Caesar Peak is located in the Trinity Alps Wilderness
in northwestern California, on the boundary of Klamath and Shasta-Trinity National Forests. Overshadowed in height and popularity by the nearby and slightly taller Thompson Peak
, a trip to Caesar Peak is just as rewarded by approaches through rich forests and granite canyons leading to waterfalls, subalpine lakes, and far-ranging views from the summit. The vista from the summit of Caesar Peak is arguably just as good as and perhaps even better than that from Thompson Peak owing to the view down the Stuart Fork of the Trinity River and the striking view back at Thompson Peak and the glacier below.
Caesar Peak happens to be the highpoint of Klamath National Forest thanks to its good fortune of being on the Klamath and Shasta-Trinity National Forest boundary (Thompson Peak is fully within Shasta-Trinity National Forest).
Most trips to the summit or others in the vicinity are done as short backpacking trips, but daytrips are possible. Routes are mostly class 1 with class 2 cross-country terrain, though some scrambling is feasible on the ridges surrounding the summit.
Thompson Peak and Grizzly Lake from Caesar Peak
Grizzly Lake Falls Route Map
There are several options for approaching Caesar Peak and the other high peaks in the Trinity Alps, though most with choose to approach from Canyon Creek to the south or China Gulch to the north. China Gulch is the shortest option, and more secluded. Canyon Creek is more popular, and a much quicker drive if coming from the south (about 2 hours closer). Both routes are worthwhile. A third option that visitors have used includes the Stuart Fork Trail via Sapphire Lake out of Clair Engle Lake.
Canyon Creek Trailhead
(40.88714° N, 123.02408° W)
From Interstate 5 in Redding head west on Highway 299 towards Weaverville (or from Highway 101 north of Eureka head east). In Junction City (54 miles from Redding and 85 miles from Highway 101) turn north on Canyon Creek Road and follow it 13 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road.
China Gulch Trailhead
(41.06916° N, 123.07501° W)
From Highway 3 in Callahan head east for 28 miles on Cecilville Road (later Forest Highway 93) towards Cecilville (37 miles from Highway 96 near Somes Bar if approaching from the west). Just east of Cecilville head south onto paved Caribou Road (Forest Route 37N24). Follow 37N24 for 3.7 miles before bearing right onto 37N02, which is followed 5.8 miles to the trailhead (keep left at 0.5 miles from 37N24 to stay on 37N02). 37N02 is a good dirt road that should be passable for any vehicle.
Fall Color along the Canyon Creek Trail
Trip statistics from Canyon Creek Trailhead:
9.9 miles one-way, 6000 feet elevation gain out plus 200 feet on the return
From the Canyon Creek Trailhead follow the trail north above Canyon Creek passing Canyon Creek Falls and excellent streamside camping options along the way. Continue past the junction with the Boulder Creek Lake trail and head towards Canyon Creek Lakes. After the last falls before the lakes the trail crosses Canyon Creek and continues the final approach to the lakes on the west side of the stream (the 1976 Mount Hilton quad incorrectly shows the trail continuing on the east side of the creek here). As the first lake is passed the trail begins to turn into a use trail, rising high above the lower lake’s west shore and wrapping between the two lakes (cliffs prevent continuing around the upper lake on the western side). Cross the outlet of the second lake, pass over a 60 foot cliff on the eastern side, and follow the stream feeding the lake. When convenient leave the stream as indicated on the route map and work your way north up slabs into the upper reaches of the canyon. After reaching the final snowfields below Thompson Peak, climb steeply up the southwest slope of Caesar Peak. Upon reaching the ridge the summit comes into view to the east, most easily reached by dropping slightly onto the north slope and traversing towards the summit about 50-100 feet below the ridge crest.
Trip statistics from China Gulch Trailhead:
7.1 miles one-way, 5800 feet elevation gain out plus 1300 feet on the return
From the trailhead the path quickly climbs 1600 feet in the first mile to China Spring (I did not notice any water here on my visit to the area) and then immediately drops 1300 feet to Grizzly Creek. Much of this area has been burned by previous forest fires, but soon the scenery starts to improve as you follow the creek past Grizzly Meadows and on towards Grizzly Lake. Just before reaching the lake a spectacular waterfall
is visible where the lake’s outlet plummets 300 feet off the table below Thompson and Caesar Peak. From the eastern shore of the lake, work your way up Caesar Peak via the class 2 north ridge or the northwest slope.
Upper Canyon Creek Lake
No permits are necessary for day trips but overnight outings require a wilderness permit in Trinity National Forest (none needed for China Gulch in Klamath National Forest). There are no quotas, and permits can most easily be obtained at one of the Trinity NF offices listed below. Information stations are available outside the offices so permits may be picked up 24 hours/day.
Bear canisters are not required or necessary, but proper food storage is a good idea.
Campfires and stoves require a California campfire permit, available at any forest service or BLM station throughout the state. Note that campfires are not permitted around the lakes in the Canyon Creek or Stuart Fork drainages.
Weaverville Ranger Station (Trinity NF)
P.O. Box 1190
360 Main Street
Weaverville, CA 96093
Big Bar Ranger Station (Trinity NF)
Star Route 1, Box 10
28451 State Hwy 299
West Big Bar, CA 96010
Salmon/Scott River Ranger District (Klamath NF)
11263 N. Highway 3
Fort Jones, CA 96032
Current ConditionsCurrent NOAA / National Weather Service Forecast
When to Climb
Summer and fall are the typical season for trips up Caesar Peak, though year round ascents are possible due to the low trailhead elevation (especially from the south). In spring snow is present at the higher elevations and ice ax and crampons or snowshoes will likely be needed. Winter trips will obviously require skis or snowshoes for some of the approach.
Backcountry camping is excellent both along Canyon Creek (above Canyon Creek Falls) and along Grizzly Creek if approaching from the north. Even better options include Grizzly Lake and Canyon Creek Lakes. The latter are scenic and worth camping at, but you are sure to have plenty of company on a summer weekend.
There are numerous established campgrounds in the area, and dispersed camping is also permitted throughout most of Trinity National Forest to the south and Klamath National Forest to the north. If approaching via Canyon Creek the nearby forested walk-in Ripstein Campground
less than a mile from the trailhead is the best option. There are many other choices as well along Highway 299, see the Trinity National Forest Campground Camping
page for additional details. If approaching from the north there are several camping options along Cecilville Road and further afield. See the Klamath National Forest Campground Camping
page for complete details.