NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California

Big Foot Scenic Byway-Hwy. 96 Willow Creek East to Happy Camp

Big Foot, aka Sasquatch, is California's answer to the Loch Ness Monster. He/she has been sighted many times over the years, generally after the sighter has partaken of another California tradition, sampling our craft beers in excess. There's nothing quite like a six-pack or two of California IPA to heighten one's senses and improve one's vision. If you are riding shotgun you may follow suit. If you are driving tough luck. But you can be a witness.

This roadtrip follows Hwy. 96 east from Willow Creek to the village of Happy Camp. That portion of the road is designated the Big Foot Scenic Byway. It is about 89 miles in length. At Happy Camp Hwy. 96 continues east and we take you there. But that portion of the road becomes the State of Jefferson Scenic Byway. We have another write-up on that byway because it gets complicated. It encompasses not only the eastern section of Hwy. 96, but also a section of Hwy. 263 north of Yreka and Forest Road 48 heading north from Happy Camp to the Oregon border. So, whether you have partaken of our craft brews or not, our advice is to drive Hwy. 96 from end-to-end and leave the nicknames to others.


Hwy 299 and Hwy. 96 intersect at Willow Creek, almost due east of Arcata.  At Willow Creek there are 2 boat launch/picnic areas. Hwy. 96 heads off in a northerly direction and parallels the Trinity River for a time and later on the Klamath River. At it's western end it is known as the Bigfoot Scenic Byway. Later, as it passes into the Klamath National Forest, it assumes the moniker State of Jefferson Scenic Byway. Regardless of what you want to call it tracks the great Klamath River and is a road that begs to be traveled at a very leisurely pace. Initially it passes through the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation and the first campsite you will encounter (Tish Tang) is managed by the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council.

Please note that there are a great many river access points and boat launch sites noted here. There is a great deal of diversity in the type of water you will encounter so know what you are getting into. A few points are for launching drift boats to fish for salmon or steelhead. Many are for rafts or kayaks. Various stretches of the same river can and do have rapids rated from easy (Class I) to hazardous (Class V). Know exactly where you are and what you are doing before dropping your craft into the water. A good resource for this area is www.americanwhitewater.com. If you are rafting the Klamath, note that their is a mandatory takeout at Green Riffle north of Somes Bar (south of Happy Camp), just upstream of Ishi Pishi Falls.

After leaving reservation land, you will pass the hamlet of Weitchpec, where the Trinity and Klamath Rivers meet. From here north Hwy. 96 tracks the Klamath River. Next up are two nearby forest service campgrounds noted below.

But first, a diversion. There's a worthwhile side trip here: Fish Lake. Set at 1,780 feet it's a small lake stocked with rainbow trout and thus offers good fishing from Memorial day on. Powerboats are not permitted as it's appropriate for kayaks, canoes, float tubes and the like. To get there from Hwy. 96 you pass Weitchpec, drive a few miles and turn left on Fish Lake Road/ Bluff Creek Road/ FR 13. Then drive 5 miles on a windy road to a "Y" in the road. Turn right to the campground or left to a boat launch.

Fish Lake Campground

Location: From Weitchpec drive 7 miles north to Fish Lake Road and follow the directions noted above.

Attraction: A nice place to camp and fish for stocked rainbow and Eagle Lake trout. Fishing is best in June as the lake receives modest plants and can get fished out before the season gets too long in the tooth.

Campsite Description: 24 sites for tents or RV's to 20 feet. No hookups, Picnic tables, fire rings, drinking water, vault toilets and a launch ramp. Some facilities wheelchair-accessible.

Season: Late May-September, weather permitting.

Reservations: Required 3 days in advance at www.recreation.gov (877) 444-6777.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access Yes
Fees $10   Fishing Yes
Hook-ups No   Boating Yes
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site Yes
Showers No   Elev 1,780 feet
Toilets Vault   Supplies No

Information: Six Rivers National Forest, Orleans Ranger District. (530) 627-3291.

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Aikens Creek West Campground

Location: On Hwy. 96 five miles north of the hamlet of Weitchpec.

Attraction: A good spot on the Klamath River to kayak or raft in benign waters or fish for steelhead from August thru November. In Six Rivers National Forest.

Campsite Description: Disbursed camping for tents or RV's to 35 feet. No hookups. Picnic tables, fire grills, vault toilets and a dump station. No drinking water or garbage collection.

Season: Year-round, weather permitting.

