Azalea Lake via Steve Fork (Red Buttes Wilderness) 06-Mar-2015

Azalea Lake Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness California

The Steve Fork Trailhead in Oregon provides relatively easy access to the north side of California’s Red Buttes Wilderness (where, because of the absurdly low snow year, I have been able to hike during much of this winter). It’s also an access point to the Boundary Trail, which I have also been exploring piece-meal this winter (post). Steve Fork is also an alternate trailhead for wonderful little Azalea Lake, which we had visited before via the Fir Glade Trailhead. So today’s hike was a twofer – check out the Steve Fork Trail (USFS #905) and visit Azalea Lake from a different trailhead. UPDATE: The area around Azalea Lake was burned in 2017 by the Knox Fire.

From the trailhead, I started up the canyon on the Steve Fork Trail (USFS #905) through a dense forest,

Azalea Lake Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness California
Heading up the #905

to, after about a mile, a junction with the Sucker Gap Trail (USFS #906) which heads uphill to the west. I continued south up the canyon across the now much depleted Steve Fork,

Azalea Lake Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness California
Steve Fork in a drought year

then climbed some long switchbacks to a gap at 5,400 feet, with a view of Pyramid Peak to the west.

Azalea Lake Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness California
Pyramid Peak from the Steve Fork Trail

From the gap, I made a short descent to the end of the #905 at its junction with the Azalea Lake/Fir Glade Trail (USFS #955), which I then followed around the head of the Middle Fork Valley, which holds Phantom Meadows and is rimmed by peaks.

Azalea Lake Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness California
Along the #955
Azalea Lake Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness California
Middle Fork Valley; Lake (L), Whiskey (W), and Buck (B) Peaks

About two miles further south, I came to “Thompson Creek Pass” with a view of Preston Peak to the west.

Azalea Lake Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness California
Preston Peak in the Siskiyou Wilderness

I continued on the #955 as it climbed gently up to “Azalea Lake Pass,”

Azalea Lake Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness California
“Azalea Lake Pass”

and then descended to the lake, with views of Mount McLoughlin,

Azalea Lake Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness California
Mount McLoughlin from “Azalea Lake Pass”

the upper Butte Fork Valley,

Azalea Lake Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness California
Butte Fork Valley, with the Red Buttes in the distance

and Figurehead Mountain along the way.

Azalea Lake Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness California
Figurehead Mountain

I had lunch at the lake, enjoying the suspiciously summer-like warm, sunny weather.

Azalea Lake Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness California
Azalea Lake
Azalea Lake Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness California
Azalea Lake
Azalea Lake Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness California
Azalea Lake

And then it was time to head back. A very nice hike (13 miles round-trip; 2,400 feet of elevation gain) to a wonderful lake, with good views of the wilderness and surrounding mountains. There were a few fallen trees, some brushy spots and washed-out stretches, but otherwise all these trails were in good shape and easy to follow.

Azalea Lake Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness California
Azalea Lake

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