Miller Lake is a charming little three acre lake perched on the side of a ridge above Sturgis Fork to the east of Oregon Caves National Monument. It’s a natural lake that was deepened with an earthen dam years ago by the Thompson Creek Irrigation District. The dam remains but the old service road to it has been closed. There is now a good single-track trail that goes to the lake and then circles around it for views from the ridge above. The trailhead is at the end of Forest Road (FR) 1020-400 and the circuit up and around the lake is only 3.4 miles if you can drive to the trailhead. Unfortunately, the bridge that got FR 1020-400 across Sturgis Fork was removed in 2006. Motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, and high-clearance cars and trucks can cross the Fork at low water (good luck with that during Spring runoff). Otherwise you have to walk up the road, which adds 6.6 miles round-trip to the journey. Although getting across the creek in my 4×4 truck wouldn’t have been a problem, I decided to walk for the exercise (The LovedOne had meetings at the library).
It was cold down in the canyon,
where FR 1020-400 used to cross Sturgis Fork on a road bridge.
After dancing over the icy rocks in the creek, I walked up the road, which is still in excellent condition. Despite being a road, it was nonetheless a pleasant walk. There was even a view to the north of Grayback Mountain and the brown scars of the 2017 Creedence Fire that ravaged its southern slopes.
The road ends at the Miller Lake Trailhead (USFS #902) and a good trail climbs from there,
to Miller Lake, where the sun’s angle wasn’t conducive to photos of the whole lake.
From the lake, I went west on the trail (still not shown on most maps), climbing past some old-growth,
and above “Little Miller Lake” (not named on the map), an all-natural but much shallower lake than Miller. This morning it was sporting a layer of ice where it was in the shade.
Shortly after passing above Little Miller, I came to the rocky crest of the ridge between the Sturgis Fork and Steve Fork drainages,
with views to the north and northwest.
The trail going down to the southeast of Miller Lake was much more of a plunge than how I’d come up, which made me glad to have done this loop counter-clockwise. There was one more view on the way down,
and then I was back at Miller Lake.
The walk down the road was uneventful, as was the hop back across the still icy creek. So, 10 miles round-trip, with 2,100 feet of elevation gain to the crest of the ridge. If you can ford the creek, this is a nice half-day outing to a lake and some good views. If you can’t (or won’t) then it’s just a longer, but still pretty good, hike.