McArthur Burney Waterfall near Lassen National Park in northern California.

The Surprise Valley, Warner Mountains Outback Tour

Forward ~ Surprise Valley, Warner Mountains Outback Map.

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Be sure to check this out when making your travel plans.

Brad and I are happy to share the austere beauty of northeastern California with you: mountains, hot springs, wildlife viewing, south Warner Wilderness Area, hiking trails, equestrian trails and more in the Surprise Valley Warner Mountain Outback Tour: Travel Directions, Map and Scenery.


To see a gallery of photographs of different places mentioned in the description below, check this out.

If you've dreamed of touring renowned and majestic Steens Mountains, but find their isolation and accessibility too time consuming or otherwise problematic, you'll find the Warner Mountains and surrounding area in northeastern California a worthwhile alternative, offering little traveled mountain passes, hot springs, big sky and vistas almost surreal in peace, grace and serenity. A must if you want to unwind, leave the common and congestion behind and step into another era with all the rustic trimmings, simplicity and relaxing ambience of the genuine old west without the usual commercial facade. - bk


When leaving the retreat, turn right off Chiloquin Ridge Road onto the Sprague River Hwy. Follow the Sprague River Hwy until it connects with 140. Turn left on 140 and follow it into Lakeview. When you arrive in Lakeview turn right at the blinking yellow light you encounter when you first enter town. This is 395, and you're now heading south. You may want to drive around and view some of the old western buildings, etc. If so, just turn left on any of the side streets after Safeway. When you're ready to leave Lakeview get back on 395 and head south. You'll smell the mineral springs; Goose Lake is on your right.

Hwy 395 offers four passes over the Warners into Surprise Valley. You'll come across two of the more rugged passes not long after you cross the California Border.

Highgrade Road ~ This is the first pass you'll come to. It's at New Pine Creek. On this pass you'll find two small lakes, Lily and Cave, and abandoned mines. Highgrade Rd will bring you down into the north end of Fort Bidwell. You'll drive by the old pioneer house pictured in the website.

Hwy 395 offers four passes over the Warner Mountains into Surprise Valley. You'll come across two of the more rugged passes not long after you cross the California Border.

Highgrade Road ~ This is the first pass you'll come to. It's at New Pine Creek. On this pass you'll find two small lakes, Lily & Cave, and abandoned mines. Highgrade Rd will bring you down into the north end of Fort Bidwell. You'll drive by the old pioneer house pictured in the website.

Fandango Pass ~ The second route shown on your map. It's of better quality than Highgrade Rd. & if miles are a consideration, it's shorter. Also, the view of Surprise Valley from the summit is unsurpassed. This route comes down south of Fort Bidwell, so if you want to experience this little gem, turn left, or north, when you come down into the valley.

When you get into Ft Bidwell, which has a very relaxed atmosphere, just experiment & look around. The church is on the main drive; you'll probably want to make inroads into the town, for that's the way to truly experience this step out of time.

Some distance south, but before Lake City, you'll see evidence of nature's fury. In 1996 & 1997 it rained & it flooded. In 1997 the mountain spilled into the valley. We were there the summer of 1997. The road was washed out . Although this area is fenced off now, then we were able to walk in the catastrophe. Everywhere we looked we saw evidence of a great cataclysm that altered life for all time. Trees torn up by the roots now laying peacefully. Boulders the size of bungalows moved about as if they were Styrofoam. A house, still standing but uninhabitable, surrounded by debris from the avalanche & that includes tons of dirt ~ at that time it was mud.

In this vicinity you'll see the grand old house with deer eating in the front yard that's pictured in the website. It's on the right when you're heading south. Drive through Lake City if you like, for there are interesting homespun, antique features: an old gas station, what appears to be an old hotel now being refurbished .... When you've seen all you want continue south to Cedarville, as all the towns, north & south, are nice "hangouts" if you want to soak up the vintage architecture & relaxing ambience.

Cedarville ~ There are hot springs east of Cedarville. Although it's a motel you can soak even if you don't want to spend the night. The tubs, private, are outside; the expansive desert sky overhead & mountain vistas to the east. Turn east at the 4-way stop in Cedarville & drive about 5 miles. It's on the right.

Back in Cedarville, head south again. You'll come to Eagleville, another town of unpretentious character. The South Warner Wilderness is further south where the exploring soul can hike & camp. Further south, the mountains begin to diminish. You can go to Nevada by this route.

You have your choice of two other passes out of the valley. A forest service road will take you over the mountains just south of Cedarville. Snowdrifts can be a problem into the summer. Unless you don't want to turn around it's best to check with a reliable local source if you want to take either Highgrade Rd. the most northerly route, or this, the most southerly. Cedar Pass on Hwy 299 has been open anytime we've headed over this way. It is closed on occasion in the winter.

Whether you choose Cedar Pass or the forest service road mentioned above, both will bring you down on the west side to connect with Alturas. Alturas has some interesting buildings, the courthouse for one. If you have time, you might want to visit the wildlife refuge viewing area on the southern boundary.

When you leave Alturas head west on 299. You'll come to Canby and not long after you'll see the turn off to Klamath Falls, Hwy 139. Turn right, or north; this will bring you back into Oregon. Hwy 139 is largely uneventful until you get into Tulelake just south of the Oregon border. There you can view the Lava Beds and/or Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge, but if you do decide to do this, you'll probably need to spend the night.

If your choice is 89, and you want to head north, you can choose between 97 at Weed to take you back to the retreat in a direct fashion, or I-5 to take you north to Ashland. If your preference is Ashland, and you like the less traveled routes, get off I-5 at Yreka. It doesn't matter which exit, just exit and drive under the freeway. You'll come to a traffic signal where you have to turn north or south. This is 99, turn right and head north out of town. After you leave Yreka, you'll follow Shasta River until 99 connects with I-5. This is a spectacular route, the river, the mountains and the gorge. A wonderful old bridge crosses the gorge; you can pull off for a less cursory view if you're interested. All too soon you'll have to get back on I-5. Follow it north to Ashland/Medford to return to the retreat over 140 or go home.

Be sure to get an early start if you want to see it all. Happy Trails.

Travel Oregon and northern California while staying at Gathering Light ... a retreat located
near Crater Lake in the Klamath Basin of Oregon.

  The rogue river gorge at union creek, oregon not far from crater lake national park, one of the day tours from gathering light ... a retreat located in southern oregon, near crater lake: cabins, treehouses in the forest on the river.

Travel to Gathering Light ... a retreat from the Shasta Trinity area of northern California: Travel Directions, Map and Scenery/Hikes.

Travel Directions to the Retreat.

Day Trips, including the Surprise Valley, Outback Tour and the Rogue River Gorge at Union Creek on the Diverse Loop Tour, every day tour ofabout 100 miles from the retreat.

Little Known "Special Places" and hikes near Crater Lake and the retreat: Directions, Map and Scenery. Local Maps Introduction.


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