Wards Fork Gap Loop (Siskiyou Mountains) 15-Jul-2019

Between Devils Ridge in Northern California and Ashland, Oregon, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) threads its way east-west along the crest of the Siskiyou Mountains. This stretch of the PCT offers, when the clouds and sun angle cooperate, some impressive views of Mount Shasta, the Trinity Alps, and the Siskiyou Wilderness. We’ve hiked sections in this area before, mostly around Mount Ashland, Big Red Mountain, Siskiyou Peak, and Observation Peak. Today we went a little farther west into Northern California to hike the section between Wards Fork Gap and Point 6892.

You can reach the Gap from Highway 96 to the south or from the Applegate Valley to the north; we came in from the valley. From Ruch, we went south on Upper Applegate Road to Beaver Creek Road (which is also Forest Road 20) and followed it (starts off paved but soon becomes washboarded gravel) for 14 miles to Silver Fork Gap. There we veered off on to signed FR 2025 for 6.7 miles to signed FR 48N16 and descended that for 1.5 miles to the Gap. A carefully driven 2WD car could manage all of these gravel/dirt roads but a high clearance one would be a comfort on FR 48N16. Along the way, a well nourished black bear 🐻 ran across the road in front of us – for our fifth bear sighting this summer!

Once at the Gap, we opted to go out by road and return on the PCT, so we started southwest on FR 40S01. This dirt road is signed and easy to follow as it climbs along the crest. The only trick is that, 1.7 miles from the Gap, you need to make a hard right turn and head uphill – miss this turn and you’ll wander among several other old roads (some not mapped) that are not the ones you want. There are some views from 40S01 but you’re still walking on a road. So as soon as we got close to Point 6892, we left the road and climbed up to the PCT running along the ridge above. Here, despite some clouds, the big views opened up as promised. We took the PCT back and the views along it lasted until we started sharply downhill past Big Rock. Along the way we passed two thru-hikers (who just scowled at us – obviously not a happy day on the trail) near Bearground Spring and a small herd of large cows wearing clanking bells. Despite a long drive on gravel roads of varying quality, it was good day on the trail – 9 miles round-trip with 1,700 feet of gain – to big views as promised.

The road runs past several large meadows carpeted with Cushion Buckwheat
A large moth enjoys the flowers
The view from near Point 6892: Preston Peak (P), Red Buttes (R), Scraggy Mountain (S)
The obviously Red Buttes (R) and Preston Peak (P) in the Siskiyou Wilderness
Clouds over Condrey Mountain
Mount Shasta from the PCT
Mount Shasta and clouds from the PCT
Clouds over the PCT
Mount Shasta and a PCT cairn
The PCT starts its descent
One last look at a meadow completely covered with Cushion Buckwheat
Out by road (black), back along the PCT (red) – exclamation point is turn you don’t want to miss
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