The Trinity Alps are mountains in Northern California, in the Pacific Coast Ranges physiographic region, located to the northwest of Redding. Elevations there range from 1,350 feet (411 m) to 9,001 ft (2,744 m) at Thompson Peak. The Trinity Alps Wilderness covers 517,000 acres (2,090 km2), making it the second largest wilderness area in California. The area was formerly known as the Salmon-Trinity Alps Primitive Area since 1932 until a series of expansions. The Trinity Alps are situated within the Klamath Mountains Range, which lies between the Pacific Coast Ranges to the west and the Cascade Range further to the east. The Trinity Alps are noted for their scenic views and Alpine environment, which differ from those found in the Sierra Nevada, the Coastal Range, or the Cascades. The northern backbone of these mountains is the Salmon and Scott Mountains.
On the ridge south of Sapphire Lake is an unusual phenomenon consisting of a temporary glacier, versus an inactive snowfield that melts out in dry years. Following years of heavy accumulation, an icefield appears in this fully sheltered north-facing cirque that can show active crevasses and seracs some tens of feet high. But this ice body, at an elevation of only 7,500 ft (2,300 m) in a region experiencing a long, hot dry season from about mid May to mid October, can disappear completely during a run of drier years. The lowest snowfield in California that does not disappear except in the extreme runs of dry years is located above Mirror Lake at an elevation of 6,600 ft (2,000 m).
This region of the Klamath Mountains is also outstanding for having the greatest number of conifers of any place in the World except one. Russian Peak in the Russian Wilderness just north of the Trinity Alps has the greatest number of conifer species in North America. The northern species, such as subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis), and Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmannii) are found here, as well as the trees from the south, such as incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), and white fir (Abies concolor), plus unique populations of foxtail pine (Pinus balfouriana) and weeping spruce (Picea breweriana).
Most of the lakes have been stocked with Rainbow, brown or brook trout, and some have self-sustaining populations. The major streams of the North Fork Trinity River and New River watersheds have spawning chinook salmon, and some have steelhead including rare summer steelhead. The Trinity Alps are home to much wildlife including: American black bear, blacktailed deer, lizards, chipmunks, and a great number of bird species. Deer and black bear are commonly seen. Less common but present are mountain lion, pine marten, fisher, and wolverine. California newts are commonly found in ponds and lakes. The Trinity Alps may be home to a cryptozoological phenomenon, the Trinity Alps Giant Salamander.
The US Forest Service, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, manages most of the Trinity Alps Wilderness. The northern boundary extends into the Klamath National Forest, and the western boundary extends into the Six Rivers National Forest. There are also private inholdings, especially in the eastern portions. The wilderness contains hiking trails, backcountry camping, and beautiful scenery. Access is off state Highways 299 on the south, 3 on the east, and various old logging and mining roads on the north and west. Most of the area is visited much less heavily than many other wilderness areas in California, such as in Yosemite National Park or Kings Canyon National Park but more heavily than the nearby Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness.
The most popular destinations beyond the trailheads are Canyon Creek Lakes, Emerald and Sapphire Lakes on the Stuart Fork, and Granite Lake up the Swift Creek trail. The western ridges are mostly lower in elevation with fewer lakes, and ridgetop trails there can be hot and dry in the summer. Less-visited areas include New River, Salmon Mountain, Horse Linto Creek, Pony Buttes, and Limestone Ridge in the west, and Packers Peak, Deadman Peak, and Eagle Peak in the Scott Mountains.
Elevation: 2,726 m (8,944 ft)