Devil's Garden Ranger District

Area Status: Open
A view of Big Sage Reservoir from the shoreline.

The Devil's Garden Ranger District lies in the heart of the Modoc Plateau. The Modoc Plateau is a mile-high expanse of lava flows with cinder cones, juniper flats, pine forests, and seasonal lakes. The plateau is thought to have been formed approximately 25 million years ago. The name Devil's Garden was given to the area when the first European settlers traveled to this region in the 1800's. In contrast, the Native people called the area, "The Smiles of Gods".

In the spring, after the snow melt, the rocky Devil's Garden produces a veritable carpet of wild pink pansies, pink and red owl clover, yellow primroses and pink shooting stars. Purple lupine, yellow mules ear and the shiny green leaves of manzanita complete the rainbow of color that lasts well into the summer.

The Devil's Garden lies directly under the Pacific Flyway. During their migration from Alaska and Canada to Mexico, hundreds of thousands of waterfowl use the wetlands as rest stops. The Garden is also shared by Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, wild horses and pronghorn antelope. Several of the reservoirs on the district are stocked by the California Dept of Fish and Game with bass or trout.

Four of the 5 developed campgrounds on the Devil's Garden charge no fees for camping, day use or boat launching. Even so, these facilities rarely fill to capacity and are considered the perfect getaway by the few who venture there.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: 6/10/2022: All areas open.
Operated By: US Forest Service

General Information

Directions: The Warner Mountain and Devil's Garden Ranger Stations are co-located with the Forest Supervisor's Office at 800 West 12th Street/Hwy 299 in Alturas.


Campground Camping

Areas for Campground Camping at Devil's Garden Ranger District

RV Camping

Areas for RV Camping at Devil's Garden Ranger District

Dispersed Camping

Camping on the Modoc is not limited to developed campgrounds. Most of the forest is open to those who prefer the quiet and solitude of a completely undeveloped setting. This type of camping is called Dispersed Camping. Please choose a camping spot where you will leave a minimal impact.

• Always plan ahead for accumulation and storage of your garbage and take it with you when you leave. Never burn or bury garbage in the forest.
• Likewise, it is your responsibility to manage human waste. There are many commercial products on the market to deal with human waste. If you must bury it, be sure to dig a hole at least 6 inches or more down into soil and stay at least 100 feet away from any river, lake, stream, spring or trail. Never bury toilet paper or sanitary products. Animals will dig it up and scatter it around the area.
• Never damage trees or vegetation to create a campsite. Do not dig trenches or build tent platforms.
• A current California Campfire Permit is required to use a camp stove, barbecue or have a campfire outside of developed areas. Local fire restrictions supersede the campfire permit. Inquire at the Ranger Station before having a fire.
• You may disperse camp in any one location for 14 days and you may stay a total of 30 days per year on the forest. When you go home, leave the forest the way you found it or better for the enjoyment of the next visitor.  For additional information on dispersed camping please see Dispersed Camping Ethics in our Learning Center.

Day Hiking

Areas for Day Hiking at Devil's Garden Ranger District

Viewing Wildlife

Wildlife abounds on this district. A high volcanic plateau, the Devil's Garden is an expansive prehistoric lava flow with sparse vegetation, rough broken lava rock, juniper trees and sagebrush flats. The area is a semi-arid region of about a half-million acres. The southern half of the area is dry most of the year. In the spring vernal pools and rocky areas fill with water forming thousands of ponds and lakes. Farther north, the dryness give way to conifer forests and the garden is home to mule deer and federally protected wild horses that share the resources with privately owned cattle. Visit our page with tips for watching wildlife.

Species The Devil's Garden Ranger District is home to several herds of federally protected Wild Horses. Bird watchers enjoy a large variety of resident and migratory birds including the Sage Grouse, Bald and Golden Eagles, many song birds and raptors. Each year the district hosts migrating mule deer from the Oregon-California mule deer herds.
Special Feature Click here for tips and information to make your wildlife watching more productive.

Areas for Viewing Wildlife at Devil's Garden Ranger District

Viewing Plants

Viewing Scenery


Scenic Driving

Driving on the Devil's Garden, visitors are treated to distant vistas of mountains, exciting encounters with wildlife, brilliant springtime displays of wildflowers and recreation opportunities on lakes both big and small. 

A forest map is a must.  Some roads require high clearance vehicles or 4 WD.  Never drive through sections of wet muddy roads as this can make deep ruts that may damage other vehicles.  Cell phone coverage is not be possible from many locations and help may be days in coming.  Be prepared for any type of weather and operate your vehicle only on roads for which it was designed.

Areas for Scenic Driving at Devil's Garden Ranger District

Boating - Motorized

There are many lakes and reservoirs affording boating opportunities on the Devil's Garden.  Facilities are limited.  On larger lakes you may find a paved or gravel launch ramp.  On the smaller lakes the launch facilities may be merely a dirt area to back up to the shoreline. 

The forest does not patrol on the surface of any of the lakes.  If you have engine trouble or hit a submerged object you should be prepared to paddle to the nearest shoreline and walk back to your vehicle.  Cell phone coverage is not always reliable in many parts of the Garden.

In the event of high winds boaters are advised to seek shelter on the nearest shoreline.  Do not attempt to cross large stretches of water during times of high winds and white caps.

Areas for Boating - Motorized at Devil's Garden Ranger District

Boating - Non-Motorized

Areas for Boating - Non-Motorized at Devil's Garden Ranger District


XC Skiing/Snowshoeing

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities