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 in winter (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.

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 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!

Rabbit Lake Siskiyou Crest Oregon

My out-and-back track to Rabbit Lake

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