Horseshoe Ranch II (Cascade-Siskiyou NM) 23-Jan-2022

At about 9,100 acres (3,682 ha), Horseshoe Ranch is the largest piece of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument within California. The ranch (officially the Horseshoe Ranch Wildlife Area) was added to the Monument in 2017. We paid our first visit here late last year and enjoyed a hike up Slide Ridge and down along Scotch Creek through shrubs, oaks, and conifers. We returned today – in brilliant sunshine and unseasonable warmth – to follow another old ranch road and explore the area around Brushy Creek. We even got a California Lands Pass for this visit.

When the Monument was established in 2000, it captured a good stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail but included few other established hiking trails. We’ve done a number of hikes in the Monument, and in the adjacent Soda Mountain Wilderness, by piecing together bits of trail and old ranch roads with some cross-country travel. Horseshoe Ranch is a case in point. It too came with no established hiking trails and only a few old ranch roads in varying degrees of decrepitude. It has, however, thanks to a feral horse population, some remarkably easy to follow horse-built use trails. We exploited all of these paths for today’s foray.

We again started from the official trailhead near Iron Gate Reservoir and followed the dirt road to the big meadow east of the old spring house. We avoided two crossings of Scotch Creek by going a little ways up the hill to the east.

Up the road from the trailhead
Scotch Creek was flowing well
The meadow east of the spring house

We then connected with the fading old ranch road that ascends Scotch Creek and soon left that for yet another old road that climbs over the toe of Slide Ridge and then drops to the confluence of Slide Creek and Brushy Gulch.

On the old road over the toe of Slide Ridge
The 2018 Klamathon Fire devastated trees in this area
Over Slide Ridge
An ancient oak survived the 2018 fire (and probably many others)
Descending to Brushy Gulch
Slide Creek near its confluence with Brushy Gulch

While there were plenty of hoof prints around, we didn’t actually see any feral horses until we reached the Slide-Brushy confluence. There we chanced on a small herd of about a half dozen horses, including some young ones. The horses we’d encountered on our first hike here didn’t seem much bothered by our presence; these, however, spooked and quickly headed uphill to get away from us.

From the confluence, the old road we were following went directly up the unnamed ridge between Slide and Brushy Creeks and got less and less distinct as it did so. It was never hard to follow, it just looked less and less like a two-track as we went along.

Climbing the old road above the confluence

This old road gets progressively fainter as it climbs to its end at Point 4055. We kept going up until we got a good view of Mount Shasta to the south and then started back.

Mount Shasta
Mount Shasta
View through the oaks along the ridge
Descending toward Brushy Gulch
Crossing Slide Creek at the confluence

Once back at the Slide-Brushy confluence, we decided to return along Slide Creek rather than climb back over the toe of Slide Ridge. There is no old road along Slide Creek but we found a well-used horse trail that was almost as good as a “real” hiking trail. It mostly stayed just above the creek and we could have avoided its one creek crossing by staying on the hillside.

Following the horse trail above Slide Creek
The trail and the Slide Creek drainage
Slide Creek
Almost back to the big meadow

The horse trail took us over a slight rise and dropped us on Scotch Creek across from the big meadow. Getting across this creek – which is pretty deep here – was a challenge and some wetness ensued. But we were soon on the big meadow and then on the old road back to the trailhead.

On the big meadow
Basalt column

This exploration of Horseshoe Ranch came to 7.6 miles (12.2 km) round-trip with 1,140 feet (347 m) of elevation gain. This northwestern area of the ranch is gently sloping, wide-open terrain that is relatively easy to cross even without the aid of an old road. Its currently open character may be due, in part, to the ill effects 😥 of the Klamathon fire. The ranch’s highpoint (Point 4334) is up here, which suggests the need for another visit – perhaps during the April to May wildflower season. 🙂 In years past, the oaks on the ranch were known for their big displays of Fall colors. Many of these trees were impacted by the 2018 fire, so yet another visit later in the year may be necessary to see how the Fall color display is holding-up. 😉

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4 thoughts on “Horseshoe Ranch II (Cascade-Siskiyou NM) 23-Jan-2022

  1. Horseshoe Ranch is widely scenic today but we were wondering what it looked like before the Klamathon Fire. Fortunately, the fire spared several large patches of forest and many of the creek bottoms, so we’ll still be able to see some Fall colors later in the year. And, yes, there are times when we too favor the outside over people…

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  2. I lived in Mt. Shasta from 2012 to 2015. I can easily imagine myself standing in the middle of these images and feel the same feelings of awe and gratitude for it’s majestic beauty. I don’t miss the people but I sure do miss the environment.

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  3. I’ll send a copy of the gpx file for this hike to your email. Horseshoe is on state property and Agate Flat is on BLM land, but the land in between is private. I WOULD NOT recommend crossing private land in this area. To stay on public lands, you’d have to go up Scotch Creek on a faded old road, go cross-country over Point 3323, across Camp Creek, and up to an old road near Salt Creek. This old road might get you to Agate Flat. About 14 miles round-trip. It would be (slightly) easier to hike to Agate Flat from Randcore Pass – all on public land.

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  4. Thanks for posting. Interesting area. I appreciated your previous track, do you have a track for this trek? I see an old road on my map from horseshoe to agate flat, about 5 miles that may be interesting to explore.

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