Little Silver Creek Lake (Galice, Oregon) 09-Jul-2021

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.

The rebuilt trail descends across an otherwise slippery slope
And then you’re back on to the original trail
A clear view of Chrome Ridge (later it would be obscured by smoke)
The original trail traverses through the effects of the 2018 Klondike Fire
The lake is below the trees in an unburned section of Little Silver Creek Canyon

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.

Along the narrow ridge
On the ridge – soon the trail will descend into the valley on the right

After leaving the ridge, I descended into the canyon, much of which had been spared from the ravages of the Klondike Fire.

Some unburned forest
A still healthy – and colorful -madrone
Some oaks appear to shade the trail

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! 😁

Arriving at Little Silver Creek
Cool and clear
A huge Wiggins Lily grew next to the creek

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.

Little Silver Creek Lake I (the slope on the far side is the landslide that created it)
Little Silver Creek Lake II
Little Silver Creek Lake III
Little Silver Creek Lake IV
Little Silver Creek Lake V
Little Silver Creek Lake VI
Little Silver Creek Lake VII

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. 😁

One of several large logs cleared by the SMC crew

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.

Reaching the ridge – the trailhead (1) is at the upper right
Back up the narrow ridge
Along the ridge
The recently rebuilt trail just below the trailhead

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). 😉

The trail to Little Silver Creek Lake

7 thoughts on “Little Silver Creek Lake (Galice, Oregon) 09-Jul-2021

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  1. Re swimming: yes, but if you jump into bodies of water wearing all your clothes and possibly shoes (depending on how well they drain), then don’t dry off, you can easily walk for another couple of hours even in horrible heat. An Australian trick worth emulating as the world gets unstoppably hotter.


  2. Re swimming: yes, but if you jump in bodies of water wearing all your clothes and possibly shoes (those with good drainage), and resume walking without any drying, you can easily and comfortably walk another couple of hours in the worst of temperatures. As well as not getting heatstroke, you feel more energetic. An Australian trick — recommended (especially with heat explosions happening where they shouldn’t, which is our fate from now on).


  3. It’s not very deep and there are only a few spots along the shore where it’s easy to enter the water, but you can swim in Little Silver. I was more focused on getting back up to the trailhead before the heat really got going.


  4. No swimming? Looks highly inviting, especially with your description of the heat!


  5. Glad you were able to get through this time and share this interesting hike. I have always loved the smooth orange bark of madrones!


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