Fawn Butte – Blue Grotto Loop (Southwest Oregon) 07-Feb-2021

The Blue Grotto is a geologic feature just above of the North Shore Trail on the north side of Lost Creek Lake. It’s where a seasonal stream has cut a 40-foot (12 m) waterfall through a greenish rhyolite formation that is ash from the eruption of Mount Mazama, the volcano that created the Crater Lake caldera. The Grotto is at its best in the late winter to early Spring when runoff brings the waterfall to life. We figured that rain and snow melt from a big storm a week ago had by now found its way to the Grotto’s waterfall, so we set off on our annual visit. In previous years, we’d simply hike out-and-back on the North Shore Trail from the Lost Creek Trailhead, which is a lovely hike. Then I discovered an old road that runs past Fawn Butte, above and parallel to the North Shore Trail. This makes it possible to form a loop that includes views from the hills, a visit to the Blue Grotto, and a walk along the lake.

Using the Fawn Butte Trail (that old road), we’ve previously visited the Blue Grotto by descending south from the road just west of Blue Gulch and by going to road’s end and looping back on the North Shore Trail (there are some private property issues here). This time we went south off the road at the head of the intermittent creek that feeds the waterfall.

Crossing the very seasonal creek at the start of the old road (Fawn Butte Trail)
Lingering snow and clouds along the old road
Through an oak woodland along the old road

It’s only 0.6 miles (1 km) from the road to the head of the waterfall. That journey was an easy one as we went cross-country above and alongside the creek to the top of the waterfall. There was a bit of brush at first but soon the terrain opened-up nicely. There’s a lot of (now dormant) poison oak through here so you probably wouldn’t want to do this in summer – but then you wouldn’t because there’s no waterfall then. πŸ™‚

Fairly open terrain as we descend toward the seasonal creek, with Lost Creek Lake in the distance
Flounce Rock on the horizon
The seasonal creek was running

Above the waterfall we found some interesting pools and water-carved rock formations. It was obvious, based on scour in the creek bed and the water-worn rocks, that this little seasonal creek is (or was) capable of some short, but intense, flows.

Pools above the waterfall
Water over greenish rhyolite
At the waterfall
Two rivulets converge to make the waterfall (there’s a third rivulet too, but it runs only at the highest flows)
Two rivulets converge at the lip

From the top of the waterfall, we worked our way east up a dirt slope and then descended through the forest above the Grotto to its main trail. A snack and the obligatory visit to the gushing waterfall followed. Added bonuses were ice build-up on some of the tree branches near the base of the falls and a small rainbow. πŸ™‚

The Blue Grotto from the head of the trail to it
Ice, waterfall, and rainbow
Ice encrustations
Ice close up
The Blue Grotto
Green stones in the pool at the base of the waterfall
An abstraction of falling water
Sunlight and waterfall

After the snack and the waterfall, there was nothing to do but stroll the four miles (6.4 km) back to the Lost Creek Trailhead along the North Shore Trail. It didn’t hurt that a day that had started out fog-shrouded in the valley had become nearly cloudless and full bluebird by the time we started back.

An outcropping of green rhyolite along the lake
Sunlight on the waters
Back along the North Shore Trail through an oak woodland

The waterfall was excellent and, overall, it was a superb day in the out-of-doors. Done this way, the loop comes to 7 miles (11.2 km) with only 700 feet (213 m) of gain. πŸ˜€ The Blue Grotto is easy to find from the North Shore Trail as there’s a sign and a well-worn side trail to it. In case this isn’t enough, there’s a floating toilet for boaters usually moored in the Grotto’s inlet. πŸ™„

Our loop past Fawn Butte and the Blue Grotto (B) and “T” is the floating toilet
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6 comments

  1. This is what convinced me to “follow” someone: new places with rad rox, sparse forest, access. Any plans to explore the new fire breaks at CSNM?

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  2. Was at blue grotto today. thanks for posting was thinking of trying the route you took. Did you see the balanced rock above the falls? A large boulder balanced on a smaller one. Quite an odd sight.

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  3. Thanks! It was a surprise to find ice still hanging out in the grotto, given that it was such a Spring-like day elsewhere. It did add a little something extra.

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