John Markoff, the Times’ legendary tech writer, appears to be a hiker at heart. He pens a travel piece on the Trinity Alps, which are northwest of Redding on the way up to Mount Shasta.

For most Californians, the notion of mountains conjures up the vast Sierra Nevada. In contrast, the Trinities are relatively pocket-sized. Sixty miles southwest of Mount Shasta and a five-hour drive from the San Francisco Bay area, the region exudes an off-the-beaten-path feel of a place that time is in the process of forgetting.

I have been in the Trinities in every season. The mountains empty out after Labor Day, but they retain their beauty and they remain unspoiled. In years when winter arrives late, I have hiked there well into December. Later there is great cross-country skiing, which lasts until summer.

Lore has it that there are really three Trinities: red, green and white.

Driving up Highway 3 from the mountain hamlet of Weaverville, it is easy to find the red Trinities in slashes that the road chisels into the rock, revealing the rich hues of igneous peridotite soils found on the eastern slopes. Large swaths of the range provide the green, places where you can walk on seemingly endless vanilla-scented trails under a dense canopy of emerald firs and pines.

The crown jewels of this wilderness area, however, are the white Trinities, named for the white granite reminiscent of the Sierras. They lie at the very heart of the mountains, reachable by car only over a 20-mile stretch of the mostly gravel Coffee Creek Road.

Long as we’re on the subject, here’s a Flickr photo album of Trinity Alps shots.

Markoff mentions Sawtooth Peak … here’s a Google terrain map.

View Larger Map

More on Sawtooth at SummitPost, which has an excellent overview of the Trinities for those with peak-bagging on the brain.

The Trinity Alps boasts an exceptional number of peaks, both named and unnamed. Thompson Peak, at 9,002 feet, is the highest in the range. Several peaks in the Canyon Creek area fall just short of this elevation. Only one high mountain, Granite Peak, has a trail to the summit. All other peaks in the Trinity Alps require off trail scrambling and climbing. Most can be summited without any technical effort. The following are the named peaks that exceed 8,000 feet:

GORP has a bunch of great hiking ideas if you make it up that way.

Got any Trinities stories? Send ’em along.