Northern California

Hwy 36 to Hwy 299

Northern California
Highway 3

Hayfork Pass

RIDE IT on a PASHNIT TOUR


36 Miles - LENGTH
 Excellent - PAVEMENT
Fast, Swoopy, Hairpins, Intense - CURVES

Hwy 36 to Hwy 299 - CONNECTS

 Hayfork, Weaverville - GAS

CLICK FOR MORE INFO

Quick Ride: Can't miss low mountain pass with endless curves, stunning scenery and dreamy corners. Everything we love about Northern California.

Much of California is highly populated. 

You probably already knew that.  And an oft repeated gripe of some motorcyclists far and wide is there are too many people on the roads. Cities are too busy. Twisty roads are too far out, just getting there is a trek in itself. However, let me clue you in on a not-so-secret secret. One of the best things about far Northern California no one else will tell you is that once you get out into the open ranges, there really aren't too many people around in these parts.  All the far northern NorCal local riders smugly sit down at night to read the latest copy of Motorcyclist magazine knowing they have the all-time-greatest-roads in their backyard- and without all the traffic.  Time the ride just right and you'll have the road all to yourself. 

Quite simply, there’s a lot less people up here.  Just a little more than 14,000 residents are spread across Trinity County’s 3,000 square miles. For comparison, Los Angeles County has 4700 square miles and 10 million residents. Where would you rather ride? Trinity County is a sprawling mountainous region of Northern California where most of it is wilderness. Some portions of Trinity County contain barely more than 9 people per square mile. The perfect destination for motorcyclists? We think so.

In between Highway 36 and Highway 299 is this short 36-mile north-south connector that is a real hoot to ride. That’s right, I said it, A Hoot!  The small town of Hayfork sits in the middle of this ride- and what a ride it is! 

This will most likely be a link in your trip route as this twisty section of road is sort of out there.  No major population centers to speak of except Hayfork, pop 2300.  The community was so named on account of hay fields near the South Fork Trinity River.

The town does have a small airport though. And the Trinity County fairgrounds are located here. Not much has changed in the last 15 years we’ve been leading Pashnit Motorcycle Tours through this town. It’s also the only place to get gas other than Dinsmore & Platina (Hwy 36) and Weaverville (Hwy 3-Scott Mtn Summit) and Lewiston.

If you're riding Highway 36 from either direction- smack dab in the middle of it, in the middle of nowhere, is a massive paved triangular intersection in which the road crew had either too much time on their hands or a lot of excess asphalt. 

 

We simply call it The Triangle, and it’s always a meet spot for motorcyclists who just stop right in the middle of it for a breather.

Headed northward from Highway 36, the ride on Highway 3 introduces itself as a smooth downhill twisty affair with a gentle elevation drop into Peanut. Once you reach the bridge over Salt Creek in the valley below, the super twisty stuff is over for the moment.

 

Hwy 3 meanders through a gentle S curve past 13 Dibs Rd. This is paved almost all the way out to Salt Creek Campground, but it’s a dead end in the middle of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Highway 3 continues along Salt Creek out of Peanut on over to Hayfork. It’s a relaxed hand-on-hip ride. Enjoyable and relaxing, be on the lookout for deer.

Locals tell the story of a motorcyclist on a brand new R6 racing along this section and hitting a deer head-on so hard, he cut the animal in half and destroyed the brand new R6 while the rider was airlifted out and survived due to his also-new matching armored leather race suit he bought with the bike.

Watch out for any vehicle pulling out onto this section of road along the creek, there are a couple driveways along the way.  Several meadows on the west side of the road provide the calming aura. At Peanut, a quick flash of a t-intersection passes by on the west side of the road. This is Old Hwy 36 and paved actually across Salt Creek for about 80% of the way on a parallel trek to the present-day Highway 36. Also known as Rattlesnake Rd, aka FR 353, aka FR 31N32, bring the supermoto to handle this forgotten logging road that connects back to Highway 36. Bring a good map to venture out into these mountains.

