A mountain fastness locked away deep in the penetralia of northern California’s Klamath Mountains; the Trinity Alps are a mysterious alpine paradise that offers up some of the western United States’ most spectacular, rugged and wild terrain. From unusual red peaks to vast stands of virgin timber to jagged granite turrets, the Trinity Alps are at once reminiscent of the more well known regions like the Sierra Nevada, yet are distinctly unique, with incomparable spectacles. Indeed, this is one of the great American wilderness regions. Few places offer such limitless vistas, spectacular peaks, rugged landscapes, varieties of terrain and biodiversity and sense of vastness as the Trinities. Yet, despite the superlatives, the Trinity Alps receive relatively few visitors. It is not unusual to arrive at one of the more popular destinations in the Trinities and find no one present. The unsung back country is isolation personified. However, whatever intangible qualities the Trinity Alps may have to recommend them, it is the alpine scenery, the ever seductive combination of conifer and meadow, rock and ice and the serene, frightening siren of falling water that will define the Trinities.
Variety is one of the outstanding features of the Trinity Alps. This is manifest in both the geology as well as the flora and fauna. In geologic terms, the range is usually divided into three regions: the Green Trinities, the White Trinities and the Red Trinities. This reflects the varying rock composition in different regions of the wilderness. The plant life also displays stunning variety. 20 species of conifers are documented in the area. This is demonstrated in the small Russian Wilderness, just north of the Trinity Alps, where 17 different species of conifers have been observed in one acre. This is more than anywhere else in the world. Animal life is also diverse. Rare creatures such as the wolverine have been sighted in the Trinities. Trinity County, where most of the Trinity Alps is located, is among the highest in Bigfoot sightings. The mountains here are so rugged and lightly traveled that it is easy to see a creature like the sasquatch living there unnoticed, if one did exist.
The Trinity Alps is a vast wilderness, encompassing 525,627 acres over parts of three national forests. Little is visible from roads. In truth, a very small part of the wilderness is practically explored on day hikes. The Trinities are a backpacker’s wilderness, with over 600 miles of trail. One must penetrate deep into the range and spend several nights in the backcountry to experience the sights these mountains have to offer. One could spends months on the trail and not expend all the trip possibilities available. It should also be noted that, in spite of the abundance of trails, this land is truly wild. Only two peaks in the high eastern half of the range have “maintained” trails to the top and there are numerous “scrambles” (routes so rugged or precipitous the Forest Service refuses to officially recognize it as a trail). Indeed, it is the mystery of mountains seldom seen that is not an insignificant part of the Trinity Alps allure.