Conifers and Views Galore
The hike I did here on May 24, 2015 was unremarkable in terms of length and elevation, but more than made up for it in terms of conifer diversity and views. The hike is on the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, and one could conceivably conceivably hike all the way to either the Canadian or Mexican borders, but this one is a little less ambitious.
The tree diversity is the most remarkable aspect of this hike. It's not surprising that over a dozen species of conifer are found on this hike because this spot is right smack dab at the junction the Mediterranean-like climate of central California, the interior continental climate of the Great Basin, and the rainy climate of the Pacific Northwest. The result are mountains that get buried in snow and drenched in rain during the winter without suffering through many hard freezes, yet bask in the California sun during the long and cloudless summer.
The trail head is on the west side of a large parking area on the west side of CA Hwy. 3 at the signed Scott Mountain Summit. Incense-cedar, ponderosa pine and Douglas fir grow in abundance in a fairly open second-growth forest as the trail heads due west from the trail head. The substrate here is rocky so well-watered meadows don't form unlike the deep valleys full of sediment that drain the Trinity Alps to the east into the Trinity River.
The trail is flat for the first half-mile, then begins a moderate ascent of 500' over a mile to the 5900' northern point on a ridge that runs higher to the southwest for about a dozen miles. The conifer diversity starts to stand out as western white pine, sugar pine with its distinctive long cones, Jeffrey pine, red fir and white fir all make their appearance. The trail takes a few long switchbacks before quickly reaching the high point. Views to the east of 6829' Scott Mountain and the deep Trinity River drainage to the southeast open up a few hundred yards below the summit.
The high point of this hike is less than a mile-and-a-half from the trail head so return the way you came unless you want to explore further (or much further) down the PCT as it continues southwest near the spine of the ridge as it climbs for about another 10 miles. The high point of this little hike has a view to the northwest of the Russian Wilderness and Marble Mountain Wilderness areas that are 2 of the wilder spots in the lower 48. In fact there is a one-square area around the Duck Lakes and Sugar Creek in the Russian Wilderness that has 17 different species of conifer. Definitely on the short list.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.