Gazelle to Callahan
25 Miles - LENGTH
Mountain Climb, Hairpins, Gentle - CURVES
Interstate 5 to Hwy 3 at Callahan - CONNECTS
Yreka, Grenada - GAS
Quick Ride: Deserted low mountain pass connecting to the Trinity Alps Wilderness with excellent pavement and stunning scenery, quick connector any motorcyclist will enjoy.
Gazelle Summit, el 4921
The exchange went something like this. Gazelle Callahan Rd, you ask? Heads up and over the range just south of Yreka. You should try that out. You're headed south. Never know. You motorcyclists are funny people. Pick something off the map, head over that-a-way. The ride, not the destination, they say.
Northern California is full of roads like this. Picture the up-and-over, the point A to B. Just get me over the range, a shortcut. So not knowing what to expect, we set off with tanks full of spit and polish, ready for our daily dose of adventure. What to expect is an easy affair, just an up-and-over. But then again, you might just look past the obvious and dive into the realm of the motorcycle mind.
You'll find Gazelle Callahan Rd quite convenient, adjacent to Interstate 5 and 18 miles south of Yreka. If you are based in Yreka, it's possible to stay off the interstate and ride the frontage road - Old Highway 99 to get there. Think the original road.
Ride south out of Yreka on Hwy 3 (aka Fort Jones Rd), and turn south on Westside Rd. The road changes names a few times, but essentially, it's an easy ride at a much slower pace of life than the interstate a few feet away. You'll even find yourself on Easy St. for a few feet.
If you have a hobby of riding all roads with the word, Old, in them, we’ve got one for you. In a gentle left, continuing straight puts you on Old Westside Rd, a somewhat descriptive title before terms like 'Road Straightening' were created.
This is the original road that stays a bit closer to the range to the west, and is lined with farms. Hay is predominantly grown in this region, with massive irrigation rigs creating broad circles of green. At the right time of year, the smell of the fresh cut alfalfa is divine.
Continue riding past the turnoff for Grenada (gas), and reach Gazelle, population 130, 18 miles later. Nothing more than a tiny collection of homes, there is not much to take in while in Gazelle. No gas here, the Texaco back at Grenada was your last chance. What Old Hwy 99 does have going for it though is that ever-present view of Mt Shasta. At over 14,000 feet, this imposing monolith is the gem of Northern California rising off the Central Valley floor 14,179 feet, the 5th highest peak in California.
Mt Shasta is unique in California for its lone placement on relatively flat ground. You can view it from almost any direction, all 360 degrees, and it's visible from a vast portion of Northern California. Even as far as Mt Diablo in the Bay Area.
Mt Shasta is a stratovolcano type of mountain, has 7 permanent glaciers and last erupted 200 years ago. Seeing how it's been erupting on average every 600 years, only 400 more to go before it blows its top. In a word- it's breathtaking. Pictures don't do it justice in the least and depending on the air quality, it’s hazily obscured or bright and imposing, its size seems out of sync, difficult to process. The best photo is right as you leave Yreka headed south.
Leaving the interstate behind, Gazelle-Callahan Rd makes its way across irrigated fields of green along Willow Creek to the nearby Scarface Ridgeline. With wheels churning and eyes gone wild, the range looms directly ahead, growing ever larger. And yes, at left that's water that spans the road - Spring rains can produce flooding such as this.
But then again, hike up your boots, ride on through the water, make the 90-degree turn and head for the mountains. You're about to ride out of the Central Valley, and into the Trinity Alps, a range that spans northwestern California. Deeper on through the valley, the ride weaves and undulates a bit, a teaser of the curves ahead.
The road begins to switchback up the range, with the Scott Mountains framing the view to the south. Nearby China Mountain reaches lofty heights of 8542 ft along with its sister peak, South China Mountain at 8206 ft and may have snow adorning its crest well into spring much like in the pics you see here.
As Gazelle Callahan Rd begins to climb out of the Central Valley, what you came for welcomes you, a full contact embrace. Twisties. Curves. Several hairpins. And that mountain climb. As the road elevation increases, so does the view back eastward. On clear days, you'll be able to see far across the valley to the range that makes up the northern reaches of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Grassy meadows of fields begin to dissolve into scrub brush, then leafy trees, then a mix of leaves & pine trees, all in a matter of miles. The view of course at the crest is as you might imagine, an encapsulating sense of sheer space and distance.
