The South Kelsey National Recreation trail makes for a pawfect backpacking trip for those seeking solitude and diverse scenery. This Northern California gem runs for seventeen miles in the Smith River National Recreation Area and then a further twelve in Klamath National Forest. You’ll find a trailhead on FS-15N39 near Steven Bridge, as well as parking, but keep in mind that capacity is limited. Dispersed camping is permitted along the trail, so you and your pooch can pitch your tent wherever your heart desires, but you’ll need to get a campfire permit from the rangers at Gasquet. The trail isn’t as popular as it should be, so if you and your buddy are looking to get lost in the wilderness, look no fur-ther!
Hound dog history buffs and outdoorsy pooches alike should get a lot out of a trip down the South Kelsey Trail! An old mining route, the trail begins on the South Fork of the Smith River between Horse and Buck Creek, passing smaller streams, crystal clear pools and waterfalls along the route. After eight miles, the path ascends sharply and climbs for a further five miles towards the San Gabriel Mountains and Baldy Peak. The inclines vary from the steep to the truly punishing, but if you and your buddy are athletic enough animals, it’s well worth the workout! The views over the forest and the Pacific Ocean need to be seen to be believed.
By now you might have gathered that the South Kelsey NRT isn’t exactly beginner-friendly -- aside from the mountainous Baldy Peak section, the stretch after Harrington Creek features some treacherous terrain. While there are some snakes in the area, sightings aren’t common, and the small population of black bears seems to be the shy, retiring type. In terms of facilities, you and your pooch will need to "ruff" it a bit -- there aren’t any restrooms or water fountains along the route. Be sure to bring enough waste bags, water, and other provisions with you, and enjoy all the South Kelsey NRT has to offer!