The South Kelsey Trail was first designated as a National Recreation Trail in 1979, but was used by early miners between 1855-1880 as a route between Crescent City and Fort Jones and other inland mines in the Klamath River region and Yreka. Along with the Old Kelsey Trail, the South Kelsey is a key portion of the Coast to Crest Trail route (and also the Bigfoot Trail) which connects the Coastal Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail. Read more on the Smith River Alliance website.
Over the past few years, the Bigfoot Trail Alliance, Siskiyou Mountain Club, and Del Norte Trail Alliance have all played major roles in rehabilitating this route. SMC has led several trips through the area logging out and brushing the trail. Joe Gillespe of the Del Norte Trail Alliance has coordinated and joined those trips as well as planned and executed work trips and spike-camps on the Kelsey Trail.
This October, it was BFTA’s turn. This section of trail is now enjoyable to walk for the first time in many years thanks to these collaborative efforts.
In 2019, the Bigfoot Trail Alliance received a Rose Foundation grant to fund work on the Kelsey Trail. We recruited 12 graduate CCC Backcountry Corpsmembers through a letter writing campaign. Once the letters were received, we sent letters back to the corpsmembers notifying them that they had been accepted into the program. What an amazing group of young adults! The crew was lead and supported by Dennis Houghton, Joe Gillespie, Petr Fleischmann, Michael Kauffmann, and Terri Vroman-Little. Work was focused on supporting what was done earlier in the summer by the Siskiyou Mountain Club, so the tools of choice were McLeods and Pulaskis. We did a lot of tread work while moving and removing rocks.
The crew worked incredibly hard, even through an early season storm that left everyone soaked at the end of days two and three. Everyone who had not been to the Siskiyou Wilderness fell in love with the area and vowed to some day return and re-hike the Kelsey Trail.
We at the Bigfoot Trail Alliance are extremely thankful for all the partners involved in the project. The Six Rivers National Forest and Smith River NRA staff have been extremely helpful in their support for this work. The Siskiyou Mountain Club’s crews are outstanding — if not for their work then this trail would still be inaccessible from all the brush and downed trees. Lastly, Joe Gillespie is an amazing steward for this wild trail. He has worked tirelessly in its rehabilitation. Thanks so much to everyone involved — get out and hike it!