Track download from Randy: Horseshoe Ranch Wildlife Area 4-17-23.gpx
The late winter eased enough for us to finally take a new hike to Horseshoe Ranch Wildlife Area in Siskiyou County, CA.
Eleven of us gathered at Rite Aid, including Tony who had recommended this hike to us back in 2021.
It's a relatively short drive down I-5 to the Hornbrook exit 789, then 12+ miles east on Copco Road to a left at the HRWA sign. It's a pretty drive out to the ranch, first along the Klamath River, then above the shore of Irongate Reservoir.
The vast HRWA is 9,100 acres and the only part of the Cascade Siskiyou Monument which is in California. It was added to the existing monument in 2017.
The trailhead entrance is on a dirt road that quickly takes you to a parking area with space for about six vehicles.
We put our California Lands Pass for each car on the dash so it could be seen through the windshield ($5.40 each). Note: the TH is the only marked entrance into the HRWA, but many different hikes can be planned from that entrance when the creeks are at a crossable level ( good for hiking in Fall, Winter and Spring...probably too hot in Summer).
The old road continues past a green locked gate, and rises steadily into the hiking area next to Scotch Creek running below.
The rocky canyon walls rise up on both sides and feature Basalt columns with their vertical fissures that can in season emit ground water to feed wild plant life.
The HRWA has rolling to steep hills with lush green meadows between the hills.
We followed Scotch Creek up through the canyon and into the open expanse of meadow lands. The creek took a right turn about a mile in and we continued up until we made another right turn into a saddle area and up a draw. Eventually, we found a moderate hill to climb for our lunch spot and to view the "mane event", herds of feral horses moving through the meadows below. The horses, although wild, seemed calm and perhaps somewhat desensitized to human contact. Still it's best to keep your distance.
After lunch, we made our way down off the hill and crossed over to another creek trail that led to a small waterfall in another canyon. It was there that we had our closest contact with horse families with several yearlings.
Later, driving on Copco Road, we saw a mama horse and perhaps a month old foal with white spots on its hind quarters like a newborn fawn.
Walking back to the cars we noticed early spring flowers growing out of the cracks in the Basalt; and way up in a snag we spotted a large nest with an infant white Osprey poking its head out to have a look down at us!
On this first exploration of the HRWA the Monday AHG did 4 miles with 600' of gain.
It was a very special day that could be enjoyed by all our hiking groups.