Reservations: Not accepted.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access No
Fees $8   Fishing Yes
Hook-ups No   Boating Rafts, kayaks
Drinking Water No   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev 340 feet
Toilets Vault   Supplies Nearby

Information: Six Rivers National Forest, Orleans Ranger District. (530) 627-3291.

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E-NE-Nuck Campground

Location: On Hwy. 96 just beyond the Aikens Creek West Campground.

Attraction: Established campsites on the Klamath River in Six Rivers National Forest. A good place to raft or kayak, or fish for steelhead from August thru November. Nearby Bluff Creek Geological Area is the area where an infamous "Bigfoot" sighting was filmed back in the 1960's.

Campsite Description: 10 sites for tents or RV's to 30 feet. No hookups. Picnic tables, fire rings and cast iron stoves to "smoke" your fish. Also a formal smokehouse. Drinking water and vault toilets complete the picture. Some facilities offer wheelchair access.

Season: June- October.

Reservations: Not accepted.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access Yes
Fees $10   Fishing Yes
Hook-ups No   Boating Rafts, kayaks
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev 340 feet
Toilets Vault   Supplies Nearby

Information: Six Rivers National Forest, Orleans Ranger District. (530) 627-3291.

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A few miles further north there's the Big Bar boat launch, the Red Cap river access point, the Ullathorne boat launch and in the town of Orleans the district ranger station. A good place to get maps and information and report Big Foot sightings. Once you fully document the sighting, if the rangers let you go, you're ready to camp. You can also launch a boat, raft, canoe or kayak here.

Pearch Creek Campground

Location: One mile north of the village of Orleans on Hwy. 96.

Attraction: A campground offering easy access to the Klamath River, a nearby ranger station and a village where you can buy provisions or a meal. Also a coin laundry and propane.

Campsite Description: 10 sites for tents or RV's to 30 feet. No hookups. Picnic tables, fire grills, vault toilets and drinking water. Some facilities with wheelchair access.

Season: Late May- October.

Reservations: Accepted at www.recreation.gov (877) 444-6777.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access Yes
Fees $10   Fishing Yes
Hook-ups No   Boating Rafts; kayaks
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev 400 feet
Toilets Vault   Supplies Orleans

Information: Six Rivers National Forest, Orleans Ranger District (530) 627-3291.

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Salmon River Diversion

Leaving Orleans and Pearch Creek in the dust, you'll pass yet more river access points before arriving at Somes Bar. Here you'll find 2 boat launch sites. 1/4 mile before arriving at Somes Bar you may wish to turn right onto Salmon River Road/FR 93 for yet another diversion: the Salmon River. Here you can camp and fish for steelhead in the fall. You can also raft the Salmon, but know where you are on the river. Rapids can range from Class I to Class V, all within a 19 mile stretch between Somes Bar and Fork of Salmon. A good resource is www.americanwhitewater.com. You are also on the western boundary of the Marble Mountain Wilderness . This little road has a lot to offer in a short span, leading from Somes Bar in the north to Forks of Salmon to the southeast. There are boat launch sites, other river access sites, two established campgrounds (one accommodates groups) and trailheads. Note that the river runs reverse of our route, from Forks of Salmon to Somes Bar. You are driving upstream.

Oak Bottom Campground has individual sites only. Toward the end of the road lies Nordheimer Campground, with both individual and group sites. Nearby is Wooley Creek trailhead, Portuguese Bar trailhead and Brannon Bar boat launch.

Oak Bottom Campground

Location: From Salmon River Road, drive 2.3 miles to the campground.

Attraction: Fishing or swimming in the Salmon River.

Campsite Description: 26 sites for tents or RV's to 32 feet. No hookups. Picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets and drinking water. Some facilities with wheelchair access. Supplies can be had in Somes Bar.

Season: April thru mid-October, weather permitting.

Reservations: Not accepted.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access Yes
Fees $10   Fishing Yes
Hook-ups No   Boating Raft, kayak
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev Unk
Toilets Vault   Supplies Somes Bar

Information: Six Rivers National Forest, Orleans Ranger District. (530) 627-3201.

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Backpacking Hikes in Area: Marble Mountain Wilderness.

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Nordheimer Campground

Location: On Salmon River Road just north of Forks of Salmon.

Attraction: Camping and a put-in spot for rafters and kayakers. Swimming, hiking and biking are also popular.

Campsite Description: 12 individual sites in shaded areas. All have picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets but no drinking water. There are 4 group sites. Sites A,B and C have portable toilets and are located in a grassy meadow surrounded by forest. Site D overlooks the river with river access and has a vault toilet. None of the group sites have drinking water. There are picnic tables and fire rings at each site.

Season: April- October.