Clear days are best if you like great views, summer heat will produce a haze that settles over this northern reach of the Central Valley. Also note that anything over 3000 feet in the throes of winter could see snow if you find yourself wandering. Summers though are mostly bone dry and hot.
At the 4921 ft summit is Forest Road 41N03 (gravel/dirt) which makes south across the mountainous ridge lines over to Crater Lake (not that Crater Lake) below 8542 ft China Mountain peak. Be sure to carry detailed maps if you head off into this wilderness area, as fire roads crisscross the mountain sides for miles, with multiple (often unmarked) spurs that lead to dead ends.
On the north side of Gazelle Callahan Rd at the summit is Gazelle Mountain Lookout Rd. A dirt fire road that climbs for 3 miles to the summit of Gazelle Mountain at an elevation of 5241 feet. This road was unmarked, unimproved, & blocked off last time that I rode through here, but it's clearly visible on satellite photography of the mountainside. At the bottom of the hill is a locked gate denoting the opposite end.
Fantastic views extend off to the west of the Russian Wilderness and Marble Mountain Wilderness regions, not to mention the Siskiyou Mountains taking up position to the north. Rounding out the view to the southwest, the Trinity Alps Wilderness. If you caught the word 'wilderness', there is no shortage of such things in these parts. If your image of California is swimming pools & movie stars, you need to get out more.
The trek westward from Gazelle-Callahan's low 4921 ft summit is a relaxed one. No switchbacks or extreme lean angles required. A meandering ride rolling down the hillside, emerging into a broad valley along the East Fork Scott River, seemingly tucked away and surrounded in mountaintops.
Rail Creek Rd (FR 41N08), rolls up at the bottom of the descent and makes southward into Negro Gulch through a narrow mountain valley past a small reservoir & long-forgotten private airstrip. Rail Creek Rd is paved 8 miles to Kangaroo Lake campground. Drone Footage of Kangaroo Lake
Kangaroo Lake campground has 18 sites, 13 of which are drive-in and 5 are walk-in. The campground also provides accessible facilities, including a 1/4 mile paved trail right down to the lake. The lake itself covers 25 acres, and is 110 feet deep. There is no boat ramp but motorless boats are permitted
Anyone broke down?, he asked through the open window of his pickup truck. His dog sat tongue happy on the seat beside him, the best seat in the house. A cowboy hat rested on the man's head, and the pickup truck, with flatbed on the rear, was painted in decorative splashes of mud from off-road forays. A lone hay bale was the passenger in the rear.
We're okay. Thanks! Never can tell in these parts he offered. Enjoy your ride! And with that he slowly motored on.
Two minutes later, the same thing happens. Everything okay? Different pickup. Same flatbed. Different person. Same dog. Same cowboy hat. We love riding in Northern California.
A picture is worth a thousand words? If that's true, then you only need to stare into these photos to understand the origins of such sayings. A land of unparalleled beauty, where mountain tops frame horizons, of mountain valleys and green meadows cultivated for decades by the same family that has settled, cleared and ranched this land since the days of the Gold Rush 160 years yonder.
The broad Plowman's Valley was once the A-P Cattle Ranch, founded by Alexander Parker in 1858. Parker originated from Scotland and established a large cattle ranch in this valley in the late 1800s. To the south is Lover's Leap, what looks like a volcanic plug, a barren square-like rock mass jutting up into the sky.
Masterson Rd loops southward, following along the East Fork Scott River, then connects back to Gazelle Callahan Rd. The western 2 miles of the loop isn't paved though as it rejoins Gazelle Callahan Rd
For the adventurous sort, Grouse Creek Rd deep inside the valley is a gravel fire road that will connect southwest back to the summit on Hwy 3 via FR 40N03. Bring a GPS. Also note, Kangaroo Creek Rd extends south up the mountainside into that same endless string of fire roads.
Gazelle Callahan Rd doesn't last much longer. Up, over and through a low a saddle into the Noyes Valley, past Masterson Rd (gravel here) looping back 180 degrees, and off to the nearby junction of Hwy 3. The Noyes Valley on the west end is narrow, but wide enough to support several ranches along the way. The ride ends at a Y-intersection with Highway 3. To the south is the 5401 ft Scott Mountain Summit only a few miles away via an easy climb to the top. Bear in mind if you enjoy riding during the Winter months, or even late Spring, snow above 4000 feet is an everyday reality of which this low summit can easily get.
