Long Distance Trails

Following the Footsteps on the Bigfoot Trail in Search of Sasquatch

POSTED ON October 26, 2022 BY Ralph S.


Introduction

Welcome to the Bigfoot Trail, a long-distance hiking trail running through the untamed beauty of Northwest California and showcasing some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the country.

Managed by the Bigfoot Trail Alliance, this path offers an unforgettable journey for nature lovers. As you follow in its footsteps, you will have the opportunity to explore the national park and forest land, state parks, and maintained trails, immersing yourself in the beauty and mystery of the natural world.

In this post, we’ll introduce nature lovers to the enchanting natural world of this region, unraveling the myths and mysteries surrounding this elusive trail and its most famous resident, the sasquatch.

So put on your hiking boots and get ready to discover the secrets of Bigfoot Country.

History

Redwood National and State Parks

The history of the Bigfoot Trail is a remarkable tale of vision, collaboration, and the unyielding spirit of nature lovers and the Bigfoot Trail Alliance. It all began with the visionary Michael Kauffmann, an avid hiker and conservationist who originally proposed the concept of this long-distance hiking trail.

In the early 2000s, Kauffmann embarked on a journey to create a trail that would traverse the magnificent landscapes of Northwest California, guiding hikers through state parks and national forest land and offering a deeper understanding of the region’s natural beauty. His vision aimed to connect outdoor enthusiasts with the rugged beauty of the area while fostering a sense of responsibility towards its preservation.

What makes this trail particularly unique is its community-committed approach. From the very beginning, it was envisioned as a trail created by nature lovers for nature lovers. Local communities, conservation organizations, and dedicated individuals have worked hand in hand with the Bigfoot Trail Alliance, contributing not only their time and effort but also their passion for environmental conservation.

Over the years, this collaborative effort has borne fruit. The Bigfoot Trail has grown, offering greater future sustainability through careful maintenance and expansion. It now briefly coincides with other long-distance hiking trails, enhancing the hiking experience for those seeking adventure in the region.

As a result, the trail has become a symbol of the unity between outdoor enthusiasts and their dedication to preserving the natural wonders of Northwest California. It’s a testament to the power of a shared vision and the commitment of the community, as it continues to attract hikers from all over, each ready to embrace the beauty and challenges the Bigfoot Trail presents while leaving a minimal ecological footprint.

Key Facts about The Bigfoot Trail

Location: Northwest California, USA

Length: Approximately 360 miles (580 km)

Time it takes to hike: Varies, typically around 30 – 40 days

Trailhead(s): The trail begins in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness, ending near Redwood National and State Parks

Difficulty: Challenging

Total Elevation Gain: Approximately 100,000 feet (30,480 meters), but this can vary based on the specific route taken.

Best Time and Season to Hike: Late spring to early fall. Summer can be hot, and snow may persist at higher elevations in early spring.

Lowest Point: sea level, as the trail reaches the Pacific Coast.

Highest Point: Around 6,000 to 7,000 feet (1829 to 2133 meters) in the Klamath Mountains.

Trail Overview: Difficulty Levels and Route Options

Cliff Lake, Marble Mountain Wilderness

The Bigfoot Trail, a long-distance hiking route, is an extraordinary journey that will immerse you in the untamed beauty of Northern California and Southwest Oregon. Stretching for approximately 360 miles (580 km), this trail offers a unique opportunity to explore a little-known corner of the world, passing through one national park, six wilderness areas, state parks, and national forest land.

The Pacific Crest Trail slightly runs concurrently with the Bigfoot Trail in the northern Marble Mountain Wilderness and north of Seiad Valley to the edge of the Red Buttes Wilderness.

Here’s a comprehensive overview of the Bigfoot Trail, including difficulty levels, route options, and highlights along the way:

Route Options:

The Bigfoot Trail does not have a set trailhead or a well-defined finish point, offering flexibility for hikers to choose their preferred route. Some suggested route options include:

  • North to South: Starting in Crescent City and hiking south toward the Eel River
  • South to North: Beginning your journey near the Klamath River and progressing north
  • Southwest Oregon Extension: For those seeking a longer adventure, consider extending your hike into the wilderness of Southwest Oregon.

You can get the 52-page PDF maps for the entire trail here for $20, or the $40 52-page printed map set here.

Difficulty Levels:

The trail is renowned for its strenuous nature, demanding hikers to be well-prepared both mentally and physically. However, the difficulty varies throughout the trail, with some sections being more challenging than others.

Here’s a breakdown of the trail’s difficulty levels in popular sections:

  • Crescent City to Redwood National and State Parks: This section offers a relatively easier introduction to the trail, with moderate terrain and beautiful redwood forests.
  • Russian Creek to the Klamath River: The trail becomes more challenging as it winds through the Klamath Mountains, presenting rugged terrain and more elevation gain.
  • Eel River to Douglas Fir: This part of the trail is considered one of the most challenging, with steep ascents and descents.