Reservations: Required for group sites at www.recreation.gov (877) 444-6777.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access No
Fees $8   Fishing Yes
Hook-ups No   Boating Raft; kayak
Drinking Water No   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev  
Toilets see above   Supplies  

Information: Six Rivers National Forest, Orleans Ranger District. (530) 627-3291.

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Backpacking Hikes in Area: Marble Mountain Wilderness.

Off-Road Opportunities in Area:

Had enough of the Salmon? Time to retrace your steps to Somes Bar and Hwy. 96, heading north along the Klamath River again. Remember that you are heading upstream, with the river coming at you. Why is this important? It's not, unless you are swimming. As usual, this road is littered with river access/boat launch sites. At the 15 mile post past Somes Bar comes your next camping opportunity.

Dillon Creek Campground

Location: On Hwy. 96 15 miles north of Somes Bar or 35 miles south of Happy Camp if you are coming from the north.

Attraction: Camping on the Klamath River with river access nearby. Steelhead fishing from September-February. If you are rafting or boating there is a mandatory takeout at a launch site known as Green Riffle, just south of the Halverson and Stuarts Bar river access spots. Just downstream from there sits Ishi Pishi Falls. Boating is not intended to be a vertical endeavor.

Campsite Description: 21 sites for tents or RV's to 30 feet. No hookups. Picnic tables, food lockers, fire grills, drinking water and vault toilets. Some facilities wheelchair accessible.

Season: Mid-May thru early October.

Reservations: Accepted 3 days in advance for some sites at www.recreation.gov (877) 444-6777.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access Yes
Fees $10   Fishing Yes
Hook-ups No   Boating Rafts; kayak
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev Unk
Toilets Vault   Supplies Somes Bar

Information: Six Rivers National Forest, Orleans Ranger District. (530) 627-3291.

Day Hikes in Area:

Backpacking Hikes in Area: Marble Mountain Wilderness.

Off-Road Opportunities in Area:

Entering Klamath National Forest

Continuing north we reach a landmark; we're entering Klamath National Forest. Other websites (if they exist) would drop the story at the border. Not us. Keep on truckin'.

After passing the usual mix of river access points we arrive at our next campground, just outside the town of Happy Camp.

Curly Jack Campground

Location: From the town of Happy Camp on Hwy. 96 go south on Elk Creek Road for 1 mile to Curly Jack Rd. Turn right and drive 1 block to the campground.

Attraction: A campground on the Klamath River for fishing, rafting and kayaking.

Campsite Description: 12 sites for tents or RV's to 42 feet plus 2 sites for RV's to 60 feet. Three group sites for up to 30 people each. No hookups. Picnic tables, fire grills, vault toilets and drinking water. Some facilities wheelchair accessible.

Season: May-October.

Reservations: Required for group sites at www.recreation.gov (877) 444-6777. Not accepted for individual sites.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access Yes
Fees $15/50   Fishing Yes
Hook-ups No   Boating Rafts, kayaks
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev Unk
Toilets Vault   Supplies Happy Camp

Information: Klamath National Forest, Happy Camp Ranger District. (530) 493-2243.

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Fort Goff Walk-in Campground

Location: From Happy Camp continue northeast toward the village of Seiad Valley. This campground is on Hwy. 96 5 miles west of the village.

Attraction: A primitive site on the Klamath River for fishing or rafting. There are access points along the river for shore anglers fishing for steelhead and the occasional salmon in the fall and trout later.

Campsite Description: 5 walk-in tent sites with picnic tables, fire grills, and vault toilets. No drinking water or garbage collection.

Season: May-October.

Reservations: Not accepted.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access No
Fees None   Fishing Yes
Hook-ups No   Boating Rafts, kayaks
Drinking Water No   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev 1,300 feet
Toilets Vault   Supplies Seiad Valley

Information: Klamath National Forest, Happy Camp Ranger District. (530) 493-2243.

Day Hikes in Area:

Backpacking Hikes in Area: Boundary National Recreation Trail.

Off-Road Opportunities in Area:

Grider Creek Campground

Location: One mile past the village of Seiad Valley on Hwy. 96 heading east turn onto Walker Creek Rd./FR 46N64. Turn right and follow the Klamath River to Grider Creek Rd. Turn left and drive south for 3 miles to the campground.

Attraction: A small camp set at 1,400 feet used mainly by hikers using the Pacific Crest Trail trailhead, and by hunters in the fall.

Campsite Description: 10 sites for tents or RV's to 16 feet. No hookups. Picnic tables, fire grills, vault toilets and horse corrals. No drinking water for humans but stock tanks for horses. No garbage collection.

