The beautiful McClure Trail (a.k.a. Antelope Creek Trail) explores the lava-flow studded foothills west of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Accessible public lands in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and Cascades are rare, making this hike a special treat in the winter and spring (although this trail is accessible nearly year-round).
The McClure Trail provides a fine “there and back” hike, but an even better one-way point to point hike with a car shuttle. The trail parallels the North Fork Antelope Creek. The upper trailhead is at High Trestle off of Hogsback Road (a.k.a. County Road 774A, a.k.a. Forest Road 28N24). The lower trailhead begins at the Fischer Campground at the boundary of the Lassen Forest and Tehama State Wildlife Area. Fischer Campground provides a fine base camp to explore the Antelope Creek Trail and the surrounding country. The campground is lightly used most of the year, although it can be quite busy during deer hunting season.
From the High Trestle trailhead, the McClure Trail drops from 2,800 feet elevation to about 1,200 feet at the Fischer Campground trailhead. Trailhead to trailhead is about 5 miles. The shortest and easiest hike is from the campground. The trail from High Trestle drops 800 feet to the former homestead site known as McClure Place and then turns westward to follow the North Fork downstream. The first two miles from the High Trestle trailhead are fairly steep but well-graded. The poorly maintained trail wanders through oak woodlands and grasslands, providing occasional access through the streamside poison oak and blackberry brambles to the North Fork. Hikers should be aware of poison oak, as well as ticks and rattlesnakes.
The three forks of Antelope Creek flow from west from the slopes of 6,900 foot-high Turner Mountain on the Lassen National Forest. After crossing Ponderosa Way in the Lassen foothills, the North, Middle, and South Forks of Antelope Creek combine together, flowing westward out of the Lassen Forest and through the Tehama State Wildlife Area to ultimately meet the Sacramento River south of Red Bluff.
Antelope Creek is part of the homeland of the Yana people. The Yana lived in the foothills during the winter and migrated to the higher elevations near Mt. Lassen during the summer. After suffering decades of genocide by white ranchers in the mid to late 1800s, one of the last surviving members of the Yana sub-tribe, the Yahi, wandered out of the wilderness near Oroville in 1911. Adopting the name, Ishi (which in the Yana language, means people), he lived at the University of California, Berkeley, providing important insights for anthropologist Dr. Alfred Kroeber. Kroeber’s wife, Theodora, popularized his story in the book, Ishi: In Two Worlds.
The oak woodlands, mixed conifer/oaks forests, grasslands, and chaparral that clothe the Antelope Creek drainage provide winter habitat for the Tehama black-tail deer herd – one of the largest in the state. Mountain lions and bears are common in the drainages and raptors (bald and golden eagles, peregrine and prairie falcons) cruise the thermals above the volcanic rim-rock lining the canyons.
The Yahi-Yana gathered acorns and hunted deer in the Lassen foothills, and fished seasonally for salmon from Antelope, Deer, and Mill Creeks. All three streams still provide critical habitat for spring run chinook salmon and steelhead. These threatened anadromous fish species migrate from the Pacific Ocean, through the Bay-Delta Estuary, up the Sacramento River, to their spawning grounds in Antelope, Mill, and Deer Creeks. After the salmon eggs hatch, the young fish migrate back down the streams to the Pacific Ocean, to return and renew the spawning cycle every 3-4 years.
In recognition of Antelope Creek’s outstandingly remarkable fish and Native American cultural values, the Forest Service found 14 miles of the stream (7 miles of the North Fork and 7 miles of the South Fork) to be eligible and suitable for addition to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Until Congress acts on this recommendation, the Forest Service is required to protect the free-flowing character and outstanding values of the creek.
Antelope Creek flows through the Ishi B roadless area on the Lassen Forest. The roadless drainage is separated by the Peligreen Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Trail from the existing Ishi Wilderness (which encompasses segments of Mill and Deer Creeks to the south). The Ishi B Inventoried Roadless Area is administratively protected from new road building and logging under the Forest Service’s Roadless Area Conservation Rule. CalWild believes that much of the Antelope Creek drainage in the Ishi B roadless area should be protected as wilderness, separated from the existing Ishi Wilderness by a narrow non-wilderness OHV corridor.
How To Get There: From the town of Red Bluff on Interstate 5, drive 23 miles east on Highway 36 to the small community of Paynes Creek. Look for the “Tehama Wildlife Area, Ishi Conservation Camp” sign, and turn right on the Paynes Creek loop. Just past the Paynes Creek store/bar, turn right on Plum Creek Road. Follow the narrow but paved Paynes Creek Road south past the Ishi Conservation Camp. About 4 miles from Paynes Creek, look for the “Tehama Wildlife Area” sign and turn right on High Trestle Road (a.k.a. Forest Road 28N23).
This gravel/dirt road can be rough but is negotiable with highway vehicle with decent clearance. Continue on High Trestle Road for 4-5 miles to its dead-end at Hogsback Road and at the High Trestle parking area and trailhead. This is the upper trailhead for the McClure Trail. If you are doing a car shuttle or would like to explore the lower end of the trail, turn right on Hogsback Road. Drive west on Hogsback Road for about two miles, past the large stock pond known as Finley Lake, to the Wildlife Area’s Ishi Road. Turn left on Ishi Road and drop down into the Antelope Creek canyon to Fischer Campground. The lower trailhead begins at the upstream end of the campground, which has vault toilets, picnic tables, and campfire rings.
You can reach these trailheads by driving east on Hogsback Road from Highway 99 in the Sacramento Valley, but it is a long, rocky drive, much longer and rougher than the access from Paynes Creek.
Contact the Forest Service and the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife for current information on trail and road conditions – Forest Service Almanor Ranger Station: (530) 258-2141; CDFW Tehama Wildlife Area: (530) 597-2201. Maps: Lassen National Forest Visitors Map available from the Forest Service or in PDF form from Avenza, https://www.avenza.com/avenza-maps/. Tehama Wildlife Area Map available at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=87897&inline.
Land Acknowledgement: Antelope Creek is part of the homeland of the Yana people.
In Memorium: Nancy Morton (1952-2021)
After battling the debilitating disease ALS for more than a year, long-time wilderness activist Nancy Morton passed away January 16, 2021, in Albuquerque NM with her husband, Dave Foreman, at her side. Nancy worked as a volunteer to protect wild places for more than 40 years. After receiving her nursing degree at California State University, Nancy was an active member of a small cadre of volunteers that made up the Northstate Wilderness Committee in Chico, CA. She played a key role in the establishment of the Ishi Wilderness in 1984. After marrying Earth First! founder Dave Foreman in 1986, she and Dave lived in Tucson AZ and then settled in Albuquerque. She served on the board of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance for 23 years. An avid hiker, backpacker, and kayaker, Nancy loved to explore the wild places of the west. In the last 20 years, she paddled well over 1,000 miles of rivers above the Arctic Circle in Alaska and Canada. She worked as an ICU nurse for many years and taught nursing at the University of New Mexico. Her generosity and enthusiasm for all things wild will be missed. For a more detailed obituary, visit https://rewilding.org/thank-goodness-nancy-was-here/
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.