 

Take a smooth 90 degree turn at Hayfork Creek and ride on through Hayfork. There is gas here to fill up. Americans began to settle the Hayfork Valley and because of its abundant water, mild climate and fertile soils it quickly became the most productive agricultural area or the "breadbasket" of Trinity County. Gold mining ended in the 1940's and now farms lie along the road south of the pass. At a sweeping right-hander at the town library and just before the high school is Hyampom Rd.

Hyampom Rd is a fast paved two-lane reaching Hyampom 21 meandering miles later along the banks of the Hayfork River which flows northwesterly towards the ocean. There’s not much in the remote mountain community of Hyampom, wilderness surrounds on 4 sides. Continue the ride on NF 60 Corral Bottom Rd headed due north out of town. (Use the terrain map below to view Hyampom.) Near the 4907 ft Underwood Mountain summit, NF 60 throws out a name change to Underwood Mountain Rd.

 

Corral Bottom - Underwood Mountain Rd (NF 60) does connect north to Hwy 299 at Burnt Ranch so the entire loop from Hayfork via Hyampom to Burnt Ranch is paved, but the NF 60 portion is one-lane paved fire road. Halfway up the climb over the range, an intersection for NF 16 eastbound is also a option as a one-lane paved fire road that connects back to Hayfork via FR 324 Big Creek Rd. Bring patience and don’t bend any rims if you want to ride through Hyampom to Hwy 299. Also worth mentioning there's a short gravel fire road (FR 33N52) that detours off FR 324 Big Creek Rd and leads up to the 6277 ft Hayfork Bally which has stunning 360 degree mountaintop views of the Shasta Trinity National Forest and Hayfork in the valley below.

Back on Highway 3, ride by Big Creek Rd (NF 16) which connects to Hwy 299 at Big Bar Campground 26 miles to the north. NF 16 is also a one-lane fire road, but paved(!) for the duration over to Hwy 299. NF 16 also connects to Corral Bottom Rd (paved). Corral Bottom Rd then connects west to NF 60 and back into Hyampom (also one-lane paved) for a complete loop.

Head north out of Hayfork along a relaxed straight for a few miles past the old saw mill and then past Wildwood Road which should not be missed, a super-fun goat-ride and perfect shortcut back to Highway 36 at Wildwood.

The long straight out of Hayfork rides past the crumbling Sierra Pacific Sawmill that closed in 1992 and ends with an smooth left-right-left, then into a 25 mph hairpin across Devils Gulch. The elevation climbs quickly up and over the low mountain range.  Views of Hoosimbim Mountain across the valley are as expected- Amazing!

Numerous broad pullouts at the summit of Hayfork Pass along the way allow vehicles in front of you to safely pull off the road to allow you to ride on at your own pace. However, every tour group we lead over this mountain we warn about gravel and sand on the hairpins over this pass. Trucks cut the corners and with shoulders at the same level of the road, kick up sand and rocks onto the road. Occasionally during the middle of summer, you'll see county maintenance trucks with snowplows on. That's for rocks. You can't make this stuff up.

Seasonal rains clean the road so be mindful of heading full tilt into a corner hugging the white line and encountering a bit of sand or a rock. We like to tell riders during safety briefs “There are no surprises in riding. If you’re surprised by anything, you’re riding above your ability or not allowing enough time to react to sand, rocks, deer, anything the road may present.”

The crest over the Divide is Hayfork Summit, el 3,654 ft. Note this elevation is high enough for winter snow.  If the horizon is clear- you can see all the way to Mt Shasta from Hayfork Summit and the Hayfork Divide.  

If you need a good spot for a photo shoot of bikes, this is the place. Take advantage of the broad pullouts and take a breather from your journey to take some fun pics of your buddies at full tilt through smooth predictable curves. Several of these broad pullouts have amazing views to the south, and back towards Hayfork.

I've always has this thing for quick detours off the main road. And Hayfork Pass has one. On the north side of the summit in the middle of a hairpin is a sign for ‘Deerlick Springs 20 Miles’. This two-lane loop offers a fun detour and skips the downhill portion of Hayfork Pass on the north side. Don't worry, if you made it this far, you've ridden the majority of the sweetness that is Hwy 3. The loop is paved and meanders a lazy ride off the summit into the valley below.

 

Deerlick Spring Rd hits a Y-intersection a mere 1.6 mile later. Stay left.

