The Cache Creek Wilderness is centered on a 17-mile stretch of Cache Creek, flowing from Clear Lake in eastern Lake County. The prominent feature within the wilderness is Cache Creek, which runs east towards the Capay Valley and the Sacramento River while forming a steep-sided canyon through most of the area. The steep canyon walls occasionally open to broad, grassy meadows with scattered valley oaks, such as Baton Flat, Wilson Valley, and Kennedy Flats. Numerous steep tributaries also feed into Cache Creek within the wilderness including Dry Creek, Rocky Creek, Trout Creek, and Crack Canyon. Outside the river canyon, the majority of the wilderness is dominated by rugged chaparral-covered hills. Elevations within the wilderness area range from 750 feet on Cache Creek at the eastern boundary to 3,196 feet at Brush Sky High.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Cache Creek Wilderness.
The Cache Creek Wilderness Area is located east of Clear Lake in eastern Lake County. It is bounded primarily by the public land boundary and Perkins Creek Ridge on the west; the public land boundary on the north; the Lake/Colusa county line on the east; and the Lake/Yolo county line and the public land boundary line on the south.
Trailheads are located at the Redbud Trailhead (5 miles east of the 20/53 intersection on Hwy. 20, or 13 miles west of the 20/16 intersection on Hwy. 20); the Judge Davis Trailhead (14 miles east of the 20/53 intersection on Hwy. 20, or 4 miles west of the 20/16 intersection on Hwy. 20; Cowboy Camp (1 mile south of the 16/20 intersection on Hwy. 16; High Bridge (4½ miles south of the 16/20 intersection on Hwy. 16. Just east of the wilderness boundary, vehicle access (4WD recommended) is available to Buck Island (9 miles south of the 16/20 intersection, or 5 miles west of Rumsey on Hwy. 16, then turn south on Yolo County Road 40 crossing Cache Creek and continuing 5 miles to the turnoff to Buck Island/Langs Peak, then follow the road for 5 miles down to Buck Island.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act - Public law 109-362 (10/17/2006) To designate certain National Forest System lands in the Mendocino and Six Rivers National Forests and certain Bureau of Land Management lands in Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, and Napa Counties in the State of California as wilderness, to designate the Elkhorn Ridge Potential Wilderness Area, to designate certain segments of the Black Butte River in Mendocino County, California as a wild or scenic river, and for other purposes.
Recreational opportunities abound and include hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, rafting, bird watching, nature photography, hunting, and fishing, among other activities. The Redbud Trail provides access to Wilson Valley, and it is possible to continue the 12.5 mile distance all the way through to the Judge Davis Trailhead, but this does require crossing Cache Creek in Wilson Valley which is not always possible due to high water flows.
The Cache Creek Ridge Trail which begins at the Judge Davis Trailhead, skirts the edge of the wilderness along the Lake/Colusa county line, continuing for 10½ miles to the confluence of Bear and Cache Creeks beyond the wilderness boundary. This trail provides very scenic vistas of Cache Creek Canyon, the recent Payne Ranch acquisition, and the Sacramento Valley including the Sutter Buttes, Mt. Lassen, and the Sierras when conditions are clear.
Due to summertime water releases from two upstream dams, water flows are sufficient to boat through the wilderness from April through early September. Put-in access is available at the Redbud Trailhead and take-out is either at Buck Island (15 river miles) or the confluence of Bear and Cache Creeks (20 river miles). There is no hiking trail that follows Cache Creek through the canyon.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
Weather conditions can vary considerably, depending upon which season one visits the Cache Creek Wilderness. Optimum months for the most favorable weather are mid-March through May, and October through November. The winter months can be rainy and cold with occasional snow, but there also may be extended dry periods at this time which make for suitable hiking during sunny dry conditions. Summer high temperatures can exceed 105° but average in the mid to upper 90’s.
There is no potable water, visitors must pack in all water or use a good quality water filter that screens out Giardia and Cryptosporidium if near a water source. There are no restroom facilities past the trailheads, so visitors must dispose of all human waste using environmentally acceptable methods.
Safety and Current Conditions
Access across Cache Creek for those on foot or horse can be restricted at times. Due to the lack of bridges on the Redbud and Judge Davis Trails, high water flows can prevent crossing the creek. At the Baton Flat crossing of Cache Creek on the Redbud Trail, high water flows can occur immediately during and for an extended period after large storm events, and also during the spring/summer agricultural irrigation season which lasts from mid-April through mid-September. During this time when water releases from Cache Creek Dam exceed 100 cubic feet per second, it is unsafe for visitors to attempt crossing the creek. At the Cache Creek crossing in Wilson Valley for those visitors hiking from the Redbud Trail to the Judge Davis Trail or vice versa, this creek crossing includes the combined releases from both Cache Creek Dam and Indian Valley Dam. If the combined flow exceeds 100 cfs here, it is considered unsafe to attempt a crossing. To get the most recent water release data from both dams, contact Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District at (530) 662-0265 or check their website at www.ycfcwcd.org and click the link for water releases for the latest information.
Visitors to the Cache Creek Wilderness should also be aware of other potential hazards including ticks, rattlesnakes, and poison oak. Bears and mountain lions are common residents here, but there are no records of attacks on humans. Most areas within the canyon are out of cell phone and 2-way radio range.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.