Skip links

South Fork Trinity River National Recreation Trail

Features: Looking for a new hiking experience? One of California’s most beautiful stretches of river, the Upper South Fork Trinity, could be a great fit for you and your hiking compadres.

Located just off of Highway 36 in Northwest California the South Fork National Recreation Trail parallels the South Fork Trinity River, whose headwaters flow from the Yolla-Bolly Wilderness Area. This mostly level-to-moderate grade trail is great for everyone from beginners to experienced hikers. The trail weaves through lush green forests of the Chinquapin roadless area that is home to a diverse array of wildlife and plant species including the tree-form of the Chinquapin, which usually grows as a shrub. The Chinquapin trees in this area grow to heights of over 80 feet.

This corridor is also part of the Bigfoot Trail route (see for more info) and when you see this lush area you can easily imagine our large biped friend spending some trail time here. All kidding aside, the Bigfoot Trail corridor is known specifically for its high level of biodiversity, which is part of what makes the South Fork Trail so special.

Deep refreshing pools are great for swimming and your experience up and back in this wild canyon will not be one soon forgotten.

Directions to trailhead:

From I-5:
Take highway 36 West from Red Bluff 75 miles to Hell Gate Campground. The campground entrance on will be on your left.

From Highway 299:
Take the Highway 3 South at Douglas City and go 24 miles to Hayfork. Continue through Hayfork on Highway 3 for another 12 miles. Turn right on Highway 36 and continue for another 9.5 miles. The Hell Gate Campground entrance will be on your left.

From Highway 101:
Take Highway 36 East exit(just South of Fortuna) 66 miles to Hell Gate Campground. The entrance will be on your right.

Continue on the main road for .8 mile and park at the trailhead sign on right. Cross the swinging bridge and you’re on the trail.

Link to USFS Description here



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.