Highlights Along the Way:

  • Redwood National and State Parks: The trail begins amidst the towering giants of these parks, where you can explore lush old-growth forests and pristine coastline along the Pacific Ocean.
  • Conifer Diversity: The trail showcases a remarkable diversity of conifer species, from towering redwoods to Douglas fir and other unique trees.
  • Botanical Wonderland: Throughout your hike, you’ll be captivated by the incredible array of plant life and wildflowers that thrive in this unique ecosystem.
  • Klamath Mountains: Traverse the rugged and remote Klamath Mountains with their breathtaking vistas and backcountry trails.
  • Six Wilderness Areas: The Bigfoot Trail takes you through six designated wilderness areas, offering an authentic backcountry experience.
  • Little Known Corner: You’ll have the chance to explore a remote and lesser-visited part of the United States with a feeling of true wilderness.
  • Klamath River: Follow the Klamath River, encountering its powerful beauty as it flows through the landscape.
  • State Parks: Pass through one state park in California, offering a unique contrast to the wild surroundings.
  • Remaining Segments: The trail passes through state parks, national forest land, and along forest service roads, presenting a diverse array of terrain.

You can take a look at the entire trail section on the official Bigfoot Trail Alliance website.

Climate and Weather

Klamath Forest Overlook

Understanding the climate and weather for each season along the Bigfoot Trail is crucial for planning a successful and enjoyable journey through this stunning and diverse landscape of Northwest California and Southwest Oregon.

Whether you embark in spring, summer, or fall, this long-distance hiking trail promises an adventure that will deepen your appreciation for the natural wonders of the California wilderness.

Spring (March to May)

As spring arrives in this region, hikers can expect milder temperatures ranging from 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F). This is an ideal time to set out on the Bigfoot Trail, especially as the trail begins near the Pacific Ocean.

The national park areas like Redwood National and State Park come to life with blooming wildflowers, and conifer diversity is on full display. The route through the Klamath Mountains (location) remains cool and green, creating a botanical wonderland for those embarking on their journey.

Summer (June to August)

Summer along the Bigfoot Trail can be warmer, with temperatures typically ranging from 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F). The route takes hikers through six wilderness areas, including Southern Oregon, and the season provides a chance to explore the natural beauty of this area.

Expect sunny days, but be prepared for potential heat, particularly in the exposed areas. The Pacific Ocean, a major focus along the trail, offers a refreshing respite on warm days.

Fall (September to November)

Fall marks a transitional period, with temperatures dropping back to 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F). The foliage begins to change, painting the landscapes with vivid colors. The trail passes through stunning vistas and forested regions, with some forest service roads to navigate.

Fall is a great time for a hike, as you can enjoy cooler weather and fewer crowds.

Winter (December to February)

Winters can be challenging along the Bigfoot Trail, with temperatures often dropping below freezing, especially in the higher elevations. Snow may be present, and many remaining segments can be inaccessible during this time.

Winter is not the best season for a thru-hike, and those considering winter travel should be well-prepared for extreme conditions.

Essential Gear and Equipment

Essential gear along the Bigfoot Trail

The diverse terrain, which encompasses one national park and passes through six wilderness areas, ranging from the majestic Redwood National and State Park to the rugged Klamath Mountains, makes it essential to choose your gear wisely.

Recommended Gear:

  • Quality Backpack: Opt for a durable backpack with ample space to carry all your necessities, as well as the essentials for a multi-day hike.
  • Navigation Tools: Given that the trail is unmarked, topographic maps (available here), an all-terrain compass, and a GPS device are crucial for staying on the suggested route. You should also check out our guide to The Best Hiking Apps and Tools for Hikers and Backpackers
  • Footwear: Invest in sturdy, waterproof hiking boots with good ankle support to navigate a variety of terrain, from forest service roads to rocky paths. You can get some important information in our guide to choosing the ideal hiking boots
  • Clothing: Dress in moisture-wicking layers to adapt to changing weather conditions. A good rain jacket and pants are essential, as rain is common in the region.
  • Sleep System: A lightweight, four-season tent or a high-quality bivy shelter, along with a warm sleeping bag and pad, are vital for camping along the route.
  • Cooking Gear: A portable stove, cookware, and enough fuel for your journey will ensure you can prepare hot meals on the trail.
  • Water Filtration: Carry a water filter or purification system as potable water sources can be sparse in some sections.
  • Field Guide: Due to the conifer diversity, be sure to carry a field guide for plant identification if you’re interested in botany.
  • First Aid Kit: Always have a comprehensive first aid kit on hand to address minor injuries or illnesses. We have a guide to basic wilderness first aid.
  • Bear Canister: In areas with bears, a bear-resistant canister is essential to safely store your food and protect local wildlife. You should also have an understanding of how to handle wild animal encounters on the trail.
  • Backpacking Essentials: A headlamp, multi-tool, insect repellent, and sunscreen are all important to have along the trail.

