Peak(s):  Mt. McLoughlin - 9,495 feet
Date Posted:  08/24/2011
Date Climbed:   08/20/2011
Author:  4fGp94tr3e3zYk

 Mt. McLoughlin standard trail  

Mt. McLoughlin (9495') solo stats - 8/20/11

Location: Jackson/Klamath Counties, Oregon {42.44500°N / 122.3142°W}
Elevation gain: 3900'
Total distance: 10 miles

Start: 10:18 hrs.
Summit: 12:36 hrs.
Finish: 15:22 hrs.
Total time: 5 hrs. 4 min.

I know this peak ranks absolutely nowhere in comparison to a 14er, & perhaps some of you have never heard of it, but it's a well-known landmark around southern Oregon. At 9495', Mt. McLoughlin is an eroded shield volcano in the heart of the southern Cascades. It last erupted 30K years ago, but glaciers have sculpted down its north face, reducing its former height by several hundred feet (from Wikipedia). Geographically, it lies b/w Crater Lake National Park to the north & Mt. Shasta to the south. Treeline here is roughly about 8000'.

I figured this was a way to beat near 100 degree temps in the valleys below. The area itself has a number of lakes for camping, though most of them were already at capacity. Upon arriving at the trail head, the parking area itself was packed (typical for a weekend), not to mention a $5 fee area was charged. The trail head from my GPS registered about 5600', so a 4000' gain to the summit in five miles. Here we go.

Starting out, the trail crosses Cascade Canal, which starts upstream from Fourmile Lake. It's the only stream crossing the entire way. Past that, the trail is nothing but an initial meander through the thick of the Oregon woods w/ minimal gain, soon turning into mixed boulder fields/forest. The climbing really began at this point and slowly the views were starting to take shape. Once I got to the ridge line, trees nearly disappeared (except for those stunted resisters) & the true summit was finally in view, still another 1000' worth of scrambling to the top. The last part I found rather unpleasant, particularly near the top, as the ground consisted of a mixture of black cinders mixed w/ ashy soil, which made me slide back w/ every advancing step, not to mention adding sand in the shoes. Grrr.

But once at the top, the view was incredible. Could see mountains upon mountains in every direction. The Pacific Ocean wasn't visible due to high peaks in the Coast Range, and there was a bit of haze facing south towards California. The Cascades themselves hardly even looked like a range, but rather just a long stretch of gentle-sloped peaks that blended w/ everything else. I didn't see any typical wildlife (pikas, marmots, etc.), & perhaps they're not native to the area. All in all, it took a little more than two hours up, where I spent about half an hour at the summit taking in views and enjoying the breezy 60 degree weather.

Descent went by just fine. The trail head sign at the beginning warned hikers of where they could potentially get lost, and I could see why. This is a heavily visited peak, and amidst the sandy soil & small cairns, there are markings of random trails littered all across the ridge. Some started going down a gentle slope to the south, which leads off far from the main trail. I just had to remember to stay along the ridge until I got to where the true trail started veering back down into the forest. Of course, I could always cheat off my traced path on my GPS for assistance.

Past the ridge, I met few people on the way down. It was a pleasant quiet walk through the forest until I heard the sound of water at Cascade Canal. Making it back to the car, I took a quick jaunt to get a few last views of McLoughlin from nearby Lake Bernice. All in all, a good eventful day. Now for a nice shower after a dusty hike.

Trail head sign

The standard trail starts off crossing Cascade Canal

Junction w/ the Pacific Crest Trail about a mile in

Approaching treeline at 8000'

Broad scree slope facing north w/ patchy snow

The last couple hundred feet to the top

True top

Crowded day at the top

Remains of a former lookout tower, reduced by unfriendly weather

Looking down facing north

Southern view w/ Fish Lake in background

Mt. Shasta (14162') rises above the haze to the south

Pointy peak is Mt. Thielsen, w/ the Crater Lake rim just below. The tops of the Three Sisters also barely visible in center

Unique formations on the way back down. Largest pinnacle is the former lava conduit

Still full upon return

Mt. McLoughlin from Lake Bernice

Closer view w/ the standard ascent on the left

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

08/24/2011 22:45
Something different. Thanks for sharing.

Dave B

Brings back memories
06/22/2012 13:18
I remember standing atop Mt. Thielsen looking at McLoughlin. It's pretty amazing that tree line is at ~8,000 when just a couple hundred north at Hood it's down around 5000.


08/25/2011 13:58
...the person who stole the user name I wanted reveals themself. I can't stay mad though since they reported on someplace I've never seen before. I've been to 49 states, but not Oregon. Nice report.


Nice to see something different
08/25/2011 17:06
Any idea if those pinnacles are climbable? They look kind of rotten but you never know until you get up close.


08/25/2011 19:19
Eatinhardtack: No problem :)

davey_rocket: I'm planning to do Thielsen this coming weekend... it looks like a fun climb

Trudger: Haha thanks!

rickinco123: The spires definitely looked loose & rotten, though I will say the pokey nature of cinder rock makes it real easy to grip. The large pinnacle near the top certainly looked fun to climb.

Shasta Locales

Been There
08/30/2011 14:48
It is a really nice climb with great views. Sounds like you had a great time.

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