When it comes to peaks, most of the attention accorded the Trinity Alps, such as it is, focuses on the cluster of high peaks in the heart of the range. This area is known as the White Trinities and is justly deserving of its alpine label. Further scrutiny typically will at times fall on the part of the Trinities between the main fork of the Trinity River and the Stuart Fork. Beyond these two regions, scant consideration is given to the northeast corner of the range. Certainly this area has it popular trails but they all go to lake basins, particularly Stoddard, Bear and Tangle Blue Lakes. Few of the peaks are named and few are climbed. These circumstances leave some excellent peaks and spectacular scenery to the very few motivated enough to observe their existence on a map and ferret out the route to the summit. Of all of these overlooked peaks in the northeastern Trinities, none offers as much excitement and interest as Billys Peak.
Perhaps the primary reason Billys Peak has gone under the radar is the confusion over which peak the Billys Peak Trail ascends. Adjacent and connected to the main bulk of Billys Peak is a tall granite spire with 1,015 feet of prominence. Often referred to as Billys Peak Lookout due to the past presence of a fire lookout tower, it is nonetheless officially unnamed. This prominent peak towers directly above the Trinity River Canyon and Highway 3, giving rise to the misconception that it is in fact Billys Peak (a Google image search for “Billys Peak” reveals only images of the Lookout save for those images on Summitpost that are correctly identified). The confusion is made worse by the fact that the Billys Peak Trail ascends the spire to the sight of the former lookout. In truth, there is no trail up the true Billys Peak. While this may have led to confusion of the peaks’ names, it also preserved one of the finest summit adventures in the Trinity Alps for those motivated enough to make the journey.
Having established the cause for anonymity of Billys Peak, it is appropriate to establish the excellent attributes of the peak. At first glance, these may seem few. While Billys Peak Lookout presents an impressive granite summit when viewed from the Trinity River, Billys Peak only reveals small turrets of exposed rock. Neither the true summit nor the true nature of the mountain is visible from any road. Even when viewed from the summit of Billys Peak Lookout the mountain appears to be a mass of chaparral and weathered rock, seemingly more at home in the Transverse Range than the lush Trinity Alps. Like so many other peaks in the Klamath Mountains, the southern sides are drier, brush covered an often uninteresting yet the north sides of the mountains are amazing jumbles of rock and ice and lakes, blanketed in dense forests and verdant meadows. This is true of Billys Peak. In addition to claiming the large Stoddard Meadow at the mountains foot, Billys Peak boasts four lakes on its north side, including Stoddard Lake, the sixth largest lake in the Trinity Alps. Adjacent to Stoddard is McDonald Lake, an attractive meadow ringed lake with a spectacular granite headwall. Upper Stoddard Lake is tucked into the cliffs above McDonald Lake. Stoddard and McDonald Lakes are popular hiking destinations, a consequence of a fairly easy trail and moderately easy access off of Highway 3. Upper Stoddard Lake receives few visitors, though it is in some ways the prettiest of the three lakes in Stoddard Basin, having a spectacular set of cliffs above and views of Mount Shasta to the east. Least known but most spectacular of the lakes on Billys Peak is tiny Holland Lake, a deep yet diminutive sapphire pool situated 600 feet below the summit. The rugged granite cliffs descending from the summit into the lake and the great views to the east make this one of the most striking locales in the Trinity Alps. In addition to Holland Lake, the north side of Billys Peak is home to several small tarns nestled into small dells below the summit.
Billys Peak's Lakes
In addition to the lakes, the north side of Billys Peak is one of the most stupendous rock playgrounds found anywhere in the Trinity Alps. The ridge leading to the summit is crenellated with tall spires jutting into the sky, each an awesome peak in their own right. Though smaller and more compact, the area is not unlike the Minarets in the High Sierra. The journey to the summit of the mountain is an exciting traverse of the peak’s north flank, passing over numerous talus slopes and atop rocky benches. In making the trek, one gets a since of how isolated Billys Peak is from the rest of the Trinity Alps. Separated from the main bulk of the range by Coffee Creek to the south, the East Fork of Coffee Creek to the north, and the Trinity River separating the peak from the Trinity Divide to the east. The mountain really is a massif unto itself.
If Billys Peak has one drawback, it is the views from the summit. One would think that the view into the heart of the Trinity Alps would be spectacular. Unfortunately the angle and perspective are such that Caribou Mountain and a few nameless peaks block much of the spectacle. This is exasperated by the fact the for all of its ruggedness, Billys Peak is one of the shortest peaks in the eastern Trinity Alps. It is simply not high enough to take in the vista beyond the higher peaks to the south. Thankfully, the view to the east compensates. The enormous spire of Billys Peak Lookout seems close enough to take hold of. The Trinity Divide line the eastern horizon and Lassen Peak is faintly visible. Above it all presides Mount Shasta, majestically overseeing the entirety of the State of Jefferson.
Billys Peak Area Map
Route InformationDetailed route information can be found here.
From Weaverville, travel north on Highway 3 for 43 miles. Turn left on County Road 135, signed for Horse Flat - Eagle Creek. Continue 1.5 miles, turn left onto unpaved Forest Road 38N22. There is usually a sign indicated that the road heads to the Stoddard Lake Trailhead. The road is pretty easy to follow, with the best conditioned road the route to follow at any forks (this sounds imprecise, but the route really is self evident). Just shy of 6 miles the road comes to a junction. Stay left, going onto Forest Road 38N27. Another 2.5 miles brings one to the trailhead, at total of 8.5 miles after having turned off County Road 135.
From Mount Shasta City, drive north on Interstate 5, through the town of Weed. Exit at the Edgewood/Stewart Springs exit. Turn left and drive under the freeway, then turn right onto Old Stage/ Old 99. Continue north for a couple hundred yards and then turn left onto Stewart Springs Road. After 4 miles, Forest Service Road 17 splits off to the right. Follow this road for 22 miles until it dead ends on Highway 3. Turn left on Highway 3 and continue for 7.5 miles to the turnoff for The Eagle Creek Loop. Cross the bridge over the Trinity River and turn left onto the loop. Proceed 1 mile and turn right onto Forest Road 38N22.
Billys Peak is located in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. Normal wilderness rules and ethics apply.
Shasta-Trinity National Forest
3644 Avtech Parkway
Redding, CA 96002
Weaverville Ranger Station
P.O. Box 1190
360 Main Street
Weaverville, CA 96093
Although there is dispersed camping at the trailhead, there are no facilities and no water. However, there are three very attractive Forest Service campgrounds scattered around the base of the mountain. The Goldfield campground is four miles up Coffee Creek Road from Highway 3. Eagle Creek is located on the banks of the Trinity River a few miles north off of Highway 3. The best option is the Trinity River Campground, also on the banks of the river, as the name implies. This is located south of where Forest Road 38N34 intersects Highway 3. Great camping is available at all of the lakes around Billys Peak. Stoddard and McDonald Lakes have abundant sites.