This wilderness area is located in of the Klamath National Forest of northwestern California and is best accessed from the Salmon and Scott River Ranger Districts within the Klamath National Forest. The Russian Wilderness is situated directly west of the town of Callahan on California Hwy. 3.
To find the trailhead from Interstate 5 head to Yreka, California. At the south end of Yreka is an exit for California Highway 3. Take this exit and go west towards Fort Jones and Etna. Pass through Fort Jones and Etna and continue south to the town of Callaghan. Just before you enter the town of Callaghan, take a right on the road to Cecilville. Follow this paved road for 8.2 miles to a gravel road on the right that is signed 41N16. Take this road for 6.3 miles to road 40N82 that is on your left and it is a sharp left turn back up the hill. In another 1.9 miles you reach the end of the road and you can park here. This is the trailhead for entering the Russian Wilderness and accessing Bingham Lake and Russian Peak. 2WD vehicles can get to this trailhead. Trailhead elevation is about 7,000 feet.
This is a great hike that starts by hiking down an old roadbed for about ¾ mile. Enjoy this warm-up part of the hike with the great view of Jackson Lake about 800 feet below you to the left. At the end of the road there is a climber’s trail that takes off up the hill to your right. This trail is kind of difficult to follow, but don’t worry, just climb up through the open forest to the saddle about 400 feet above you to the north. It may be wise to take a GPS reading at the end of the roadbed.
When you get to the saddle, there is a climber’s trail that descends to Bingham Lake that you can see 400 feet below you. I know you don’t want to lose elevation and descend to the lake, but trust me, go down to the lake. I took the alternate route of traversing to my right and following the ridge line to the summit. That is a BIG mistake. Lots of bushwhacking and boulder hopping and it took forever to get to the top.
Once you get down to the lake, continue around the east side to nearly the north end of the lake and then start traversing up Russian Peak directly north. You will know when you can start traversing because there are trees on the hillside instead of brush and loose boulders. You can also skirt the lake on the west side and then head to the summit directly from the outlet of Bingham Lake. The PCT passes just west of the outlet of Bingham Lake in case you want to approach this hike from that direction.
I never found a trail from Bingham Lake to the summit, but it is a nice scramble up about 1,000 feet in elevation gain. Near the top there is some boulder hopping and the summit is just a pile of boulders. It is obvious which boulder is the summit and you can either climb that boulder or go around to the back side and just reach up and touch it.
There is a register in a can on the summit. The views from the summit are fantastic. The granite mountains are inspiring and the blue lakes look refreshing. Take some time and enjoy the views of the Russian Wilderness, Mt. Shasta, and the Trinity Alps Wilderness. Return to the trailhead the same way you came.
Route Stats: About 4 miles, allow 3 hours, 1,800ft EG.
Sunscreen, water, and your lunch is all you need. Take your time and enjoy the magnificent scenery.
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