Siskiyou Wilderness Area

About the Siskiyou

Craggy peaks and clear waters

Resting just south of the Oregon-California border, the 179,847-acre Siskiyou Wilderness Area was designated in 1984 and expanded in 2006. The rugged area rises between the massive Smith, Illinois, and Klamath river watersheds to form a unique configuration of peaks, creeks, meadows, and mountain lake basins. The highest summit is Preston Peak, a 7,313-foot matterhorn-like mountain with no trail, though cross-country pursuits of it are common. 

From Preston, the Siskiyou highlands run north to south, with wandering spur ridges coming off of that in all directions. This distinct range is characterized by unique geology, diverse plant communities, craggy peaks, and high country basins. Subalpine forests at the highest elevations give way to mature old-growth forests that have been kissed, but not destroyed by the wildfires of the 21st century. 

Along the creeks and the South Fork Smith River, outstanding water quality and intact watersheds support a strong native fish population sought by backcountry anglers. The area is also popular among game hunters. All hunters and anglers must follow all California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations. 

Pacific Frontier

A quest for solitude

Popular lake basins and other destinations closest to the area's trailheads get the vast majority of use, especially on weekends or holidays, which should be avoided. The Kelsey and Clear Creek national recreation trails also receive attention, but to discover the Siskiyou Wilderness Area's most outstanding attributes, use SMC's Siskiyou Wilderness map to chart your own route. You'll find unnamed lakes, glacial basins, spiny ridge tops, and summits with views as far as the Pacific Ocean. 

Natural History

Ancient rocks and recent fires

The rocks here are 150 to 200 million years old, the younger granites intruding into the older metamorphics. Glacial deposits form the last ice age are found throughout the area, as well as marine sediments around 60 million years old. The impact of fires is strongly portrayed in the Siskiyou Wilderness, and while recent burns have certainly impacted trail conditions , their ecological effect has been positive overall. 

Photo #1: Raspberry Lake in summertime Photo #2: Views of the East Fork Illinois River drainage Photo #3: Wild & Scenic Clear Creek