Season: May-October.

Reservations: Not accepted.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access No
Fees None   Fishing No
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water No   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev 1,400 feet
Toilets Vault   Supplies Seiad Valley

Information: Klamath National Forest, Happy Camp Ranger District. (530) 493-2243.

Day Hikes in Area:

Backpacking Hikes in Area: Pacific Crest Trail.

Off-Road Opportunities in Area:

Oneil Creek Campground

Location: On Hwy. 96 3 miles west of the town of Hamburg.

Attraction: River access.

Campsite Description: 14 sites for tents or RV's to 16 feet. Picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets and drinking water.

Season: May- October

Reservations: Not accepted.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access No
Fees $10   Fishing Nearby
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev 1,500 ft.
Toilets Vault   Supplies Hamburg

Information: Klamath National Forest, Happy Camp Ranger District. (530) 493-2243.

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Sarah Totten Campground

Location: On Hwy. 96 drive 1 mile past the Hamlet of Hamburg (5 miles west of Horse Creek).

Attraction: Located in the "banana belt" of the Klamath River with good weather and easy access to the river for rafting and fishing. Salmon can be had in early October and steelhead from November to spring.

Campsite Description: 8 sites for tents or RV's to 28 feet and 2 group sites for tents or RV's to 22 feet that can accommodate up to 30 people each. No hookups. Picnic tables, fire grills, vault toilets and drinking water. Some facilities wheelchair accessible.

Season: May-October.

Reservations: Required for group sites at www.recreation.gov (877) 444-6777. Not accepted for individual sites.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access Yes
Fees $10/50   Fishing Yes
Hook-ups No   Boating Raft, kayak
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev Unk
Toilets Vault   Supplies Nearby

Information: Klamath National Forest, Happy Camp Ranger District. (530) 493-2243.

Day Hikes in Area:

Backpacking Hikes in Area:

Off-Road Opportunities in Area:

Sulphur Springs/Norcross Campgrounds

Location: Sulphur Springs: At the town of Happy Camp take Elk Creek Rd. south for 12 miles to the campground. Norcross: continue 4 more miles.

Attraction: Somewhat remote spots at 2,300 feet and 2,400 feet respectively on the border of the Marble Mountain Wilderness. Best used by backpackers using any number of back-country trails.

Campsite Description: Sulphur Springs: 6 walk-in tent sites. Norcross: 6 sites for tents or RV's to 25 feet. No hookups. Picnic tables, fire grills,& vault toilets at both. No drinking water or garbage collection. Norcross has facilities with wheelchair access, horse corrals, stock water tanks and a loading ramp.

Season: May-October.

Reservations: Not accepted.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access No/yes
Fees None   Fishing No
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water No   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev 2,300/2,400 feet
Toilets Vault   Supplies Happy Camp

Information: Klamath National Forest, Happy Camp Ranger District. (530) 493-2243.

Day Hikes in Area:

Backpacking Hikes in Area: Kelsey Trail and others.

Off-Road Opportunities in Area: See below.

Off-road Alert! East of here .9 miles west of the town of Klamath River is the Klamath River Road. Heading east you would pick it up at Walker Bridge; it ends at the Ash Creek bridge 1.8 miles west of the junction with Hwy. 263. It is 18 miles of mostly unpaved road rated 2 (easy) for difficulty. Ref: Backcountry Adventures: Northern California by Massey & Wilson.

There is one last established campground before coming to the intersection with Hwy. 263 and soon after Int. 5. It is about 7 miles from the intersection of Interstate 5 and on Hwy. 96.

Trees of Heaven Campground

Location: On Hwy. 96 7 miles west of Int. 5.

Attraction: Easy access to the Klamath River. Often used as a take-out point for rafts, kayaks or drift boats that were put in further upstream.

Campsite Description: 20 sites for tents or RV's to 35 feet. No hookups. Picnic tables, fire rings, drinking water and vault toilets. Some facilities wheelchair accessible.

Season: Year-round.

Reservations: Accepted at www.recreation.gov (877) 444-6777.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access Yes
Fees $15   Fishing Yes
Hook-ups No   Boating Raft, kayak, drift boat
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev 2,100 ft.
Toilets Vault   Supplies Yreka

Information: Klamath National Forest, Happy Camp Ranger District. (530) 493-2243.

Day Hikes in Area:

Backpacking Hikes in Area:

Off-Road Opportunities in Area:

That's it. Please note that there are two more scenic trips in the area. Click the link for more information. They are:

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