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 deadend at a large gravel pad. The unsigned trail to Rabbit Lake goes west from the pad.
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.
After a very short stretch in the forest, the trail entered rocky ground.
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.
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],
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,
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.
Below the ridge, the trail is sketchier in a few spots but, overall, still obvious and easy to follow.
Along here, it traverses some rocky spots but, again, without any need for scrambling.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 decribes 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!