Destination for adventure: Happy Camp, Calif.
Zach Urness/Daily Courier

The Wild and Scenic Klamath River is one of the highlights of the Happy Camp, Calif. area.

Surrounded by mountains along the Klamath River, this remote outpost offers the chance to explore a stunning landscape in near solitude. Here’s a photo gallery and video. See below for places to lodge and eat.

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By Zach Urness of the Daily Courier

HAPPY CAMP, Calif. — Bigfoot sightings are common in this remote outpost tucked between the mountains guarding the Oregon-California border.

A 17-foot statue of the legendary ape-like creature towers above downtown, and there's a car wash, towing company and annual Labor Day jamboree and parade all dedicated to Sasquatch.

Those are the unassailable sightings, but for believers in a flesh-and-blood version, "There have been more Bigfoot sightings here than anywhere in the world," said Linda Martin, who operates the blog "Happy Camp is surrounded by wilderness. It's one of the only areas left where they can survive."

The town of 1,110 is more than a place to launch a search for Bigfoot, though. Happy Camp is a place to explore some of the West Coast's most beautiful scenery in near solitude.

From the Marble Mountain Wilderness to the Wild and Scenic Klamath River, the town is a jumping-off point for fishing, backpacking, rafting and any number of activities in between.

It's certainly not an easy place to reach. The route from Grants Pass requires a winding two-hour drive across the mountain on a road that's closed during winter. On the California side, Yreka is 70 miles away.

The remoteness, of course, is part of the charm. And the dusty, sun-baked town is rich not only in outdoor adventure but also in history.

The Karuk Tribe calls Happy Camp home, and its museum on Second Avenue features necklaces, baskets and redwood canoes (9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays).

Just south of town is the Dear Madam Mining Claim, a place where 80-year-old San Francisco socialite Stella Patterson found adventure in the 1940s. Her book about taming the frontier as an octogenarian, "Dear Mad'm (Women of the West)," is a local classic. (Find the site where she lived about three miles south of Clear Creek near a takeout on the Klamath River called Ferry Point.)

Though the town has struggled through the collapse of logging and mining, as well as being so far off the beaten path, it has a hard-scrabble authenticity. This is no well-polished tourist town.

The people are friendly, the accommodations are cheap — and the wilderness is across the street.

Here are a few ideas for exploring Bigfoot's backyard.


There's a prominently placed sign in town that proclaims Happy Camp the "Steelhead Capital of the World." Though it's difficult to verify such a claim, there's little doubt fishing opportunities for both fly and bait anglers abound, especially during autumn.

The prime fishing months for steelhead begin in October and continue into February. The best area is the Klamath River between China Point and Chambers Flat above Happy Camp. The area has slower water ideal for fly-anglers, who typically use egg patterns, though any number of steelhead flies can be successful. The best months for fly-fishing are October and November.

For more information talk to local guide Teeter Spence at (530) 493-2836.


The nicest part of rafting and kayaking the Happy Camp area is there are runs suitable for everyone from beginners to experts.

The easiest area is the Klamath River above Happy Camp. This section features Class I rapids, mountain scenery and about three miles of roadless wilderness. Birds, otters and even bears are often seen from the water of this family-friendly float.

The run below Happy Camp is home to more exciting Class III whitewater. The trip usually begins at Indian Creek River Access and runs seven miles to Wingate Bar, though there's plenty more thundering whitewater further downstream.

For more info on rafting the Klamath, talk to local outfitters Joe and Becca at River Country Rafting or (530) 493-2207.

For a real adventure, more intrepid boaters paddle two runs on Clear Creek. This stunning, canyoned tributary of the Klamath features a lower section (Class II-III) and upper section (Class IV-V) typically run during winter and spring.


Just 12 miles south of Happy Camp on Elk Creek Road is trailhead access to one of the most beloved backpacking destinations in California.

The Marble Mountain Wilderness was first set aside in 1931 and now contains more than 241,744 acres of high divides, deep canyons, alpine lakes and wildflower valleys. Multiday backpacking trips are best, and should include the Sky High Lakes and the gorgeous Marble Rim, which sits like a white crown atop the wilderness.

The best option for a day hike, though, is to head more west than south, into the Siskiyou Wilderness' Bear Lake area. The trailhead is at Elbow Springs, a short drive from town at the end of Forest Service Road 15N19. The trail follows a wide-open ridgeline with great views of mountains on both sides before dropping into a beautiful multicolored basin that holds Bear Lake and Lower Bear Lake. The round-trip hike is 6.5 miles.


The summers in Happy Camp are hot, averaging 90 degrees from June to September. The best way to escape the heat? Head into the mountains and explore local creeks for their numerous swimming holes. One of the most popular is called the "eddy" and can be found three miles up Elk Creek Road.

The most beautiful area to find swimming holes is Clear Creek. The drive takes you south of Happy Camp and up Clear Creek Road, where you'll follow a paved and then dirt road until you reach a sign that says "Slippery View." Hike down a very steep trail to a crystal clear pool of water between steep canyon walls.


Seek your fortune with small-time gold mining. Gold deposits are accessible for people with gold pans and sluices around Happy Camp. Click here for more information.


The best view of Happy Camp comes from above, on this 1.8-mile round-trip hike that climbs about 800 feet to a picnic bench overlooking the town. To get to the Town Trail, cross the Elk Creek Bridge to the south side of the Klamath River and continue about a mile up the road.

Where to eat, stay and find a guide in Happy Camp

StayKlamath River Resort Inn. Rent kayaks, get shuttle service and lodge along the river. Rooms from $79 (summer); $49 off-season. 61700 Highway 96., Happy Camp, 530-493-2735

Lunch and dinner: Pizza House. Hand-crafted pizza and pitchers of beer after a long day on the river. 63801 State Highway 96, Happy Camp, 530-493-5454

Breakfast: Frontier Cafe. Hearty breakfast and local feel highlights this small diner. 64118 2nd Ave., Happy Camp, 530-493-2242

Rafting outfitters: River Country Rafting. Half-day trips from $50 530-493-2207;

Fishing guide: Robert "Teeter" Spence. Steelhead fishing trips from $250 530-493-2836


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