California Hiking Klamath Mountains Marble Mountains Trip report

Marble Mountain Wilderness Day 4 – