A landslide lake is – as the name suggests – a body of water formed when a canyon wall slides or slumps to dam a creek or stream. These aren’t created very often, as major slides are not common events. Nor do they usually last very long, as the dam is typically swept away by subsequent rain events. Little Silver Creek Lake is unique in that it is a landslide lake that has survived for over 100 years – it is one of the only landslide lakes to survive in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. This made it a worthy destination in the ongoing search for, and exploration of, trails not previously hiked.
My first attempt at visiting Little Silver Creek Lake was in late 2019. I arrived at the trailhead to find that it and the Little Silver Lake Trail #1184 had been hit hard by the 2018 Klondike Fire. Some wandering was necessary to find the start of the trail amidst the wreckage. I eventually did but my attempt to follow it soon fizzled-out on badly sloping tread that traversed steep, unstable, highly exposed terrain. These impediments, combined with my still recovering from surgery, prompted me to turn back after barely a quarter mile. The #1184 went back on the to do list for another try later.
The year-that-shall-no-longer-be-named passed, having afforded little opportunity to explore any remote trails. Then, recently, I learned that the Siskiyou Mountain Club (SMC) had used the #1184 to train its 2021 interns. They rebuilt the start of the trail, cleared some brush, and removed all of the largest trees that had fallen across it. 😁 Now seemed as good a time as any to give it another go.
Reaching the trailhead is a bit of an adventure in its own right. After you leave paved Bear Camp Road, there is no signage, so bring an up-to-date forest road map. Because the weather was again forecast to get hot, I got a very early start and left the trailhead before 0730. The first several hundred feet of the trail had been rebuilt to make it an easy, and safe, walk. After that, the trail reverted to its old, poorly maintained self. But it was still pretty easy walking, with only a few tricky spots where the eroded tread crossed sloping and loose terrain.
About 0.7 miles (1.1 km) below the trailhead, the trail goes along the top of a narrow ridge of white rock, with steep drops on either side. It’s plenty wide to be safe, but somewhat exhilarating nonetheless.
After leaving the ridge, I descended into the canyon, much of which had been spared from the ravages of the Klondike Fire.
About 1.5 miles (2.4 km) down the trail, I started hearing running water. After having descended through dry, sun baked, and fire burned terrain, this was an unexpected and amazing sound. Despite the ongoing drought, Little Silver Creek was still running! Miracles! 😁
The SMC had cleared a way through the brush to the head of the lake. There was also a continuation of the old trail which – after some artful splashing through the creek – could be followed along the south side of the lake.
This lake is an amazing little gem in terrain that you wouldn’t expect to find something like it. Seeing it was worth the long drive and short hike on old trail. But I needed to start back before the day’s heat reached that of the sunny side of Mercury. 🤨 On the trudge back up, I was again thankful for all the work the SMC had done to clear the trail of large dead trees and encroaching brush. 😁
Much of the trail was in shade but the return up the narrow ridge and the slopes above it were not. Much water was consumed, and sweat produced, as I worked my way back up to the trailhead. I got back at 1030 and was well on my way home before the temperature reached 104°F / 40°C for the day. The winds had also shifted and the early morning’s clarity had disappeared behind a thin veil of smoke.
It was a short hike (4.4 miles (7.0 km) round trip, with 1,145 feet (349 m) of gain on the return) but just the right length for what became a hot, hot, smokey day. As noted, it’s a bit of a drive to get there but pretty amazing when you do. It would be a great hike for later in the year before Bear Camp Road closes for the season (and the weather is, hopefully, cooler). 😉