Humboldt County Highpoint Trip Report

Salmon Mountain

Date: August 1, 2007
Author: Peter Maurer

The end of a 3-day and 3-summit NorCal-SoOre whirlwind tour. Camped along the Klammath River west of Orleans the night before and stopped off at the Ranger Station in Orleans for a wilderness permit and new map for the Six Rivers National Forest. For those arriving after hours, there is a self-service kiosk for wilderness permits by the front door. After crossing the bridge east of Orleans turn south onto Red Cap Road which follows the river down stream for several miles. After about 4 miles you pass a vineyard and make a hard left where the road narrows and starts climbing. At 5 miles, the Forest Service Road begins at a fork. Follow the signs for road 10N01 (left fork). The road is well marked with forks at 6.4 miles (left fork), 7.3 (right), 10.4 (left), and 12.8 (right). At the last fork, the pavement ends on 10N01. Continue on to mile 18.6 where there is a trail marker for Salmon Summit and a wide area on both sides of the road to park.

There is a side road to the northeast but the trail takes of to the southeast by the sign. The brush had been recently cut back but is already beginning to grow back. I did this as a trail run, with a steady climb through the woods for most of the way. The trail rolls up and down along the west side of the ridge, occasionally popping up onto the ridgeline for views of the summit and the surrounding mountains and canyons. Like most of northeastern California, it is steep, rugged, and beautiful country. Although the Elk complex fires near Happy Camp shrouded the view, on a clear day you can see the Marble Mountains, Siskiyous, Mount Shasta, Trinity Alps, numerous other mountain ranges, and the ocean on the western horizon. At about 2.5 miles, the trail splits to Red Cap Lake, and trail maintenance diminishes greatly. There is brush in areas, lots of downed trees and limbs, but the trail is still pretty visible with no way of losing it.

Near the summit, you break into a clearing that runs to some rock outcrops just below the summit. Gary Suttle's "saguaro tree" has lost its top, so is now just a big snag about 40 feet tall but it is clear this is the last push to the summit. I went straight up through the meadow, stepping over or around the lower brush. About half-way up it got steeper, more brushy areas, and more scree but it was fairly easy to pick a passable route to the top. Made it to the summit in 1.5 hours, signed the register in a PVC pipe, and enjoyed the view.

Heading down, I noticed a well-used path along the ridgeline to the south so decided to see if that would be an easier way down. However, it just continued along the ridge for some way in the opposite direction of the way I wanted to go, so I backtracked to a low point along the ridge and headed down an open area. The going was great for a few hundred yards but then hit some higher, thicker brush. I worked my way over to a line of fir trees that separated this open area from the one I ascended and hit a fairly well-used path through the trees along the north edge of the trees. This took me down to near the point where I left the trail. It is probably the easiest way up, too. So when one arrives at the clearing, angle off to the right (south) toward the line of trees for what appears to be the clearest route to the summit ridge.

The run down was uneventful. Lots of wildflowers, butterflies, and just ripening thimbleberries to enhance the experience. Made it back to the trailhead in an hour for a 2-1/2 hour run/climb. No water along the route and it can be pretty warm in the Salmon Mountains, so bring plenty of water.