We did a quick roadtrip to Southern Oregon to briefly explore the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness (between Klamath Falls and Lakeview) – Hike #82 in Sullivan’s Eastern Oregon guide (Second Edition). Part of the plan – such as it was – involved doing the three-mile roundtrip cross-country stint out to the summit of Gearhart Mountain itself, the 8,364 -foot tall volcanic dome at the end of a ridge of lesser domes. There are several different ways to approach Gearhart but we decided to start at the Lookout Rock Trailhead on the east side of the wilderness. That way we could see both the strangely shaped and layered lava outcrops known as “The Palisades” and also The Dome.
Access to the trailhead is paved except for the last two miles which are good gravel. The trail starts in the forest,
but in less than a mile we reached The Pinnacles, an area of unusual rock formations. If you didn’t have time for a long hike, it would be worth it to hike in just to see these wierd rocks.
After another 2 miles or so, we passed below the cliffs forming The Dome,
but The Dome itself wasn’t apparent until we were farther up the trail.
At 4.7 miles from the trailhead, we reached a saddle at 7,930 feet and left the trail there to go cross-country toward the summit of Gearhart Mountain. From the saddle, we headed southwest for about 0.3 miles then swung back north. Within another 0.3 miles, we came to a cliff band – here we went left a bit until we found a dirt slope that took us to the top of the cliffs. Bond’s 75 Scrambles in Oregon (2005) describes this dirt slope break in the cliff band as a “notch” which makes it sound much more challenging than it is – it’s just a walk-up. After that it was an easy cross-country walk along the broad ridge toward the summit – there’s no undergrowth and we were just walking between the (mostly dead) trees. Despite that, we only made it a high bump along the ridge before thunderheads started building and we decided to retreat. From the bump we had a good view of the Daisy Creek drainage to the east,
and of the true summit to the north.
Sadly, the vast majority of the trees on the top and slopes of the summit ridge and in the drainages were (and still are) dead – apparently from beetle infestations. Now they’re all dry material ready for a forest fire. After a snack,
we headed back the way we’d come.
All the dead trees are sad, but it’s still a nice area and well worth a visit, both for the rock formations and the views. On the way out from the trailhead, we stopped at the memorial for the six persons who perished in May 1945 when they triggered a Japanese (Fu-Go) fire ballon bomb. They were the only combat deaths from any cause on the U.S. mainland during World War II.