Crapo Mountain is an interesting mountain for a few reasons. Aside from its rediculous name it also is in close proximity to the largest Incense Cedar in the world. The Devils Canyon Colossus, an arboreal wonder 12.5 feet in diameter is nearly twice as large as its nearest competitor the Tannen Lakes Titan (in terms of total wood volume ~7,860 cubic feet vs 4,350). Aside from the Colossus there are many other very large incense cedars above 5000 feet in the series of meadows. In addition there are some large douglas fir, white fir and ponderosa pine that escaped the fires that burnt the lower part of the normal route in 2008 and 2009.
The peak barely lies within the southern portion of the Marble Mountain Wilderness as does the Devils Canyon approach route. There were fires here in 2008 and 2009 and this is evident on the lower mile of the approach. Thankfully above this point most of the forest escaped and is in good shape.
This peak is a long way from anywhere. The turnoff to the Little North Fork trailhead is on Sawyers Bar Road about 5 miles west of Sawyers Bar.
From Interstate-5 highway (east side): Take State highway-3 from Yreka to Etna, turn right on Main Street, which later becomes Sawyers Bar Road. Proceed for about 25 miles to the Little North Fork of the Salmon turnoff onto Forest Route 41N33.
From Eureka (west side): Take State highway-299 toward Redding, then turn left on State highway-96. Proceed past Orleans, then turn right on Salmon River road. At Forks of Salmon the road becomes Sawyers Bar Road. Go for another 10 miles to Little North Fork. Total mileage is 120 miles.
Regardless of whether you are approaching from the east or west proceed 11 miles on Forest Route 41N33 until a sharp swithchback around 4400 feet, above which the road is obviously less travelled. A 100 feet or so beyond there is a small parking area with a campfire ring and stools. The trail starts from the turn and will be ~ 100 feet below this camp and plainly visible from above. This road was apparently closed for several years for maintenance and due to the fires in the area in 2008 and 2009. Thankfully the road is now open and in good enough condition for most passenger vehicles.
While the middle and upper forest escaped the fires of 2008-09, this is not true for the majority of the trail, while it is easy to find the start of the trail it is nearly impossible to find the turnoff to Devils Canyon after the initial 200 foot drop to the river crossing due to overgrowth of brush from the fire and a lack of use from the years of road closure. The trail can eventually be intercepted after this point if you stay near the stream and there is evidence of use on both the right and left sides though they fade in and out especially at the meadows. Though the cross country travel is usually not very difficult.
The mountain itself has no trail whatsoever above the upermost meadow and requires some moderately heavy bushwacking and fun class 3+ scrambling on solid boulders along the ridgeline to reach the top of the highest pinnacle. Views are excellent of Shasta to the east and the White Trinities to the south as well as the fire tower on English Peak to the north.
It is around 2.5 miles to the incense cedar and 3.5 miles to Crapo mountain depending on the route. There is a coulior almost directly to the summit spire that is choked with vegetation at the bottom, but is very solid beyond. Alternatively the saddle between Crapo and Yellow Jacket Ridge can be ascended with moderate bushwacking and then some fun scrambling on the ridge can be had. This also entails visiting the upper meadows where there are several more very large cedars. Total elevation gain from the trailhead is around 2700 feet.
Hint: The Devils Canyon Colossus is above 5000 feet and located on the edge of one of the meadows near a ephemeral stream that no doubt played a large part in its growth. It is partially obstructed by some brush when viewed from the meadow, but you will be able to see the crown and there is a side trail to the base. You will know for sure you are at the right tree (aside from the gargantual size) as there is are 3 markers. A wooden one stating simple Incense Cedar 12.5' Diameter, a silver plaque pounded into the bark celebrating ints founder and a smaller one describing when it was found and fun facts about circumferance, height and crown spread. It is a photogenic tree!
When to Climb
Spring, Summer or Fall make the most sense. The proximity to Sawyers Bar Road means that winter attempts are not out of the question, but an approach other than Devils Canyon should be used to mitigate distance if there is enough snow to cover some of the bushwacking. Forest Route 41N33 will be closed in the winter.
Black bears are active in the area. We saw 2 seperate individuals at close range on our hike. One black and small ran warily away, while the other was cinnamon colored and larger stood ground as we drove past just after leaving the trailhead.
Backcountry camping in Marble Mountain Wilderness requires a camp fire permit during the fire season. If you don't plan on having camp fires, no permits are needed. For permit info, contact Klamath National Forest at 1312 Fairlane Rd, Yreka, CA 96097. Phone: (530) 842-6131.