For more information to help you have a successful thru hike, you can check out our guide to ultralight backpacking, single-day and multi-day backpacking checklists.

Accommodation, Camping, and Overnight Stays

Joshua Tree

While the trail itself is unmarked and unregulated, there are several campgrounds and other places to stay nearby.

Here’s a list of available campgrounds

  1. Redwood National and State Parks Campgrounds:
  • Several campgrounds are located within Redwood National and State Parks, including Jedediah Smith, Prairie Creek Redwoods, and Del Norte Coast Redwoods. These campgrounds are situated close to the Bigfoot Trail, offering easy access.
  • Remember that some campgrounds may require reservations during peak seasons. So, check each park’s official website for more details.
  1. Humboldt Redwoods State Park Campgrounds:
  • Situated in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, this park offers multiple campgrounds, like Albee Creek and Hidden Springs. These campgrounds are a bit farther from the Bigfoot Trail but provide a great base for exploration. But note that reservations are recommended during busy months.
  1. Six Rivers National Forest Campgrounds:
  • Numerous campgrounds are scattered throughout Six Rivers National Forest, including the Panther Flat, Fish Lake, and Little Grider campgrounds. The distance varies, so check for specific campgrounds near your desired trail segment. You can also check out the current recreation conditions here.
  • Some campgrounds may require reservations, while others are first-come, first-served.
  1. Private Campgrounds:
  • You can find private campgrounds that offer facilities and amenities in towns near the Bigfoot Trail. Some of the popular towns in California include Crescent City (location), Eureka (location), and Arcata (location). The distance, however, depends on the specific campground’s location, but they are convenient for resupply and rest.
  • Contact individual campgrounds for availability and reservations.
  1. Backcountry Camping:
  • If you prefer a more primitive camping experience, you can camp along the trail itself. Permits are generally not required, but be sure to respect the local environment.

Getting There: Directions and Transportation Options

Getting to and around the Bigfoot Trail requires some planning and a sense of adventure.

Here’s how to reach the trail and navigate the region:

Nearest Airports:

  1. Arcata-Eureka Airport (ACV):
    • Located in McKinleyville, California, Arcata-Eureka Airport is the closest airport to the Bigfoot Trail. It’s served by regional airlines with flights to and from major hubs like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
  2. Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport (MFR):
    • If you’re starting your Bigfoot Trail journey from the Oregon side, Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport in Medford, Oregon, is an option. This airport offers a few more flight choices compared to ACV.

Getting from the Airport to the Trail:

  1. From Arcata-Eureka Airport (ACV):
    • Once you land at ACV, you can rent a car from the on-site rental agencies. Having your vehicle is highly recommended, as it provides flexibility to access trailheads and explore the region.
    • Alternatively, you can arrange for a shuttle service or rideshare to take you to the nearest trailhead or the town closest to your intended starting point, depending on where you plan to begin your hike. Some shuttle services in the area cater to hikers and backpackers, ensuring a seamless transition from the airport to the trail.
  2. From Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport (MFR):
    • Similar to ACV, you can rent a car at MFR to access the Oregon side of the trail.
    • If you prefer not to drive, you can explore shuttle options that connect the airport to nearby trailheads or towns. Some shuttle services also cater to hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, making it easier to start your Bigfoot Trail adventure.

Getting Around the Region:

Once you’ve arrived in the region and have made your way to the trailhead, you’ll find a variety of transportation options:

  • Personal Vehicle: Renting a car or using your own vehicle provides the most flexibility for accessing trailheads and exploring the area. However, some parts of the trail may require high-clearance vehicles.
  • Shuttle Services: Look into local shuttle services that can transport you between trailheads, allowing you to hike different segments without the need for a car.
  • Public Transportation: Limited public transportation options are available in some towns near the Bigfoot Trail, but these may not provide direct access to the trail.
  • Biking: You can use a bicycle to access trailheads and explore the region in some areas, especially if you’re considering a bikepacking adventure.

Conclusion

The Bigfoot Trail beckons with its unspoiled wilderness and rugged charm, offering intrepid hikers a journey through the untamed beauty of Northwest California and Southwest Oregon. From the towering redwoods of state parks to the pristine landscapes of national forests, this trail is an extraordinary adventure that awaits those with a passion for exploration.

As we’ve explored in this blog, the Bigfoot Trail’s history, diverse climate, and recommended gear all come together to provide a deep and authentic connection to the natural world.

Whether you’re a seasoned long-distance hiker or someone seeking a transformative outdoor experience, this trail has something to offer.

Before leaving, be sure to look through our long-distance trails guide for other exciting routes.


RALPH S.

Ralph S. is the founder of Silverlight, an avid hiker and trail runner he enjoys spending time outdoors, riding his motorcycle and swimming at the beach when he's not busy replying to customers or developing new Silverlight gear.

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