Skip to main content

U.S. Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Region Viewing Area


skunky monkeyflower. Skunky monkeyflower (Mimulus mephiticus). Photo by Cheryl Beyer.

Mahala mat. Mahala mat (Ceanothus prostratus). Photo by Cheryl Beyer.

white-stem green-gentian. White-stem green-gentian (Swertia albicaulis) makes a showy display. Photo by Cheryl Beyer.

Gillem Bluff

Forest: Modoc National Forest

District: Doublehead Ranger District

Description: The Modoc National Forest is located in the extreme northeastern corner of California. This remote, high volcanic plateau consists of pine and mixed conifer forests, sage and juniper flats, volcanic mountains, craters, lava caves, and a few lakes.

Gillem Bluff is a low elevation ridge between 4400 feet and 4600 feet elevation, on the border of the Modoc National Forest and Lava Beds National Monument. This is a cross-country walk, as there are no trails in this part of the Forest. Lava caves and Captain Jack’s Stronghold can be visited at the Monument. On the Forest, side trips can be taken to nearby Glass Mountain and Burnt Lava Flow Geologic Areas and Medicine Lake Highlands, an old volcanic crater that is partially filled with water.

Viewing Information: From the bluff there is an open view to the east across the National Monument and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. A number of cinder cones are visible rising above the level plain of basaltic flows. Vegetation is bluebunch wheatgrass, Sandberg bluegrass, and Idaho fescue grassland with sagebrush, scattered western juniper, and occasional purple sage. May is a good time to view spring wildflowers, including bitterroot, sulfur plant, and monkey flower.

Safety First: Travel is on paved roads until the last stretch, which can be walked. Part of the drive is across the National Monument. There are no trails on the Forest Service land, and walking will be on uneven ground, uphill, on somewhat gentle, open terrain.

Directions: From Tule Lake, California, follow signs to Lava Beds National Monument. There is an entrance fee to drive into the Monument. Go 3-4 miles past the monument boundary to the first dirt road on your right. Gillem Bluff is the open ridge to the west. Turn onto the dirt road and drive about ¼ mile and park. This last section is on a dirt road.

Ownership and Management: Modoc National Forest and Lava Beds National Monument.

Closest Town: Tule Lake, California.