A Hop to Rabbit Lake (Siskiyous) 18-Jun-2017

Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon

The trail up Kerby Peak from the White Creek Trailhead is steep and challenging but well graded and rewards your efforts with wonderful views of the Illinois Valley, the Siskiyou Crest, and beyond.  We’ve hiked it before (post) and even tried (unsuccessfully) to summit it when its covered with snow (post). But, while contemplating the map for another hike of Kerby, I saw a small lake – Rabbit Lake – just below the ridge running south from the peak.  Lakes are a rarity in the Siskiyous so checking-it out quickly took precedence over yet another hike of Kerby.  I found a description of the use trail to Rabbit on the Highway 199 website and the short out-and-back hike discussed there seemed ideal for what was going to be (finally) a sizzling hot day in Southern Oregon.

You can reach the Rabbit Lake Trailhead from either Williams to the east or the Illinois Valley to the west but coming up from the valley seemed a less convoluted drive. So, from Cave Junction, I went 9.8 miles on Highway 46 (Oregon Caves Highway) and turned left on to Little Grayback Road (Forest Road (FR) 4609) – a paved road that soon reverts to good gravel. After 5.9 miles on FR 4609, at the top of the ridge, I turned left (north) on to FR 054, a two track dirt road that gets rougher and rougher and is best attempted only with a high clearance vehicle (absent that, park at the 4609/054 intersection and walk the short distance to the trailhead). FR 054 crosses a large open area then reenters the forest for a short climb to a deadend at a large gravel pad. The unsigned trail to Rabbit Lake goes west from the pad.

Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
The gravel pad at the end of FR 054; the trail starts from its west side (arrow)

The trail starts into the forest just beyond the trailhead, along the southwest side of Point 4715. This use trail proved to be obvious all the way to the lake, with the only tricky spot being where it left the ridge top to descend to the lake.

Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
The use trail starts out through the forest

After a very short stretch in the forest, the trail entered rocky ground.

Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
Starting the transition from forest to rocky ridge

I’d gotten an early start and hiking conditions were ideal – sunny and cool with a light, bug defeating, breeze, which only got better – as did the view – the further I went up the ridge. The ridge is rocky but, despite the rocks, this is always a trail – no scrambling was required.

Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
Along the rocky ridge

The ridge curves upward toward the top of Little Grayback Peak [not to be confused with Little Grayback Mountain in the Applegate Valley to the east],

Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
Along the rocky ridge; Little Grayback Peak in the distance

but the trail drops off the ridge to the east before you get anywhere near the summit.  The drop-off point is a notch marked with a cairn,

Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
Looking up to where the trail leaves the ridge (arrow)

and the turn itself is marked with a small rock wall blocking continuing straight ahead and cairns and small pieces of flagging indicating a turn to the northeast (right) here.

Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
The trail does not continue straight ahead here (X) but rather turns to the northeast (arrow) and leaves the ridge

Below the ridge, the trail is sketchier in a few spots but, overall, still obvious and easy to follow.

Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
The trail below the rocky ridge

Along here, it traverses some rocky spots but, again, without any need for scrambling.

Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
The trail crosses rocky terrain shortly before reaching the lake

Soon I was standing on the Little Grayback’s northeast ridge, ready for the short descent to Rabbit Lake.  Below the ridge, however, the use trail was still covered in several places with 3 to 5 feet of snowy bounty from last winter’s storms.

Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
Lingering snow patches cover the trail immediately above the lake

So I just went straight downhill, across snow and rocky ground, to the still snowy shores of delightfully cute little Rabbit Lake. Despite the lingering snow, frogs were chorusing and certain highly ambitious mosquitos soon found me.

Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
On the shores of Rabbit Lake
Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
Rabbit Lake
Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
The outlet from Rabbit Lake

I lingered at the lake for awhile, stopping and starting the frog chorus by snapping twigs, then climbed back to the northeast ridge and, from there, up to the brush-chocked summit of Little Grayback Peak. From the top, which is only 100 feet lower than nearby Kerby Peak, I had views in all directions on this cloudless, sunny day.

Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
Mount McLoughlin (arrow) and the Crater Lake Crest to the east
Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
Still snowy Preston Peak (highest point in the Siskiyou Wilderness) and the Illinois Valley to the west
Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
Kerby Peak to the north

Standing on Little Grayback’s summit, I pondered my options. Some sixty years ago (or more) a trail reportedly ran below the ridge, past Rabbit Lake, and on over to the summit of Kerby Peak.

Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
The 1954 Oregon Caves map showing the trail from Rabbit Lake to Kerby Peak

More recently, both Roether (Williams Area Trail Guide (2006)) and Ruediger (The Siskiyou Crest: Hikes, History & Ecology (2013)) describe a trail, starting from where the use trail leaves the ridge, over Little Grayback Peak and on to Kerby Peak. Roether describes this trail as “brushed” (2006) while Ruediger (2013) calls it “faint and overgrown.”  I didn’t see any signs of a trail where I left the ridge and, from the summit, all I could see was manzanita in all directions.  While I’m willing to believe there’s a way to Kerby Peak from here, I also think that brush growth over time has rendered it not at all obvious.  I concluded that finding and following it would require more energy than I could muster on what was a rapidly warming day, so I headed back, leaving a Rabbit-Kerby expedition for perhaps another, cooler, day.  Nice little hike (3.2 miles roundtrip; 800 feet of elevation gain) with great views and a charming lake as its goal!

Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon
My out-and-back track to Rabbit Lake

2 thoughts on “A Hop to Rabbit Lake (Siskiyous) 18-Jun-2017

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  1. I had little trouble finding the trail up to Rabbit Lake but there was no obvious path from there over to the saddle south of Kerby. It’s good that you’re looking into this. You probably already know this, but all of the USGS historical maps can now be accessed at http://historicalmaps.arcgis.com/usgs/ and downloaded (in 4 different formats) from https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/topoview/. I do wonder, however, if some of these old trails actually existed back in the day(?).


  2. I am glad that you have found the Little Greyback Peak / Rabbit Lake trail. I have been rough maintaining / brush cutting and carin rock marking this trail for about 8 years now. I have been hiking out and marking the trail to Kerby Peak, but have failed to locate the section between Rabbit Lake and where the trail can be seen on google earth and followed through the manzanita fields to the NW and then NE of Little Greyback Peak. (as per the 1954 Oregon Caves map) The trail can be followed down from Kerby Peak and across to the manzanita fields that I have mentioned. (lots of brush but I have rough marked it) I have some ribbon strung on a few of the potential past routes. I am heading out this afternoon to make another attempt at finding the historic connector between the 2 sections.

    I have made plans to eventually clear the entire trail to Kerby Peak and place some signage with destinations and distances.

    I would also be very interested in finding the rest of the trail over Holcomb Peak. I need more old maps!

    Here is a video I made of my attempt to find the missing section from yesterday; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJ4-BH3BB5Q

    Thanks for the write up- I enjoyed reading from another’s adventures in this area!

    Contact me if you are interested in a joint exploration, I can show you what I have found so far.


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