While we have an admitted preference for loops with a view (and maybe a summit), we were drawn to this out-and-back hike in deep forest on the Butte Fork Trail (USFS #957) specifically because it is in a deep, old growth forest, one that Ruediger (in his The Siskiyou Crest, page 130) calls “…the wildest and most pristine region of the eastern Siskiyou Mountains.” Being in the shady forest, and leading as it does to wonderful little Azalea Lake, this would be a great summer hike or backpack (Hike #155 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon, Third Edition (2014)).
down past some huge sugar pines,
to a junction with the #957 in bottomlands burned in the 2012 Hello Fire.
That fire did a number on the trail in this area and volunteers have helped realign it lower down and closer to the creek.
But the Butte Fork Trail, even with this realignment, doesn’t get all that close to the creek (technically, the Butte Fork of the Applegate River) itself for most of its length but it does cross a number of side streams which may (or may not) provide water sources for a summer hike.
The amazing thing about this trail is that there aren’t just a few giant trees of one or a few species but many, many large trees of several species stretching for miles, including huge Douglas firs,
and towering Ponderosa pines.
There are also big leaf maple, Pacific yew, and golden chinquapin trees.
About 2.6 miles from the trailhead, we passed a shed for trail maintenance tools that was first constructed in the 1920s and has been maintained ever since.
About 5.6 miles from the trailhead, we passed the grave of three people (husband, wife, and the wife’s sister) from Portland who perished near this location as the result of a small plane crash in 1945 (story).
Somewhat sobered, we continued on to a 3-way trail junction in Cedar Basin, our destination for this short winter day.
The Fort Goff and Butte Fork Trails are also part of the 35+ mile Siskiyou Crest Trail – which runs from Cook and Green Pass to Windy Gap near Grayback Mountain. We had lunch at Cedar Basin which is exactly that, a relatively flat area full of all sizes of cedar trees.
As the sun – it was a bluebird, but chilly, day – began sliding below the ridge, we started back down the trail,
being careful not to trod on the little things in the forest.
A long, but really pleasant, hike (14 miles roundtrip; 2,600 feet of elevation gain) through a truly amazing old-growth forest in the Siskiyou Mountains. This is a botanically stunning area – a must see if you cherish old growth!