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South Fork Trinity- Chinquapin Proposed Wilderness

Features: This 15-mile trail provides access to the proposed Chinquapin Wilderness, which straddles a segment of the South Fork Trinity River between Forest Road 30 (a.k.a., the Wild-Mad Road) to the north and Highway 36 to the south. Because of its length, the trail offers an ideal backpacking adventure, as well as shorter day hikes, along an unprotected segment of the South Trinity River proposed for Wild & Scenic protection. Campgrounds at the southern trailhead provide a great opportunity to base camp and explore the trail and area. The trail provides easy access to the river in many spots for swimming or just cooling your feet in the pools. With trailheads to the north and south, visitors have the option of a multi-day backpack trip with a car shuttle.

The 31,000-acre proposed Chinquapin Wilderness features the largest expanse of unprotected old growth forest remaining in northwest California. The area supports a diverse array of forest species, including Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, Jeffrey pine, incense cedar, black oak, rare tree-sized giant chinquapin, and several rare plants. The forests are home to some of the largest populations of spotted owl and goshawk in the region. Other wildlife common to the area include bald eagle, Pacific fisher, and marten. The South Fork Trinity and its tributaries (most notably Smoky Creek, Silver Creek, and Red Mountain Creek) provide an important refuge and source of cold water within the Chinquapin area for threatened and endangered coho and spring Chinook salmon, as well as steelhead.

Directions to the Northern Trailhead: Drive Highway 36 to the small community of Forest Glen. East of where Highway 36 crosses the South Fork, turn south on the road signed “Hellgate Campground.” Drive 1.5 miles south past the Hellgate Campground, over the Rattlesnake Creek bridge, and through the more undeveloped Scott Flat Campground to the trailhead. The first 7.2 miles of the trail to Smokey Creek requires crossing two rustic suspension bridges.

Directions to the Southern Trailhead: From Highway 36, west of Platina and east of Forest Glen, drive south on Forest Road 30 approximately 25 miles to where the road crosses the South Fork Trinity River. Just before the bridge, look for the signed trailhead on the right to the upper South Fork Trinity National Recreation Trail. This trail segment requires wading across the East Fork South Fork Trinity River within the first 100 yards. Avoid this crossing if the stream is flowing high. Before your hike, be sure to inquire about the latest status of roads and trails by contacting the Forest Service’s Hayfork Ranger Station to at (530) 628-5227.


Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.