Lava Beds National Monument, CA: Black Crater and Wright Battlefield

Overlook the battlefield where the Modoc made their last stand, and a nearby spatter cone displaying unusual frozen rock formations on this 2.6-mile out-and-back.
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Overlook the battlefield where the Modoc made their last stand, and a nearby spatter cone displaying unusual frozen rock formations on this 2.6-mile out-and-back.

Long before Lava Beds was a national monument, it was home to the Modoc peoples. During homesteading in the 1800s by white settlers, the Modoc were relocated to a reservation near Klamath Falls. Unhappy with their new location, a small group led by Kientpoos (Captain Jack) returned to their homeland, which resulted in a confrontation with the U.S. Army. The Modoc held off the army for over five months before they were eventually defeated. Captain Jack as hanged and the remaining tribe were relocated to Oklahoma.

From the roadside trailhead, a level trail proceeds to a fork. To the left, a 1-mile trail crosses a portion of the Devil's Homestead lava flow, passes a large spatter cone, then winds across the rabbitbrush-covered plateau to a viewpoint slightly above the wide valley. Here was where Captain Jack and his band of Modoc made their last stand, using their knowledge of the surrounding landscape to their advantage in holding off the U.S. Army as long as they could. The trail to the right climbs to, and circles, the rim of Black Crater, a massive spatter cone featuring aa, pahoehoe, and numerous other interesting and unusual lava formations.

-Mapped by Eli Boschetto, BoscoMountainPhoto

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 4.2

Waypoints

BLK001

Location: 41.765143, -121.556449

Black Crater and Thomas-Wright Battlefield trailhead.

BLK002

Location: 41.765682, -121.554861

Fork left for 1-mile route to battlefield overlook; fork right for 0.5-mile loop around Black Crater.

BLK003

Location: 41.766063, -121.55457

Sign in at the hiker registration box.

BLK004

Location: 41.767543, -121.551358

Large spatter cone with pahoehoe flows.

BLK005

Location: 41.769195, -121.539455

Thomas-Wright Battlefield overlook.

BLK006

Location: 41.765557, -121.554376

Look for tree molds in lava flows.

BLK007

Location: 41.764813, -121.552709

Circle the rim of Black Crater, then loop around back side to reconnect below.

Battlefield Trail

Location: 41.766462, -121.55429

Spatter Cone

Location: 41.767527, -121.551243

Shasta View

Location: 41.768399, -121.546447

Thomas-Wright Battlefield

Location: 41.769215, -121.539377

Black Crater

Location: 41.765638, -121.554612

Frozen Rock

Location: 41.765198, -121.552305

Crater View

Location: 41.765518, -121.552992