I never used to warn people about snow, but awhile back a rider sent some photos of riding up an over Scott Mountain Summit through 4 inches of snow on a SV650. The rider made it by following in the wheel tracks of a 4-wheel drive truck. Bear in mind these mountains can also create their own weather and roads like Gazelle Callahan sit in the valleys beneath these mountain ranges.
On the other hand, prepared local riders may offer the insight that riding in winter and spring can produce some fantastic riding weather of puffy cloud filled skies and acres of flowing green fields of alfalfa, much like the photos you see here (the color green can be a short-lived thing in California).
Note that the eastern end of Gazelle Callahan Rd drops into the rain shadow of these mountains, and morphs through a dramatic change in terrain in these few short miles. And in the height of Summer in the Central Valley? Just plain hot.
Westward Ho: A gradual turn north at the west end of Gazelle Callahan Rd will take you 2 miles into Callahan (no gas). Not much there, although the start of Callahan Cecilville Rd lies in wait. If you live for goat trails, then this one has your number. The first portion to Cecilville though we affectionately call The Racetrack. You’ll need to ride it to see why. There is a single gas pump in Cecilville. You may need the gas in this very remote region. Better known as the southern leg of the Forks of Salmon, Callahan Cecilville Rd (FR 93) is paved all the way through to Highway 96 along the edges of the Scott River, just bear in mind the ride to Somes Bar (no gas) is through a mountain wilderness. The Russian Wilderness, with peaks to 8196 ft, borders to the north of Callahan Cecilville Rd. Note that the northern fork is found a few miles to the north at Etna-Sawyers Bar Rd, which is paved to Highway 96 (changes to Salmon River Rd on the western half). We love Sawyers Bar Rd for the stunning views at the summit before it drops into Etna.
Northbound riders note that East Callahan Rd, changing to Eastside Rd (at Etna), starts up here in Callahan. If you prefer not to be on the main road - take a hint. Eastside Rd runs along the base of the ridgeline and delves out a relaxed ride along ranchers that live and work this valley. It runs for 54 miles into Fort Jim (gas). Also note that Scott River Rd starts up in Fort Jim to connect to Highway 96. In a hurry? Stick to Hwy 3. Otherwise, ride these ranch roads and watch the world pass by!
Eastbound: If you're riding out of these mountains, you'll be deposited directly into the tiny alcove of Gazelle. Interstate 5 is right in front of you, so if you need to be somewhere, and fast, that's your ticket. On the other hand, a turn northward delivers you into Yreka 18 miles later (gas/food/lodging). And due east, you say? Enjoy a ride across the narrowing north end of the Central Valley, with the ever-present Mt. Shasta lording over all. Hwy 97 is a fast ride into Southern Oregon, and do note the cutoff to Lava Beds National Monument & Glass Mountain- a mountain of obsidian rock
The north end of Hwy 89 is just 21 miles away at the town of Mt Shasta. This fantastic road heads through Mt Lassen & all the way to Lake Tahoe.
Southbound: Head south on Highway 3 - Scott Mountain Summit, the climb south is a relaxed one to the 5401' summit. Note the elevation, It can snow at any time during fall, winter and spring. We've gotten snow on Memorial Day weekend on several Pashnit Tours. Note the southern slope of Scott Mountain is a fast, tight descent through numerous hairpins and should not be missed.
Yes, a lot of options out here that can't be missed, but that's the idea, you are supposed to ride them all.
Gazelle Callahan Rd - Photo Gallery
MORE INFO: Gazelle Callahan Road
RIDE IT on a PASHNIT TOUR
25 Miles - LENGTH
Decent, Dirty - PAVEMENT
Fast, several Hairpins, Smooth - CURVES
Gazelle (I-5) to Callahan & Hwy 3 - CONNECTS
Yreka, Grenada - GAS
Yreka - LODGING
Gazelle Summit 4921 ft- PEAK ELEVATION
2758 ft - Gazelle ELEVATION
3123 Ft - Callahan ELEVATION
Gazelle Summit - MOUNTAIN PASS
LISTED CONNECTING SIDEROADS:
Old Westside Rd
Forest Road 41N03
Rail Creek Rd
Callahan Cecilville Rd
Sawyers Bar Rd