At this first Y-intersection, if you were to head south on Deerlick Springs Knob Rd along Browns Creek, this road changes to hard-pack gravel a few miles later and you’ll get a lot of strange looks from the locals. What are you doing on “Our Road”?  This road (FR 31N06) connects back to Wildwood Rd and another leg (FR 31N02) also forks all the way back to Hwy 36 over 4003 ft Sugarloaf Peak via Harrison Gulch Rd to Knob.

 

Harrison Gulch Rd is only paved for the portion headed north from Hwy 36, and that pavement ends at Knob a few miles to the north of Hwy 36. Elevation on Harrison Gulch Rd (FR 31N02) climb up and over 4400 ft. These are gravel logging roads so bring a GPS and a Honda Africa Twin. For the ADV rider, Harrison Gulch Rd connects from Hwy 36 all the way to Douglas City and Hwy 299.

Commonsense says don’t venture blindly into these mountains without a plan. They grow a lot of marijuana in these hills surrounding Hayfork (you can do that legally nowadays), so best not to venture off the road unless you know where you’re going.

Having left Highway 3 on Deerlick Springs Rd, as soon as you hit the valley floor, the road opens up into a bucolic green meadow, stay left (3 times total) at the Y-Intersection onto Blanchards Flat Rd, there is a sign, but it’s small and easy to miss.  Blanchards Flat Rd narrows at first into single lane across a cattle grate. The road welcomes you with big open arms and barrels right down the middle of what is essentially a cow pasture before hurtling into a hard left at the far end of the meadow, then s-curves over Reading Creek, stay left again at the Y-intersection onto Reading Creek Rd and then stay left again at the third Y-intersection (with Indian Creek Rd). Overall, this is a short  7-mile paved loop off the main highway.

Easy to get turned around in here with the Y-intersections. Study a map or satellite map to get a sense of direction before you ride this detour off the main highway. But, it’s well worth it and barrel-good-fun to take this quick detour off Hayfork Pass.

A broad pullout against a sheer rock face announces the end of Hayfork Pass and the road T-intersects Hwy 299 at Douglas City (on the other side of the river via Steiner Flat Rd. Hwy 299 is a busy thoroughfare and truck route connecting Eureka along the Pacific Coast with Redding along Interstate 5. Continue the ride on Highway 299 west towards Weaverville for gas & eats or to continue north on Hwy 3 to Scott Mountain Summit.

There isn't much going on in Douglas City, but it does have a motel; the Timber Lodge, a small store with one gas pump (the proprietor, Liam Gogan also offers guided fishing trips on the Trinity River and is the brother of Super Bowl and Pro Bowl champion Kevin Gogan, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers. 

Otherwise, plan to continue the ride northward over the Hwy 3 - Scott Mountain Summit on the northern portion of Highway 3 up to Yreka.

At the Hwy 3/Hwy 299 junction, five miles to the east is Lewiston Rd over to Lewiston, a tiny mountain community at the base of Lewiston Dam. Combined with Rush Creek Rd and a short portion of Hwy 3, you can add a bit of mileage to your route by adding in Lewiston, try the Lewiston Turnpike over the one-lane 1901 historic bridge. The Trinity River flows through the heart of Lewiston, directly under the Old Lewiston Bridge. Reach the northern edge of Weaverville a few miles later and gas up on the north edge of Weaverville along Hwy 3. If you want to skip Weaverville altogether, you're able to join back up with Hwy 3- Scott Mountain Pass by riding around Weaverville via Lewiston Rd to Rush Rd or Trinity Dam Rd and pop out on the south side of Trinity Lake.

Back at the Hwy 3/Hwy299 junction, for lunch in Weaverville, just six miles to the northwest, try the Mama Lama Restaurant, especially if you love comic books. Walls are full of framed issues of comics ranging from Spiderman to Batman to Archie comics. Many more are for sale on racks. This place is small with just a walk-up counter but quick service and they have great sandwiches. We've told them to name all their sandwiches after superheros but no has taken our advice yet.  We have brought many Pashnit Motorcycle Tour groups here through the years as our lunch stop.

