10m 4,000ft gain
Ancestral homelands of the: Shasta, Takelma, Modoc, Grand Ronde and Cow Creek Umpqua
Dominating the southern Oregon sky is the 6th tallest volcano in Oregon, Mount McLoughlin! It is situated between Crater Lake and Mount Shasta in the Sky Lakes Wilderness of the Rogue River-Siskiyou and the Fremont-Winema National Forests. This mostly symmetrical dormant lava cone has gone by many names including Mount Sastise, Mount Pit, Alwilamchaldis, Mayakax and my favorite Kesh Yainatat; the dwarf old woman, who made the west wind blow. Unlike Mount Thielsen a hike to the summit can be non-technical. Similar to Mount Thielsen there are countless beautiful lakes surrounding McLoughlin for everyone to enjoy!
1st Trip: 6/4/21
Continuing my southern Oregon road trip after a hike up Mount Thielsen. The western drive between these volcanoes showcased Lost Creek Lake, a beautiful gorge and views of Mount McLoughlin around every bend.
I stopped at the Sunset campground at the Lake of the Woods to get ready for the next day and catch sunset.
After a relaxing sunset I drove up the 3 mile gravel road to the McLoughlin Trailhead to spend the night in the back of the truck. I was sleeping great with no other cars in the lot until around midnight when I started to hear some strange noises. At first, I heard an owl, then wolves, then I swear I heard monkeys. Soon after I heard loud robotic sounds and knew someone was messing with me. Through the foggy window I noticed a big truck at the parking lot entrance with the inside lights on. It seemed like they sat there forever but eventually they took off so I could put down the bear spray and ice axe and get some sleep. Of course, soon after a real animal was messing with the truck but a quick shake and flash of light and the little guy took off.
After an eventful night I was on the trail by 6:15am. Right away you need to cross a creek where there used to be a bridge. A collection of large, downed trees made it easy to find a dry way across. The next thousand feet of gain are easy going and nicely shaded but past the PCT junction there is little relief from the sun.
The benefit to little tree cover was unobstructed views of Southern Oregon and Northern California.
The juniper trees were the last trees to offer me some shade.
At 8,200ft, a little after 4 miles in, I could see the summit. The route became a slow slog up volcanic boulders and scree. I was moving much slower than the day prior and taking breaks anywhere there was a sliver of shade.
4 hours in I hit some snow leading to the summit. I stayed on top for about 30 minutes and soaked up the clear views of the Sky Lakes!
Wish I would have extended this trip and went for Mount Shasta as our planned trip later in the year was cancelled due to wildfires.
This marked the 8th Volcano I have played my late Grandfather’s tusk horn on to honor the family that’s no longer with us.
I made a lot of stops for pictures and breaks from the heat on the way down. To make navigation easy I stayed close to the ridge line until the trail veers south. It’s easy to get lost during this section of the hike without gps.
Made it back to the car at 1:15pm in under 3 hours and the truck was boiling. Thank goodness for my windshield sunshade which saved my dash and the America the Beautiful Pass which was starting to melt. You know it’s hot when you use the windshield wash and the million bug stains fall right off. Before making the long trip home I revisited the Sunset Campground at the Lake of the Woods to pay my respects to yet another mountain for showing me what you can accomplish with hard work and perseverance and for showing me what pure bliss looks like.
There were certainly thoughts around extending the trip for more peakbagging but my heart was full and my legs were tired after 2 sunny days with volcanoes all to myself! Plus, I was excited to spend the full weekend with Ellie and Moose! I took the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway home and only stopped for mountain views and gas.
I hope to do more hiking and peakbagging in Central Oregon and of course make my way up the other 10 major volcanoes of the Cascade Volcanic Arc!