The Antelope Creek Trail leaves the McClure Trailhead to travel through the Sierra volcanic canyon country of Lassen National Forest. Backpack or day hike past wildflowers and meadows and along the tumbling clear water of North Fork Antelope Creek.
This journey holds a variety of visceral delights year-round, but if you can, hike in April and May when a thick rainbow of wildflowers clothes the hillsides and valleys, perfectly complementing the sweep of broad lava-rock canyon and the tumbling waters of Antelope Creek. This is one of the sweetest spring backpacking trips in Northern California: you can do part of the hike in one day, but it’s best to spend at least one night out here to fully appreciate the area’s ambiance. Wear pants to help fend off poison oak; consider wearing boots for better traction in muddy areas. FYI: you’ll also see some evidence of past wildfires.
Antelope Creek Trail Key Data
Length: 12.0 miles round trip
Hiking time: 8 hours day hike or 2 days or more backpacking trip
High point: 3,038 feet
Total elevation gain: 1,850 feet
Difficulty: moderate to strenuous
Season: mid-April through mid-November; weather permitting in winter; can be quite hot in summer
Water: available from Antelope Creek; purify first
Maps: USGS 7.5′ Finley Butte, USGS 7.5′ Panther Spring, USGS 7.5′ Dewitt Peak
Wilderness Permit: none required
Nearest campground: Battle Creek Campground
Information: Almanor Ranger District, Lassen National Forest
Antelope Creek Trail / McClure Trailhead GPS coordinates: N 40 16.602 W 121 50.732
Notes: dogs allowed
Campfires: If you’re backpacking, get your free California Campfire Permit
Driving Directions to the Antelope Creek/McClure Trailhead
Take CA Highway 36 to the small hamlet of Paynes Creek, go south on Paynes Creek Road for 0.3 mile, then turn right onto Plum Creek Road. Follow this paved road 7.2 miles, then turn right onto dirt High Trestle Road. Go 2.5 miles and park in the large open area (the McClure Trailhead) just beyond Hogback Road.
High Trestle Peak Vista
Before beginning the hike, give your legs and lungs a good workout by climbing High Trestle Peak on the east side of the parking area. A steep dirt road (which eventually turns into a narrow path) climbs 0.2 mile through mixed forest to the summit. Here you’ll have the most far-ranging vista of the entire trek. The Trinities and Mount Shasta lie north, as do the Medicine Lake highlands, Magee Peak, Lassen Peak, and Brokeoff Mountain. To the west, the hills slope down to the Sacramento Valley, which eventually gives way to the distant peaks of the Coast Range. To the south, you’ll see the North Fork Antelope Creek canyon, with farther mountains and canyons stretching south and east, including Mill Creek Canyon and the Ishi Wilderness.
Exploring Antelope Creek Canyon by Trail
Back at the parking area and the McClure Trailhead, follow the dirt road downhill, staying straight along the seasonal creek when the road turns left and up, then descending on trail (1E01) past chaparral and a variety of oaks. Cross a seasonal stream at 0.6 mile, then traverse an open slope studded with blue oaks that offers excellent views of the canyon rim. Cross another seasonal stream that’s shaded by buckeyes and canyon live oaks at 1.6 miles, then continue slightly downhill to where the path levels in a meadow at 1.7 miles.
McClure Place Side Trip
The meadow holds an unsigned trail fork. The main way heads downhill to the right. (However, the left-hand trail makes an interesting side trip. It climbs 200 yards to McClure Place, an old ranching spot with fence posts, rock walls, and other human artifacts still in abundance–do not disturb them).
Back on the Antelope Creek Trail
Go 100 feet past the sign for McClure Place and then cross the small creek to skirt the south edge of the spring-fed meadow 200 yards to a saddle. Head down and to the right across an open slope for 100 yards, then walk straight down a steep and grassy hillside to the banks of the North Fork Antelope Creek. Here you’ll find two campsites nestled near the stream’s cool and shaded waters. The flow of the creek, both here and farther downstream, is too fast to permit swimming.
The main path parallels a seasonal stream and then runs along an open, flower-filled hillside at 2.3 miles that allows good views of the canyon rim to the south. The path undulates as it travels past muddy areas and then descends to the first good, level camping areas by the North Fork Antelope Creek at 3.3 miles.
Continue up, along, and down the slope on the north side of the creek as you ramble through open oak forest and beside the beautiful stream’s alder-bordered banks, passing more campsites. You’ll eventually come to the confluence of the north and south forks of Antelope Creek, and then encounter a stream crossing that can be very difficult during peak flow periods in winter and spring. Reach the hike’s official end at a barbed-wire fence and the border of the Tehama Wildlife Area at 6.0 miles.
More Nearby Lassen National Forest Trails
are in my book Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions. It has dozens of nearby hikes in Lassen National Forest, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and the Red Bluff/Redding area.
Driving Hogsback Road in Tehama Wildlife Area
You may be tempted to drive Hogsback Road from the trailhead down through Tehama Wildlife Area (info and map here) to its meeting with US Highway 99 near Red Bluff. Be aware that the condition of Hogsback Road becomes progressively worse, and you will definitely need a high-clearance vehicle. I did it in my Subaru Outback and it was a slow and harrowing experience. I was fortunate I didn’t damage my car. I stopped and got out at least a dozen times to try to figure out the least dangerous route through the hairier spots.
However, the lower/westernmost portion of Hogsback Road near Highway 99 is easy to drive. If you come from that direction you’ll quickly get to gorgeous views of the lower Antelope Creek canyon.
Your Take: Antelope Creek Trail
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