Downtown Weaverville isn't to be missed either, short enough to park and walk. Take in the double spiral staircases on either side of Main Street. Visit the historic Chinese temple known as the Joss House, the oldest (still) operating Chinese Temple in California built in 1874. This is California's best-preserved example of a Gold Rush-era Chinese place of worship. The temple is now the Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park, and its interior, including an intricately carved wooden altar, can be viewed close-up by visitors. A small museum sits adjacent to the temple, and the park guides have always been knowledgeable and exceedingly eager to provide a hands-on tour of the temple and its history.

A few hundred yards to the south of the Joss House on Main Street is the Jake Jackson Museum and the History Center (780 Main St) which has the fascinating Paymaster Mine Two Stamp Mill replica, the only working steam stamp mill on the West Coast. You can find original gold rush era Stamp Mills all over Northern California, especially in Gold Rush parks along Highway 49 (Downieville comes to mind), but it's rare to be able to see one operating in person. The museum is easily passed by as its facade labelled Blacksmith Tin Shop on the exterior has an facade that's blended into downtown buildings.

Continue the ride north on Hwy 3  along the edges of Trinity Lake over 5400 ft Scott Mountain Summit to Callahan through Etna (gas) to Fort Jim and over to Yreka.

The full length of Hwy 3 is 145 miles from The Triangle on Hwy 36 to Yreka at Interstate 5 and it's one of the few north-south roads in northwestern California. The full length rides over Hayfork Pass, el 3645 ft., through Hayfork & Weaverville, along the banks of Trinity Lake, and over the 5401 ft Scott Mountain Summit.

It's also worth noting Hwy 3 parallels Interstate 5 and if time constraints allow, this is a wonderful detour for the north or south bound motorcyclist or sports car pilot and easily accessed at Yreka and connecting back to I-5 at Red Bluff via Highway 36. For the RV traveler, this is a very twisty route with three mountain passes and the full 145 mile length of Hwy 3 is not advisable, especially the Scott Mountain Summit which includes several very sharp and steep hairpins.

The Hayfork Pass portion of Hwy 3 has always been a highlight of any Northern California motorcycle ride. Very few places can you experience mountain curves such as these with so little traffic. Each time we ride this, I marvel at what a treasure this leg of the journey is, the region is beautiful, rustic, remote, forgotten, and perfect just the way it is.

 

Hwy 3 Hayfork Pass - Photo Gallery

MORE INFO:

Highway 3 Hayfork Pass

NorCal, Trinity - RIDE IT on a PASHNIT TOUR
36 Miles - LENGTH

 145 Miles - Hwy 36 to Yreka - FULL LENGTH
 Excellent - PAVEMENT
Fast, Swoopy, Hairpins, Intense - CURVES

Hwy 36 to  Douglas City / Hwy 299 - CONNECTS

 Hayfork, Weaverville - GAS

 Weaverville, Lewiston - LODGING

Hayfork Pass 3645 ft- PEAK ELEVATION
 2310 ft - HAYFORK ELEVATION

 Hayfork Pass - MOUNTAIN PASS
GPS LOCATION
40.1784886 -122.23583020000001 - SOUTH
40.54665605516752-124.14395466038462- NORTH
 40°34′17″N 123°8′48″W - HAYFORK
 

LISTED CONNECTING SIDEROADS:
13 Dibs Rd, Rattlesnake Rd (NF 353)
Hayfork-Hyampom Rd (NF 301)
  Reading Creek Rd
  Blanchards Flat Rd
Deerlick Springs Knob Rd (FR31N02)
Big Creek Rd (NF 16)
Corral Bottom Rd (NF 60)
Wildwood Rd
Steiner Flat Rd

Maps

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About Pashnit:

Tim Mayhew has devoted nearly 30 years to photographing and writing about California roads. His tireless efforts on the California Motorcycle Roads web site have spread across the globe becoming the encyclopedic guidebook for motorcycle travel in California. As of 2020, Tim has been designing & leading professional motorcycle tours across California, Oregon & Nevada for the last 17 years.
Learn more about riding with Tim on a  
Pashnit Motorcycle Tour in 2020.

 

Dear Pashnite, the 1999-era California Motorcycle Roads you have used for the last 20 years to plan your rides has been retired.
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