Trinity Alps

The Trinity Alps are mountains in Northern California, located to the northwest of Redding. Elevations there range from convert|1350|ft|m|0 to convert|8994|ft|m|0|abbr=on at Thompson Peak. The Trinity Alps Wilderness covers convert|517000|acre|km2|-1, making it the second largest wilderness area in Californiacite web | title = Trinity Alps Wilderness | publisher = Orbitz Away LLC | url = | accessdate = July 17 | accessyear = 2007] .


The Trinity Alps are situated within the Klamath mountain range, which lies between the Pacific Coast Ranges and the Cascade Range, which lies further to the east. They are noted for their scenic views and alpine environment, which differ from those found in the Sierra Nevada, the Coastal Range, or the Cascades. The northern backbone of these mountains is comprised of the Salmon and Scott Mountains.

According to recent, but incorrect, USGS maps, 35 permanent bodies of snow and several tiny glaciers dot the highest peaks of the Alps. Independent study has shown that only about six of these snow/ice bodies persist through the driest years. The recent 7.5-minute topographic maps from the USGS severely overstate the area of these ice bodies; for example, none of those shown on the east side of the West Range above Canyon Creek Lakes or of Sawtooth Peak remain at the end even of half the years. The only one that is unambiguously a glacier is the 15-acre icefield on the north side of Thompson Peak, which shows crevasses indicating true motion even on so small an icefield. Research has shown that snowfields in the Trinity Alps are more resistant to the effects of global warming than are the snowfields in most other mountains studied.

On the ridge south of Sapphire Lake is an unusual phenomenon consisting of a temporary glacier, versus an inactive snowfield that melts out in dry years. Following years of heavy accumulation, an icefield appears in this fully-sheltered north-facing cirque that can show active crevasses and seracs some tens of feet high. But this ice body, at an elevation of only 7,500 feet (2,300 m) in a region experiencing a long, hot dry season from about mid May to mid October, can disappear completely during a run of drier years. The lowest snowfield in California that does not disappear except in the extreme runs of dry years is located above Mirror Lake at an elevation of 6,600 feet 2,030 m). Studies of lichen collars indicate that the site near Kalmia Lake is the snowiest spot in the State of California, receiving snow accumulation in excess of the Lake Helen snowcourse on Lassen Peak, by far the snowcourse with greatest late winter snow accumulation in California. This in turn is consistent with the fact of an active glacier under Thompson Peak, while, in contrast, no such active glacier exists under Brokeoff Mountain west of Lassen Peak, higher than Thompson Peak and presenting an ideal NNE-facing zone in the area of maximum snow accumulation beneath an almost-vertical cliff face 1,000 feet (308 m)high. Sufficient snow does accumulate under Brokeoff that in some years the snowfield there experiences incipient glacial motion. Two moraines below it, one very recent, provide clear evidence at least of mass transport in the recent past at that site. These moraines are quite a bit smaller than those found below the Thompson Peak glacieret.

This region of the Klamath Mountains is also outstanding for having the greatest number of conifers of anyplace in the world except one. Russian Peak in the Russian Wilderness just north of the Trinity Alps has the greatest number of conifer species in North America [Introduction to California Mountain Wildflowers By Philip A. Munz, Dianne Lake.] The northern species, such as alpine fir, amabilis fir, alaska yellowcedar, and englemann spruce are found here, as well as the trees from the south, such as incense cedar, ponderosa and sugar pine, plus unique populations of foxtail pine (Pinus balfouriana) and weeping spruce (Picea breweriana). The reason for so many trees existing together is that these mountains lie right between the Mediterranean climate that dominates to the south and the northwestern coastal climate, again summer dry, but with a far shorter season of drought.

The US Forest Service, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, manages the Trinity Alps Wilderness. The northern boundary extends into the Klamath National Forest. The area contains hiking trails, backcountry camping, and beautiful scenery. Most of the area is visited much less heavily than many other wilderness areas in California, such as Yosemite National Park or Kings Canyon National Park but more than the Yolla Bolly Wilderness. The most popular destinations are Canyon Creek Lakes, Emerald and Saphire Lakes on the Stuart Fork, and Granite Lake up the Swift Creek trail. The Green Trinities are mostly lower in elevation with fewer lakes, and trails there can be hot and dry in the summer. Less-visited areas include New River, Pony Buttes, and Limestone Ridge in the west, and Packers Peak, Deadman Peak, and Eagle Peak in the Scott Mountains. The Trinity Alps overlook Trinity Lake to the east. The higher lakes, Grizzly, Smith, and Mirror, lacking proper trail access, rival the most spectacular of the high lakes in the Sierra in terms of scenic values. Wilderness permits are required. The area was formerly known at the Salmon-Trinity Alps Primitive Area since 1932 until a series of expansions. The Pacific Crest Trail connects the northeast corner of the Trinity Alps to the Russian Wilderness and Marble Mountain Wilderness on the north and the Castle Crags Wilderness in the Trinity Divide to the east. Access is off state Highways 299 on the south, 3 on the east, and various old logging and mining roads on the north and west.

Geologically, the Trinity Alps consist of a mixture of Igneous Granite and Metamorphic peaks. In the eastern mountains are the Red Trinities, due to reddish ultramafic peridotite, in the central granitic batholith are the White Trinities, and in the western mountains are the Green Trinities due to more extensive forest cover. The region contains much pine and fir forest as well as meadows, creeks, and lakes. Most of the lakes have been stocked with rainbow, brown or brook trout and some have self-sustaining populations. The major streams may hold chinook salmon in limited numbers at times, and some have steelhead including rare summer steelhead. The Trinity Alps are home to much wildlife including: American Black Bear, deer, lizards, chipmunks, and a great number of bird species. The Trinity Alps is even home to a cryptozoological monster, the Trinity Alps Giant Salamander. Deer and black bear are commonly seen. Less common but present are mountain lion, pine marten, fisher and wolverine. Plant surprises by the trails in the eastern mountains include pitcher plant (darlingtonia californica) and even some ridgetop sagebrush in the Scott Mountains.


External links

* [ US Forest Service Page on Shasta-Trinity National Forest]

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