U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Modoc National Forest


Custom Search

Forest Information

The Modoc National Forest is located in the northeastern corner of California and is comprised of 1,663,536 acres. There 30 developed campgrounds of which 11 meet the selection criteria.

It is hard to believe there is a National Forest in the northeast corner of California. Along US Highway 395, which runs north-to-south, and State Highway 299, running east-to-west, vast valleys are covered with lush grass and dotted with cattle and juniper trees. Where could a Forest be hiding in this openness? The answer is simple: the Modoc National Forest is in the dark mountains that line the rich valleys. And in those mountains are many delightful surprises for visitors to the Modoc National Forest.

In eastern Modoc National Forest, roughly parallel to Highway 395, are the Warner Mountain, South Warner Wilderness, and State Game Refuge. Scattered around the boundaries of these areas are a number of campgrounds. Mill Creek Falls campground is located on the South Warner Wilderness boundary and features not only the towering Mill Creek Falls but easy access to the South Warner Wilderness's Clear Lake. At approximately the Wilderness's western mid-section is Soup Springs campground. A family campground, Soup Springs has facilities for equestrian campers just beyond the campground's boundary. On the north side of the Wilderness is a horse campground named Pepperdine Camp. Both Soup Springs and Pepperdine campgrounds have trails leading into the Warner Mountains and South Warner Wilderness with its network of trails.

The most popular and, to many, the most beautiful campground in the Warner Mountains, is Blue Lake campground. Not a very large body of water, Blue Lake is great for families who want to enjoy the mountain's cooler temperature, do some leisure canoeing or boating, or just relax in a wooded environment in the adjoining campground. While only a few sites have a view of the lake, all the campsites are within easy walking distance.

Just north of Canby, California, in route to Tule Lake and Modoc Lava Beds National Monument, is another Modoc National Forest surprise - Howards Gulch campground. While campers may hear some traffic noise from State Highway 139, passing vehicles are not visible from the campground. The sites are either tucked into the gulch's curves or beside an aspen-lined meadow. The campground's nature trail, leading from the center of the campground, around a hill-top, and back to the campground, provides a visual of the area's geology and an interesting contrast to the appearance of nearby Modoc Lava Beds National Monument.

Perhaps the biggest and most delightful surprise in the Modoc National Forest is Medicine Lake and its four adjoining campgrounds of A. H. Hogue, Headquarters, Medicine, and Hemlock. Medicine Lake was formed when a block of the enormous Medicine Lake "shield" volcano collapsed and lava was squeezed up through fractures, sealing those fractures, forming a water-tight four by six mile bowl. Unlike Oregon's Crater Lake National Park and with its towering caldera walls, Medicine Lake is easy to access. This beautiful sapphire lake is open to fishing, boating, and other water play. Some say it is like Crater Lake without Wizard Island while others say it is like Lake Tahoe without the crowds.

Along with the water-based activities found at Medicine Lake, there are several possible day trips to be enjoyed from any one of the Lake's campgrounds. One day trip might be exploring a surrounding "rim" volcanoes, such as Medicine Mountain or Red Shale Butte. These volcanoes developed on the outer edge of Medicine Lake volcano. Another location of interest is the towering Glass Mountain. Here Native People quarried high quality obsidian (lava glass) for tools and weapons. Burnt Lava Flow, south of Glass Mountain, at approximately 200 years in age, is the youngest lava flow in the area and dotted with "forested island." Everywhere around the Forest are deposits of pumice, white or grey rocks of frothy obsidian that can actually float in water! And, of course, there is Lava Beds National Monument. Less than 20-miles from Medicine Lake, the Monument contains 30 separate lava flows composed of Pahoehoe (ropy looking) and Aa (cauliflower appearing) material, 436 known lava tube caves, an assortment of spatter cones, cinder cones, and craters, petroglyphs, and reminders of the late 19th century Modoc War.

For such a little forest, the Modoc National Forest contains a lot of wonderful surprises hidden away in its mountains, valleys, and plains. It is a land of contrasts. Here, mountains and pine forest meet lava beds, desert plateaus and rugged canyons frame lakes and wetlands, and magnificent vistas are everywhere. Crowds and congestion are nonexistent within the Modoc. In these parts, they are fond of saying: "Modoc National Forest is where you can still find the West the way it was." Modoc National Forest awaits to surprise visitors with its many wonders and a long list of things to do, see and experience.

SUPERVISOR OFFICE 225 West 8th St. Alturas, California 96101 530-233-5811 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES Big Valley P.O.B. 159 Adin, California 96006 530-299-3215 Devil's Garden 225 West 8th St. Alturas, California 96101 530-233-5811 Doublehead 49870 State Hwy 139 PO Box 369 Tulelake, California 96134 530-667-2246 Warner Mountain 710 Townsend St P.O.B. 220 Cedarville, California 96104 530-279-6116

Fred and Suzi Dow