February 6, 2015 by Joe Kukura

The usually rare bald eagle sighting is actually a frequent feature of winter hikes in scenic Lake County, California. On wilderness trails about 100 miles north of San Francisco, in the northern part of what is popularly called wine country, bald eagles are often seen roosting, nesting and soaring majestically in the skies.

American Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles nesting in Lake County.

Winter in Northern California is the peak season for seeing bald eagles, though Lake County’s Cache Creek Wilderness has both migratory and year-round bald eagle populations. One of the habitat’s bald eagle nests has been documented as active since 2000, indicative of just how well suited Lake County’s wilderness trails are for watching birds and wildlife.

What some may think of as winter is a little different in northern California. Conditions are generally quite mild compared to much of the United States, with temperatures typically in the 40s and 50s. Northern California winters are actually quite lush, attracting a vast array of birds and wildlife species. These conditions also attract hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, with scenic ridges and canyons, mountains with panoramic views and rivers perfect for fishing and rafting.

The Cache Creek Wildlife Area is a hotspot for hikers this time of year. Spanning nearly 2,000 unspoiled acres, this wilderness habitat is home to thousands of deer, tule elk, bears and more than a few bald eagles. The best time to see bald eagles is during their wintertime migratory season, and you may also see golden eagles, woodpeckers, hawks, falcons, owls and roadrunners dashing across the open areas.

Cache Creek has a number of outstanding trails for hiking and watching wildlife. Redbud Trail offers fantastic mountain trails, miles of whitewater rafting and a large population of tule elk. The Cache Creek Ridge Trail offers high mountain and vista views, and some of the region’s finest trails that do allow mountain biking. Public access has expanded on these trails in recent years, so more of the natural charms than ever before are available to hikers and outdoor enthusiasts in Lake County.

Be aware that motor vehicles and bicycles are not allowed on certain trails, to maintain their pristine beauty. But the trails are quite amenable to horseback riding, fishing, hiking and bird watching!

The Cache Creek region in Lake County is home to a large population of bald eagles during the wintertime migratory season, though some of these bald eagles stay year-round and never leave. You won’t want to leave either when you see the amazing, lush, pastoral mountain hiking trails of California’s Lake County, rich with bald eagles, elk, deer and the natural spirit of the American West.

Photo credit: Nathan DeHart Photography