OverviewRussian Peak is the highpoint of the rugged Russian Wilderness in Northern California. Russian Peak is ranked 121st on the California prominence list with 2,234 ft of prominence. The small 12,000 acre Russian Wilderness spans the major ridge dividing the Scott and Salmon River drainages. It contains 22 lakes, most set in glacial bowls surrounded by granite peaks. This area is of national botanical significance because of the great diversity of trees and other plant species. An extensive trail system, including the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), accesses many high mountain lakes in the Russian Wilderness.
The Russian Wilderness is characterized by steep, rugged slopes and ridges with broad, U-shaped glaciated valleys. Meadows, rock pinnacles, bluffs and alpine lakes in cirque basins are common. There is a proposal to add 33,068 acres to the Russian Wilderness. The proposal is described here by the California Wilderness Coalition. “The proposed additions to the Russian Wilderness encompass beautiful ancient forests, glacier-carved lakes, verdant meadows, and crystal-clear streams. The famous Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail bisects the area from north to south and provides visitors access to some of the region's most outstanding viewpoints.
The proposed additions and the adjacent wilderness have the greatest diversity of cone-bearing trees on the planet, including an amazing 17 species in one square-mile (1 to 3 species is far more common). Unique trees include the Alaska yellow cedar, noble fir, Engelmann spruce, Port Orford cedar, and the Brewers spruce, also known as the "weeping spruce" because of its elegantly drooping branches.
This conifer diversity is matched by incredible diversity among their smaller kin: nearly 400 species of plants were identified in the Sugar Creek drainage alone. Watersheds of similar size elsewhere usually do not contain even half as many species. Other rare and unique species include subalpine fir, angelica, clustered lady's slipper, Howell's draba, timber blue grass, Engelmann's lomatium, peregrine falcon, coho and chinook salmon, wolverine, northern spotted owl, goshawk, bald eagle, Roosevelt elk, marten, and fisher.”
I don’t think I can add anything more to adequately describe this beautiful area.
Getting ThereThis 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 go 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 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.
Red TapeAccess to this wilderness is relatively easy. No visitor permit is required but you will need a campfire permit.
Klamath National Forest
1312 Fairlane Road
Yreka, CA 96097-9549 Phone:
Salmon River & Scott River Ranger Districts
11263 N. Highway 3
Fort Jones, CA 96032-9702
FAX (530) 468-1290
TDD (530) 468-2783
Red Tape Link
When To ClimbMost wilderness areas are closed due to weather conditions from October through mid-May or June. You may also contact the appropriate Ranger Station
after May 1st for actual/projected opening dates for high country recreation.
CampingThere are lots of places to camp in and around the Russian Wilderness area. The closest campground is on the road to Cecillville. Hidden Horse and Trail Creek campgrounds are listed in the following link to the Klamath National Forest. Scott River Ranger District
If you want to backpack into the Wilderness and make this hike an overnight affair, there are unimproved campsites around Bingham Lake. Bingham Lake contains rainbow trout. This lake is very popular and receives heavy use. It is not advisable to take livestock down to the lake.
Mountain ConditionsThis is a summer hike, June through October. This is also a Wilderness Area, therefore, snowmobiles are not allowed in the winter. Go to the following link for more information.
There are lots of black bears in this area, but they are usually very shy and run away as soon as they see you. If you have a bear phobia, be prepared to deal with them. They usually don’t ransack vehicles and campsites looking for goodies either