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Girard Ridge

Girard Ridge Proposed Wilderness – Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Hike Name: Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in the Girard Ridge Proposed Wilderness


Name of area/general location:
Shasta-Trinity National Forest


Land Acknowledgement:
This trail is located in the ancestral homelands and traditional territories of the Wintu. To learn more about the original residents and stewards of the lands, visit native-land.ca

 

Squaw Valley Creek in the Girard Ridge Potential Wilderness by Aaron Mullet on AllTrails


Trail mileage:
The easiest way to visit the Girard Ridge Proposed Wilderness is on the 28 miles of the PCT that runs from Ah-Di-Na Campground in the east to Interstate 5 near Castle Crags State Park in the west. The PCT is a foot and horse trail that runs from Mexico to Canada, a full 2,653 miles. By law and policy, the PCT is supposed to be kept at a moderate grade so that it can be enjoyed by as many people as possible.


The easiest PCT access point near the Girard Ridge Proposed Wilderness is the Cabin Creek Trailhead. From there, explorers can day hike or backpack for either 12 miles to the east to Ah-Di-Na Campground, or 16 miles to the west to Interstate 5. While the PCT is a popular trail, this segment is infrequently used.

Some of the delights of hiking this segment of the PCT are abundant dogwoods that fill the woods with white blossoms in spring, abundant and diverse bird life, outstanding wildflower displays, rich ancient forests of Douglas-fir, incense cedar, ponderosa pine, sugar pine, black oak, and other species. Hikers can also swim or at least dip in the McCloud River, Trough Creek, and Squaw Valley Creek. The latter is especially a relief on a hot day. Girard Ridge itself is the highpoint of this section of the PCT and it offers some great views of Mount Shasta.


To reach the Cabin Creek Trailhead from Highway 89 in McCloud, turn south on the Squaw Valley Road and travel for 6 miles to Forest Service Road FS 39N21. Turn right and follow it 3.1 miles to the Squaw Valley Creek Trailhead on the left. Hike the Squaw Valley Creek Trail for 0.3 miles to the PCT. To explore Girard Ridge Proposed Wilderness, you can go either direction on the PCT as described above or continue south on the Squaw Valley Creek Trail.


The Squaw Valley Creek Trail is a mostly shaded route that follows the creek and offers many great opportunities for swimming and camping. There is a pretty waterfall as well. The trail extends for 9.2 miles one-way.


AllTrails Hike Link for Squaw Valley Creek Trail: https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/california/squaw-valley-creek-trail


Description of area, sights, wildlife and any key markers on the trail:

The McCloud River originates east of majestic Mount Shasta in Siskiyou County in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and flows west, then south for 77 miles before it ends in Shasta Reservoir. The stream flows through the ancestral homeland of the Wintu people who harvested bounties of salmon, steelhead trout, and other species from its waters in age old cycles. Some of the world’s most productive ancient forests thrived in the watershed, especially in an area now known as the McCloud Flats.


Struck by its intense natural beauty and diversity, John Muir and other visitors once urged that the Mount Shasta region be designated as a national park. Instead, Congress passed several laws in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries that proceeded to give much of the watershed away to agriculture, timber, water, and utility interests who continue to extract water and trees from the region in a completely unsustainable fashion.


The good news is that not all of the McCloud River watershed has been despoiled. For example, the Shasta-Trinity National Forest (California’s largest National Forest) includes much of the watershed. A special part of the Shasta-Trinity is the 42,000-acre Girard Ridge Proposed Wilderness.


The Girard Ridge Proposed Wilderness is in Shasta County roughly nine air-miles south of the town of McCloud. Girard shelters some of the most abundant and unbroken groves of unprotected ancient forest in California. The McCloud River borders it on the east and passes through a small portion of the proposed wilderness. Squaw Valley Creek is a large tributary of the McCloud River that offers great swimming holes. Extensive limestone rock formations in the Girard region contain many caves of immense importance to scientists. The area has also yielded many fossils. The area’s limestone rock creates soil conditions favored by rare and unusual plants, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. The famous Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail and Squaw Valley Creek Trail provide visitors with outstanding scenery and swimming and fishing opportunities galore. The rest of the Girard area is largely without trails or paths, and thus is a suitable refuge for reclusive species such as the fisher, pine marten, and perhaps even wolverine.


CalWild surveyed the area and identified it as eligible for wilderness designation in 2000. Beginning in 2002, former California Senator Barbara Boxer repeatedly introduced legislation in Congress to protect the area. Unfortunately the legislation never passed.


The Shasta-Trinity National Forest will be planning for the future of the McCloud River watershed and the Girard Ridge Proposed Wilderness starting in late 2021. There will be opportunities for public involvement, and we urge you to contact the Forest Service at the appropriate times to ask them to protect and restore the region. In the meantime, you should get to know this fantastic wild place.


For more information:
If you feel inspired by your visit to advocate for Girard Ridge and other wild lands and streams in the upcoming Forest Service planning process, please sign up for our alerts or contact Ryan Henson of CalWild at rhenson@calwild.org

 

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Caution:
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.