Trout Creek: Fine Campground, Hiking Opportunities Limited

Searching for campgrounds within a few hours drive of my house, I came across one that  appeared promising; Trout Creek Campground in the PG&E Eel River Area near Lake Pillsbury. Some of the sites are reservable and some are first come/first served. We decided to give it a try even though I could not find any hiking trails nearby. Information shown online indicated maximum RV length allowed was 34 ft so our 18 ft trailer and 16 ft tow vehicle should just fit. We arrived with no reservation and the very friendly campground host found us a great site!

The Eel River was a one minute walk away, and a there was a lovely creek adjacent to our site.

So no complaints about the campground (note: no cell service so no internet). The last mile or so of the road to the campground is rough gravel, but reasonably well-graded and fairly wide.  We decided to continue on the road and go explore the area around Lake Pillsbury, about 10 miles to the northeast. There are multiple campgrounds at the lake and we wanted to check them out without the trailer in tow.

It was a fortuitous decision. The dirt road to the lake had many narrow sections where I would not be comfortable with the trailer behind me. But clearly many RV owners were fine with road, because we saw larger RVs than ours at several of the campgrounds, in particular the rather grandly named Lake Pillsbury Resort which did not look appealing to us at all.

But we were in search of hiking. My Gaia GPS Hking app didn’t show any trails in the vicinity of the lake, but it did show a lot of dirt roads on US Forest Service land. So we parked off the M6 road and decided to walk the Smokehouse Creek Road to see where it might lead.

We had not been walking for more than two minutes when we heard gunfire. A lot of gunfire. I thought firearms were not allowed on US Forest Service land unless it was hunting season! Which June most certainly was not. We immediately turned around and went back to the car, deciding to try the only trail that a USFS ranger we met earlier that day knew about; a short trail that started at the entrance to the Sunset Point Campground.

Okay, so technically it was signed “Closed” due to fire damage, but we could not see any signs of damage. It was indeed short; about a mile. And that ended our hiking for the day. We did see some Tule Elk off the road near the dirt strip that is the Gravelly Valley Airport, and the weather was beautiful.

Back to the campground for some time relaxing in the trailer. Final note: upon returning home, online research revealed that there is an unofficial — but apparently officially tolerated — “shooting area” near the airport. We won’t be going back there, and likely not back to the Trout Creek Campground because of the lack of hiking.

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