Special Places

Botanical Areas


  • Tread lightly and avoid walking on erodible areas.
  • Don’t pick flowers, collect plants, or disturb vegetation. Many of the plant species are rare and endangered.
  • Pack out what you pack in.
  • Do not use pack animals.

North Fork Smith River - 31,331 acres

A special place harboring many rare plants and communities, this “crown jewel” of the botanical areas contains a majority of the North Fork’s pristine watershed. The North Fork and all its tributaries dissect the rugged landscape that contributes to the diversity found in this area. Jeffrey pine woodlands occupy the ridges along with fire-adapted lodgepole and knobcone pine stands. Along the drainages, ribbons of the lacey Port Orford cedar and western azalea add a delicate touch to the landscape. Most of the area is underlain by serpentine soils that are high in metals, low in nutrients, and therefore toxic to most plants. Those plants that thrive in these soils have developed certain adaptations to be able to cope with this seemingly harsh environment. Many of the rare plants in this national forest find a home on these serpentine sites.

Horse Mountain - 1,077 acres

Sculpted Jeffrey pines, commanding views of the snow-capped Trinity Alps to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, and remnants of early copper mining activities paint the picture of Horse Mountain. The forests are very open and tree growth is stunted due to the very harsh growing conditions characteristic of serpentine soils. The lush Port Orford cedar communities offer a dramatic contrast to the otherwise stark nature of this landscape. During spring, delicate fawn lilies emerge while the succulent stonecrops and mat-forming evergreen appear in the heart of the summer on harsh, rocky sites common throughout the area.

Broken Rib - 7,138 acres

This area offers a view of numerous prominent peaks: Broken Rib Mountain, Wounded Knee Mountain, Haystack Peak and Sanger Peak. The southern border is adjacent to the Siskiyou Wilderness that is adjacent to the northeastern border of the Bear Basin Butte Botanical Area. The location of these areas to one another creates a continuous coniferous forest that contains an unusually high concentration of conifer species. Why plants are where they are in Broken Rib is determined primarily by different underlying geology and the pattern of wildfire. Given the complex pattern of geology and disturbance, one can see many groupings of plants or plant communities, such as red fir and Jeffrey pine.

Bear Basin Butte - 8,764 acres

Atop Bear Basin Butte one can see for miles in all directions. Bound by rivers and wilderness, it is known for its richness of conifers. Red fir, Jeffrey pine, mountain hemlock, white fir and Douglas fir are just a few of the fourteen conifer species within the botanical area. Of special note is the presence of Brewer’s spruce and Alaska yellow cedar, both conifer relics from a time when these species were more widespread. Wildflowers enrich the open meadows and rock faces with color: the pink lewisias, golden lilies and cream-colored lady’s slippers. Port Orford cedar and western azalea follow the path of the numerous streams that pass through the area.

Lassics - 3,640 acres

From a distance, Black Lassic, standing at 5,900 feet in elevation, looks like an extinct volcano, but it is actually composed of fragments of black mudstone and sandstone. Black Lassic peak is one of the many dramatic features of this botanical area. The distinctive geology contributes to its moonscape appearance. Given the distinct combination of geologic material found in the area, the Lassics are also designated as a Geologic Area. The Lassics are characterized by Jeffrey pine woodland, chaparral vegetation, serpentine barrens, seasonal wetland habitats, endemic plants and extraordinary views. At a glance, one might not expect to find much plant life within this harsh environment, but the color of life among the rocks and pebbles will surprise you: the violet-flowered onions, the golden fawn lily, the burgundy lupine, and the purple penstemon.

Myrtle Creek

Representing a “slice of life” between redwood and mixed evergreen forests, Myrtle Creek rests on a boundary between two major soil types that differ in their effects on the vegetation. Species that can be found in both the coastal and interior environment occur here: for example, tanoak representing interior communities, and redwood representing coastal communities. A two-mile self-guided interpretive trail runs along an old mining ditch that takes you out of the shady redwood forest into a very open and sparse knobcone pine forest. The sound of rippling water meets your ear as you meander along the path. Port Orford cedar and red alder woodlands shade the waters of Myrtle Creek below. Seep areas, easily viewed from the trail, support the striking California pitcher plant and the delicate five-finger fern.