sierra Nevada, and the Klamath Mountains to the west (many geologists believe the geological similarities of the Klamath indicate that it's actually part of the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges). For example, the southern slopes of Mt Shasta are green and lush, with plenty of ferns and other plants living under the forest canopy. But a few short miles to the east, the scrublands of the high desert surround mighty Shasta's eastern flank. The Modoc Plateau (circa Medicine Lake) is a mix of high desert scrub land, volcanic lava flows, and emerald green conifer forest (be sure to check out Lava Beds National Monument). To the west of Mt Shasta, lies the 11 million acre Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion. World renowned for its biodiversity, the Klamath Siskiyou contains one of the largest concentrations of conifer forests in the world, and the


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Terms of Use: Should you decide to travel a route that is published on, you do so at your own risk. Always take the appropriate precautions when planning and traveling, including checking the current local weather, permit requirements, trail/road conditions, and land/road closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, and carry the appropriate safety, recovery, and navigational equipment. The information found on this site is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by Overland Trail Guides, the route accuracy and current conditions of roads and trails cannot be guaranteed.

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Paul Bandy
Paul Bandy
Sep 17, 2022

The bridge at 38° 41′ 21.16″ N, 120° 18′ 11.84″ W is out… Houtts Rd to Morrison is a good alternative. The bridge is not likely to be restored and is not passable… unless you’re one of the Duke boy.

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