Hiking the Terminal Geyser Trail

Steam rising from the ground
Steam, rather than a geyser is the dominant feature at Terminal Geyser.

NPS Photo

Start: Warner Valley Trailhead
Round Trip Distance: 5.8 miles
Round Trip Time: 2.5 - 3 hours
Elevation: 5,640 ft - 5,840 ft (6,250 high point)
Elevation Change: 610 ft.

Parking Demand and Trail use Inrease Anticipated in 2018

Use of this trail and demand for parking is anticipated to increase this summer due to a temporary closure of the Bumpass Hell Trail and Basin for a rehabilitation project. Please note:

  • Overflow parking will be available south of the existing parking area.
  • Please do not park in the campground or at Drakesbad Guest Ranch unless you have a paid campsite or are a guest at the Ranch.
  • Please park only in pullouts; vehicles that prohibit two-way traffic on the WarnerValley Road may be ticketed or towed (to ensure emergency access is available).

Trail Description

Follow the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) southwest through open forest near the fringe of the extensive and lush meadows of the Drakesbad area, and continue along the north bank of spring-fed Hot Springs Creek. Along with such notable thermal features as Boiling Springs Lake and Devils Kitchen (as well as several unnamed hot springs), Hot Springs Creek is also fed by a number of cold springs trickling down the sides of Warner Valley, which keeps the summertime water temperature somewhere between 50 and 55 degrees. Even when cool, getting into water fed by thermal activity is strongly discouraged due to the acidity of the water. Numerous species of flowers grow in the slopes along the trail and usually are at their peak in July.

Proceed across the hillside above the south bank, passing above the hot springs pool at Drakesbad Guest Ranch. A a y-junction with a trail accessing Dream Lake, Devils Kitchen, and the horse trail from the resort's stables, follow signs for Boiling Springs Lake and veer left. Proceed on a steady climb along the PCT through a scattered to light forest of firs, incense cedars, ponderosa pines, and lodgepole pines, reaching another y-junction at 0.9 mile.

After a seasonal stream crossing and a view of Boiling Springs Lake, the trail leads to a signed three-way junction southeast of the lake. Turn right, following signed directions toward Terminal Geyser. The trail continues southeast on a mild to moderately rising slope. After gaining the top of a broad ridge, the trail begins a mild then moderate descent back into forest cover on the way to Terminal Geyser. At 2.5 miles from the trailhead, you rejoin the PCT at a signed junction. Turn right (south) and walk about 25 feet to a second junction, where the PCT veers right toward Little Willow Lake, but you continue ahead to Terminal Geyser. Follow moderate then steeply descending tread past a red warning sign, then a sign with directions to the PCT. Where the grade eases, reach a third sign for Terminal Geyser ahead and Warner Valley bend. Near this last sign, the obscure tread of a seldom used trail heads southeast to Willow Lake. Now following the course of an old road, you curve around into the upper canyon of Willow Creek and head upstream toward the billowing cloud of steam above Terminal Geyser. Step across a pair of small, spring-fed rivulets and pass another warning sign on the approach to the geyser.

Learn more about hydrothermal areas in the park here.

Getting There

The Warner Valley trailhead parking area is located 16 miles northewest of Chester on the Warner Valley Road. From Chester, follow the Feather River Road north 1 mile to a fork for Juniper Lake and Warner Valley. Continue towards Warner Valley/Drakesbad for 15 miles. Bear left onto the dirt road and continue past the Warner Valley Campground to the turnoff for the trailhead.


Hydrothermal Area Danger

For your safety, stay on established trails and boardwalks. Ground in hydrothermal areas can look solid but may actually be a thin crust hiding pools of acidic boiling water or mud. Traveling off-trail in these areas may result in severe injury. Read more about exploring the park hydrothermal areas.

Last updated: January 12, 2021

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PO Box 100
Mineral, CA 96063


530 595-4480

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