Blue Grotto (Lost Creek Lake, Oregon) 04-Feb-2016

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon

While we’re glad, thanks to El Niño, to be able to snowshoe again, we do (selfishly) miss being able to hike clear trails in the high country in January. Casting around for snow-free mid-winter trails brought us to some lower elevation ones that we’d passed on during the previous two dry years. Two such trails – the North Shore and the South Shore – circle Lost Creek Lake, a reservoir managed by the Corps of Engineers, that sits astride the Rogue River about 30 miles northeast of Medford, Oregon. The Corps calls both these trails, as well as the trail that goes east up the Rogue River from Peyton Bridge, the Rogue River Trail. This can be confusing since neither trail makes contact with the famous Rogue River Trail many miles down river to the west nor much of one with the southern trailhead of the Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) to the east.  The common denominator is apparently just the river, whether the trails connect or not.

To access the North Shore Trail, we parked at the Takelma Park Trailhead, which, on a mid-winter’s weekday, was empty except for us (come summer and this area is immensely popular with boaters, mountain bikers, and trail runners), then headed north on the almost level trail.

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Starting out along the North Shore (Rogue River) Trail

Much of this trail runs through forest, which gives you a sense of isolation and detachment from the reservoir.

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Along the North Shore (Rogue River) Trail

The trail is maintained by the Corps, who have done a great job with the tread and a series of handy footbridges over small streams – all of which were running well in this high water year.

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Along the North Shore (Rogue River) Trail

The day got off to a foggy start, which created some really moody, noir effects on the lake’s waters.

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Lost Creek Lake noir
Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Lost Creek Lake noir

The trail works its way past some trail and lake-accessible campsites at Four Corners Camp and then continues north into the northern-most arm of the lake.

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Entering Lost Creek Arm

Here, the trail briefly merges with Takelma Drive,

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
The trail briefly follows a road

and is then called the Rogue River Trail,

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
The North Shore / Rogue River Trail

where it drops off of the road,

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Along the North Shore / Rogue River Trail

and continues on to the Lost Creek Trailhead at the head of the northern-most arm of the reservoir.

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
At the Lost Creek Trailhead

The appearance of a Rogue River Trail here was a bit confusing. The vastly more famous 40-mile long Rogue River Trail is far to the west. The Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) runs from north of Crater Lake National Park to near the ranger station in Prospect, Oregon. It’s been reported that you can – with some manuvering – follow the North Shore Trail from the Peyton Bridge Trailhead to Prospect {Update: You can, if you’re willing to suffer}. Today, we were satisfied to just follow the trail as it headed a bit inland and climbed (very gently) through some oak woodlands on the south side of Fawn Butte,

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Through the oak woodlands

repleat with well-watered lichens,

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Enjoying the moisture

to a view southeast across the lake.

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Looking toward Viewpoint Mike

Then some more travel through the woods,

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Continuing through the oak woodlands

to our destination for the day – the Blue Grotto – with its 40-foot waterfall and soft greenish rock, which is ash from the eruption that turned Mount Mazama into Crater Lake.

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Entering the Blue Grotto
Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Waterfall in the Blue Grotto
Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Pool in the Blue Grotto

After a snack, it was back along the trail,

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Going back

past an odd “post office” tree,

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Leave your packages here

to the Lost Creek Trailhead, and then up its service road,

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Taking a different way back

to Takelma Drive and along that to Four Corners Camp and a view of the lake – now free of fog and clouds – and then back to Takelma Trailhead.

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Lost Creek Lake from near Four Corners Camp

A long, but low gain (15.5 miles round-trip; 600 feet of elevation gain), hike through some surprisingly pretty meadows and forests to an intriguing waterfall. The Blue Grotto is only 2.5 miles from the Lewis Road Trailhead to the east and is also directly accessible from the lake when its at full pool – we suspect it’s a popular destination since it has its own floating restroom moored in the bay. But today it was all ours…

Blue Grotto North Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Our track to and from the Blue Grotto

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