The Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains of southwest Oregon and northwest California

The Klamath-Siskiyou range is perhaps known best for its turbulent and long natural history, presenting a laboratory for those who value this contemporary specimen of ancient geology and biology as a looking glass into the past. Coveted by botanists, cherished by historians, the area has often been presented as a classroom.

But to the modern explorer, and more than anything, this vast swath of public lands is overlooked. 

Over 1,000 miles of wild rivers cut through sharp canyons and spill into the most remote reach of the Pacific Ocean south of Alaska. The Rogue and Klamath rivers are well known. But few have heard of the Elk, the Sixes, the Chetco, North Fork-Smith, Butte Fork-Applegate, the Eel or the California-Salmon. Combined, they constitute the most dense combination of wild rivers on the West Coast.

The wild mountainscape that supports those rivers can’t decide which way to orient, spanning east-to-west, north-to-south, and every direction in between, forming a rose flower of topography. Between the pedals those ridges form are mountain lakes, dynamic forests, great swaths of green serpentine, red peridotite, and granite. This vast reach of federal lands is punctuated by over a million acres of Congressionally-designated Federal Wilderness Areas where thousands of miles of primitive trails meander from fertile valleys to hardscrabble summits, often times at a breaknecking pitch. 

The many backpacking pursuits represent some of the wildest, loneliest, most remote and challenging opportunities on the West Coast. And in between those protected wildernesses is a an equally-vast trove of campgrounds, waterfalls, easy day hikes, historical monuments, and other treasures waiting for anyone willing to explore off the beaten path. 

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Photo #1: Wild & Scenic Rogue River along Rogue River Trail #1160 Photo #2: Shasta Lily in the Red Buttes Wilderness Area. Photo #3: View of Preston Peak, tallest mountain in the Siskiyou Wilderness