Wilderness Areas

Image of a lake with a ridge in the background reflected on the surface of the lake     

Photo copyrighted, used by permission of Deems Burton

Wilderness and COVID-19

Social distancing has become the new norm for 2020, even when you are on a wilderness trail. 

Please follow #RecreateResponsibly guidelines for protecting yourself, others, and Wilderness Areas during the pandemic.

The Wilderness Act

In 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131) into law. This piece of legislation, nearly 40 years in the making, designated areas of federal land which were defined as:

"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."

Today, The National Wilderness Preservation System comprises over 111 million acres managed under the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wilderness.net, a web site jointly managed by the University of Montana and the four federal agencies that manage Wilderness, has more in depth information about Wilderness philosophy and history.

Wilderness Areas

The Klamath National Forest manages parts of four different Wilderness areas. The following links will take you to further information about these areas.

   Marble Mountain Wilderness

   Russian Wilderness

   Siskiyou Wilderness

   Trinity Alps Wilderness

Wilderness Recreation

There are many different recreational opportunities in the Wilderness areas the Klamath National Forest manages. Backpacking, camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, and wildlife viewing are popular activities.  Many of these activities are also available on non-Wilderness lands.  Permitted outfitters and guides provide a range of services in our Wilderness areas.

Wilderness Ethics

You can help preserve the Wilderness resource for future generations. Together we can prevent the human impacts that can degrade wilderness resources as well as detract from other visitor's wilderness experience.  Many places in our Wilderness areas show signs of heavy or improper use.  These special places can be delicate and slow to recover due to late snow melt, short growing seasons, and limited nutrient flow.  We must all share in the responsibility of protecting these unique and fragile resources. Following a series of low-impact camping principles known as Leave No Trace (LNT) that can help visitors prevent impacts.


To see a black bear in its natural, wild setting is a rare experience to cherish.  While you may not always get to see a bear, you have the opportunity to protect bears' lives during your visit.  Bears easily become dependent on human food and can become a nuisance in our Wilderness areas.  You can help keep bears wild and alive by storing your food in a bear canister or bear resistant pannier, or by properly hanging your food. The sierrawild.gov website contains excellent information on visiting bear country and storing your food properly.

Grazing in Wilderness

There are places in our Wilderness areas where you may encounter cattle from mid-July through mid-October.  Historic use of Wilderness mountain meadow areas for livestock grazing dates back to pioneer days in Siskiyou County.  The tradition pre-dates the establishment of the Klamath National Forest in 1905 and the creation of the Marble Mountain, Red Buttes, Russian, Siskiyou, and Trinity Alps Wilderness areas. The 1964 Wilderness Act states "the grazing of livestock, where established prior to the effective date of this Act, shall be permitted to continue subject to such reasonable regulations as are deemed necessary by the Secretary of Agriculture."  The Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. § 1131 (4) (d) (4))

Today, livestock grazing in Wilderness is guided by the Forest Land and Resource Management Plan.  It is administered through grazing permits which specify numbers of livestock and season of use, as well as resource protection measures to maintain rangeland health.  Livestock are not turned out until the range is ready for grazing.  Throughout the grazing season cows are moved so they do not stay in any one place for extended periods.

If you would prefer not to encounter cattle, there are many places within our Wilderness areas where livestock grazing allotments are not established. The Grazing Allotment map will display areas where you could meet livestock. Contact range managers on the Salmon River/Scott River Ranger Districts, they may be able to provide more information about when and where cattle are grazing in our Wilderness areas.

Wilderness Stewardship

The Klamath National Forest manages the designated Wilderness within its borders to preserve natural conditions. These areas are managed to provide recreational, scenic, scientific, and educational opportunities, in addition to preserving these lands as Wilderness.

You can help in this area by volunteering.  The Klamath National Forest has volunteer opportunities in Wilderness and trails.  You can find them by going to Volunteer.gov and searching for "Klamath". The Student Conservation Association, The California Conservation Corps Backcountry Trails Program, Pacific Crest Trail Association, and Back Country Horsemen also partner with the Klamath National Forest in managing our Wilderness areas and provide internships and volunteer positions.