Circling Fish Lake (Southwest Oregon) 22-May-2020

Fish Lake stretches along Highway 140 about 30 miles east of Medford, Oregon.  The Fish Lake Trail #1034 runs along the north side of the lake between the North Fork Campground to the west and the High Lakes Trail #6200 to the east.  We’ve had passing encounters with the #1013 before but had never hiked it.  Then Glenn & Carol (& Katie) gave it a favorable review.  So we decided to give it a try.  But, in the spirit of things starting to open-up, we decided to add a little adventure to what would otherwise be an out-and-back hike, however nice.  Instead, we’d put the #1013 to use as part of a hike completely around the lake!

Crazy talk, you say?  Well, we glared at the Forest Service map and at satellite imagery and at Open Street Maps (OSM) until a possible route emerged.  First, all the land around the lake is public land (Forest Service).  There are, however, a few cabins along the lake shore, and we didn’t want to intrude on those, public lands or not.  So, from the western trailhead on Forest Road (FR) 37, the #1013 (plus a tiny bit of cross-country) would take us to the north end of the Fish Lake Dam.  We’d cross the dam, then work our way cross-country eastward for three-quarters of a mile to where OSM indicated an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) track going to one of the cabins on the lake.  We’d follow that ATV track eastward to FR 920, then along it and FR 900 to a junction with the #1013, then follow that trail through the Fish Lake Resort and back to the western trailhead. So, with plan in hand, we headed out…

Leaving the trailhead on the #1013
An active beaver dam across the North Fork of Little Butte Creek
Fish Lake from the top of the dam

We got to the top of the dam. We were so enthralled by the blue sky and clouds to the east that we didn’t notice the light snow squall coming in from the west. It enveloped us as we started the cross-country part of the hike over the lava rocks along the edge of the lake.

Mount McLoughlin from the south end of the dam, with a snow squall coming in from the west (left)
Snow falls as we skip 🙄 among the boulders
Mount McLoughlin disappears in the storm
We continue our lava boulder dance

After about a third of a mile of boulder hopping along the lake, we headed uphill into the forest which, as expected, was a mix of wet brush and open ground.

The snow squall passed just as we started into the forest
Working our way through brush and over fallen trees
And then through some “open” forest

What we didn’t expect was to reach another rough trail (well-marked with glowing fluorescent flagging) before we reached the ATV trail.  So we followed the flags to the ATV trail – doing so saved us a quarter mile or so of forest floundering.

Following the flagged use trail
Following the ATV trail

The ATV trail took us, past an old cabin, to the end of FR 920. From there it was a road walk to the junction of FR 900 and the #1013.

The old cabin
Along FR 900 (Mount McLoughlin is enveloped in clouds)
The east end of Fish Lake

As we followed the #1013 past the Fish Lake Resort, we noticed that its café was open (it and the resort opened today).  Having spent the last two months eating only our own cooking, one whiff of their French fries and that café owned our stomachs.  So we stopped and ate burgers and curly fries outside on the deck in the warm sun 😎 overlooking a sparkling blue lake.  Food cooked by someone else!  OMG!  Sooooo good! ❤

Ambrosia by the lake

We were alone as we savored our meal. Thanks to the reopening (and some perhaps overly generous interpretations of what that means), crowds are likely to descend on the resort for this holiday weekend. But we were a day ahead of all that. Today our solitary meal gave us the strength to finish the walk back to the trailhead on the #1013. 😉

Classic CCC construction at Fish Lake
Along the #1013
Brown Mountain from Fish Lake
Fish Lake Dam and North Fork Little Butte Creek
Flat water created by the beavers
Marshes along Little Butte Creek
Old-growth along the #1013

Our 7.9 mile (300 feet of gain) loop around Fish Lake had a little bit of everything – snow, sunshine, clouds, easy trail, lava beds, a bald eagle, brush, light breezes, and a few wildflowers – all eclipsed by an excellent, not-home-cooked-meal that we’ll not soon forget! 😀

Our circle around the lake: (?) Flagged trail, (A) ATV trail, the old cabin, and the café 🙂 at Fish Lake Resort

2 thoughts on “Circling Fish Lake (Southwest Oregon) 22-May-2020

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  1. Thanks! As we were working our way cross-country, it occurred to me that it would be easier to do this on snowshoes over enough snow to smooth out the brush, rocks, and fallen trees. I snowshoed up Brown Mountain a few years ago and all the nearly impossible lava fields were rendered easy by a nice blanket of snow. Something to think about…


  2. Hi, nice adventure. We snowshoed this last winter halfway around the lake to the dam and back. Going around looks like an adventure. Good for you!


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