Added by Joshua Contois
This backpacking trip provides a prime example of the unusual Klamath/Siskiyou ecology. This trail is extra wide trail and gentle grade makes it great for beginners and acts as a great launching point for ascent of Preston Peak, largest in the Siskiyous.
If you wish to experience the beauty of the Siskiyou Wilderness and avoid the crowds associated with The Devil’s Punchbowl, then consider a visit to Raspberry Lake. Beginning at the Young’s Valley Trailhead (Coordinates: 41.889919, -123.654755), this hike is a great option for those seeking wide mountain views and plenty of fresh air. Starting at 5,400 feet, the trail is a prime example of subalpine Siskiyou ecology, where noble fir, Douglas fir and incense cedar dot the landscape, and the ground is a low mosaic of scrubby Manzanita and wildflowers. It is also a perfect point from which to launch other explorations, including a climb of Preston Peak, the highest point in the Siskiyou Mountains.
Unlike other trails in the Smith River National Recreation Area (NRA), this trail is wide enough to walk at least two abreast, making it perfect for groups or even just pairs. This may not seem like a big deal to many hikers, but it means a quieter conversation and fewer missed wildlife opportunities. More importantly, it means less attention need be paid to following the footsteps of the person ahead and more attention focused on the views of Rocky Knob peak early on in the trail, or the changing tree canopy as the trail descends into the headwaters basin of Clear Creek.
About 2.5 miles in is Young’s Valley, a meadow of about 30 acres. It is surrounded by forests of sugar pine, Douglas fir and incense cedar. There are plenty of established campsites at the far end of the meadow for hikers doing a longer trip or those looking to explore more of the valley in greater depth. Bears are prevalent, so be sure to consider food storage and abide by all Leave No Trace principles.
A topographical map is especially helpful for this hike because this trail has multiple junctions and poorly maintained signage. Just past the Young’s Valley meadow is one such junction. Continuing south takes hikers onto the Clear Creek National Recreation Trail, which is a great creek side trail that culminates in the precipitous Wilderness Falls. In fall, the trail is especially colorful as vine maple and dogwood turn pleasant shades of yellow and red. As this trail wanders slightly away from the creek in some sections, it passes through cathedrals of incense cedars.
Just a few hundred yards past the previous junction, the trail forks yet again. To the east, the trail becomes the Poker Flat-Young’s Valley Trail, eventually winding northeast back to the Poker Flat Trailhead. Bearing south takes the hiker towards the ultimate destination of Raspberry Lake and Preston Peak, passing Bell Echo Camp along the way. This tiny camp spot is in a spectacular setting, with massive rocky cliffs as its backdrop. Wildflowers in the summer and brilliant yellow leaves in the autumn adorn the stepped cliffs, which have miniature waterfalls and pockets of moss and lichens. If considering a multiple day trip, this spot is hard to pass up.
About 5 miles in, the road ends at long abandoned chrome mine. It is still accessible, but extremely narrow. Be aware of the potential of falling rock, rusty nails, and splintery wood. From here the trail narrows considerably. The last mile is a moderately steep descent down switchbacks before eventually arriving at Raspberry Lake (Coordinates: 41.8485648,-123.6209382). Several impacted campsites surround the lake, perfectly suited for tents or hammocks. The cool waters of the lake are teeming with trout, and an experienced angler should have no problem catching a meal for dinner. Before heading back, don’t forget to summit nearby Preston Peak, which at 7,300 feet, is the highest point in the entire Siskiyou Mountains.
- Sleeping bag/pad
- Bear-proof storage
- Sturdy footwear
- Camera (optional)
- Fishing pole (optional)
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Backpacking, Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Photography, Swimming
Spring, Summer, Autumn
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