Some of Northern California’s most pristine wilderness can be found in the Marble Mountains, located between Mount Shasta City and Arcata. Sliced by majestic byways, gushing rivers and some of the kindest humans in California, this region might be known more for its Bigfoot fans and fishing than tourism, but escape to this wilderness for a weekend, or a week, and you begin to see why some say these inland peaks put even Yosemite to shame.
CA 96 is the main road that cuts through the mountains, weaving through communities like Willow Creek and Happy Camp. Veer off the main road to Scott River Road towards Etna, a one-lane paved road through 7,000 ft peaks, glacier-carved lakes and diverse wildlife. You’ll travel along the Scott River, continuing to where the Scott River Road meets CA-3; continue on CA-3 and you will see the Kingdom Hall and then you will turn right and see a miniature version of an old west town, ideal for toddlers to explore.
When you continue on to Etna, refresh from your epic drive at the famed Etna Brewing Company, where you’ll likely make friends with some people who’ve got plenty of Bigfoot stories to share. If you are not a fan of microbrews, their root beer puts most varieties to shame. And the food ain’t too shabby either.
CA-3 winds south from Etna past Trinity Lake and the Trinity Alps, famous for fishing and spectacular scenery, though be warned, you will have difficulty driving as there is so much to see.
If you are here in summer and want a roof over your head, I highly recommend booking a week at the Trinity Mountain Meadow Resort: a family camp nestled in the most remarkable stretch of wilderness.
Or if you prefer to camp, drop into the ranger station in Coffee Creek to get a free permit. Note that there is only backcountry camping, meaning you need a strong back to lug your gear into the forest, and you need to lug all your gear in, and out.
Since bears or more plentiful than people up here, and Bigfoot’s footprint has been cast up in these parts, you might want to pick up a copy of my Northern California: An Explorer’s Guide for more information.