This Underrated Small California Town Is A Great Spot For Outdoor Adventures

You'd probably be forgiven for thinking that a place called Happy Camp must have received its name in the flower-power days of the '60s. Yet while this little town in Northern California does count a few hippies among its 854 residents, the history of the settlement's blissed-out name goes back almost a century more. The story goes that when a band of hopeful prospectors arrived in the area for the first time in 1851, a gentleman named James Camp declared, "This is the happiest day of my life." In other words, he was one happy Camp, and so, the name stuck.

At 5.5 hours north of Sacramento, Happy Camp, California is situated on Route 96 near Oregon's state line. The town resides on the banks of the Klamath River between three wilderness areas: Marble Mountain Wilderness to the south, Siskiyou Wilderness to the west, and Red Buttes Wilderness to the north. Yes, this is wilderness country, alright. In fact, the area is so wild that sasquatches have been supposedly spotted in the region, and the stretch of Route 96 it falls on is officially known as the Bigfoot Scenic Byway. But don't let the thought of running into a big scary animal put you off; the best reason to visit the town is to explore its wonderful natural surroundings. Happy Camp is close to hiking trails that range from pleasant forest strolls to challenging treks around the area's stunning Alpine lakes. Its access to the water also provides a stunning setting for swimming and river adventures.

Outdoor activities around Happy Camp

One of the most popular attractions for Happy Camp visitors is the Klamath River, a 257 mile waterway that originates in Oregon and snakes its way through Northern California towards the Pacific Ocean. What was once a sight for prospectors during the California gold rush is now home to plenty of serene spots for a picnic lunch, as well as a base for adventurous water activities.The river is particularly popular with white water rafters who can enjoy the thrill of mixing rapids while soaking up the stunning scenery. There are currently multiple companies in the area that offer the full whitewater experience, complete with all the equipment needed for a river adventure. White Water Tours offers a 3-day trip (starting at $699 per person) that includes 7 meals and allows time away from your inflatable kayak for swimming and hiking to the beautiful Ukonom Twin Falls

The Klamath River is also renowned for its fishing and anglers will have plenty of fun pitting themselves against salmon and steelhead in its waters. Fishing season is at its best between September and March, and charters provide an experienced guide to help you get some quality strikes. Ironhead Guide Service offers a private, guide-led fly fishing trip for 1 to 2 people that includes a heated boat as well as a cooler for drinks and lunch. Rates for the all-day excursion start at around $550 a person per the company's website.

There are far more riches in the water than just excellent fish. It's believed that many of the tributary streams that run through Happy Camp still produce gold, so it's a popular location to try your hand at panning for the shiny stuff. Who knows? You might strike it rich, or at least pay for your trip!

Places to eat and stay around Happy Camp

With only two routes running through town during the winter, Happy Camp is considered a relatively remote wilderness destination. But some might say this isolation (and the tranquility that comes with it) are what make the location so desirable — There are no street lights and according to one Journey California post, the town didn't even have a cellphone tower until the late 2010s. Despite this, Happy Camp offers some truly unique sights for visitors. It is home to the largest dreamcatcher in the world and the enormous Bigfoot Statue is great for a one-of-a-kind photo opportunity.

As you might expect for such a remote place, there aren't too many places for fine dining or nightlife. Nevertheless, there are several decently reviewed places to eat and drink. Pizza House off highway 96serves a decent slice while Partners Deli & Arcade is a small family-run diner offering burgers, fried chicken, and sandwiches. As for places to stay, selections are slim, but you can still find reasonable accommodation in the area. If you're okay with something outdoorsy, there are several campgrounds, RV sites, and cabins in the vicinity. If you prefer a hotel room, the Forest Lodge Motel offers a cozy stay, while the Klamath River Resort Inn has more motel-style lodgings looking out over the water. Wherever you choose to lay your head around Happy Camp, you can relax knowing that you won't be disturbed by any traffic noise. Just watch out for sasquatches!