Viewpoint Trails (Applegate Lake) 25-Feb-2017

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

With clear gaps between active weather patterns seemingly reduced to a few hours, our (or at least my) attention has been forced toward some of the shorter, lower altitude trails that in less “active” years we avoided in favor of longer trails. This has meant finally hiking all of the trails around Applegate Lake in the Upper Applegate River Valley.  In December 2016, I hiked an old road between the Payette and Manzanita Trailheads on the east side of the lake and this January, finished the various trails on the lake’s Latgawa Peninsula.  What remained were a collection of short trails (the Viewpoint Trails) on the western tip of the lake’s Squaw Arm.  So, with the LovedOne busy volunteering at the library, I took advantage of today’s break in the active weather to head out to the Payette Trailhead and finish these hikes.


The sign at the trailhead says “Payette Trailhead” but the Forest Service website doesn’t give this trailhead its own page and also refers to it variously as the “Squaw Arm parking area” and “Squaw Creek Arm” – ample opportunities for confusion.  I could have just hiked the Payette Trail (USFS #970) out-and-back to the Viewpoint Trails but opted instead to go out along the old road/use trail above the #970. So, under a very light snowfall (thank you active weather pattern!), I crossed the robust bridge over now raging Squaw Creek,

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

Crossing Squaw Creek on the Army’s robust bridge

went south up Spring Gulch, crossed its creek,

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

Spring Gulch Creek

and then went west on the old road/use trail to where it makes a close approach to the Harr Ridge Trail (USFS #947) roughly 50 feet below it. As luck would have it, this was exactly the spot where a huge dead tree had clobbered the reservoir’s perimeter fence, so I just stepped through the gap and was almost immediately on the #947.

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

A fallen tree breaches the perimeter fence in just the right spot

Unlike the Payette Trail, which is heavily used and well maintained, the Harr Ridge Trail, while generally easy to follow, was dim in a few places,

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

Faint tread on the Harr Ridge Trail

obscured in places by ravel, and blocked by several fallen trees of varying sizes.  While it offers a good opportunity to see some examples of an old growth Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine forest, it is definitely in need of some simple maintenance.

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

Ravel on the Harr Ridge Trail

I followed the Harr Ridge down to its signed junction with the Payette Trail at Tipsu Tyee Camp.

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

A snow-free but still primative Tipsu Tyee

By now, the active weather had run its course (for the moment) and sunlight was breaking-out across the lake.

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

Clouds dissipating over Squaw Arm

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

Sunshine graces the waters

Fron Tipsu Tyee, I followed the Payette west to its signed junction with the Cut-Off Trail (USFS #946), a trail which provides a connection to the west end of the Harr Ridge Trail and to the Squaw Point Trail (USFS #946A) [note that the description on this web page is for a trail on the Latgawa Peninsula, not the #946A – more confusion].  It was a short way southwest on the #946 to a partially signed 4-way junction (no sign for the #946A) with the #946A and #947 trails.

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

Up the Cut-Off Trail

I followed the #946A to its “viewpoint” but failed to find a view – maybe there was one in its early days, but it now looks as though the trees have grown back to block any good sight lines.

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

The viewless viewpoint at the end of the #946A

So back to the 4-way junction and then down the Cut-Off Trail to its unsigned junction with the Payette Trail on the west side of the arm. The Cut-Off, like the Harr Ridge, is also definitely in need of some simple maintenance.  I then doubled back up the Cut-Off to the 4-way and continued up over the top of the arm on the Harr Ridge Trail, dodging a few large fallen trees along the way.

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

Big dead tree on the Harr Ridge Trail

Up at the top of the arm, I came to (and almost passed) a signed (it’s a very small sign) junction with the faint Culy Trail (USFS #947A),

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

The signed (arrow) junction of the Harr Ridge and Culy Trails

and followed the Culy out it its viewless viewpoint.

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

The viewless viewpoint at the end of the #947A

After visiting the Culy view(less)point, I continued east on the Harr Ridge to the Payette and then followed it east under now cheerily sunny skies,

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

The view east up Squaw Creek

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

The view west towards Collings Mountain

to a lower crossing of the creek in Spring Gulch,

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

Once more across Spring Gulch

and hence over the robust bridge to the trailhead. A short (6.0 miles round-trip; 800 feet of elevation gain) but worthwhile hike to see some old growth and explore some new trails. I got the feeling that the reason these small trails seem little used is that their primary purpose – to connect with viewpoints – has been outgrown by the forest. Still, they make a nice side trip to see some old-growth forest and, if you’re up for following the old road, a somewhat adventurous loop.

Viewpoint Trails Applegate Lake Oregon

My out-and-back track to the Viewpoint Trails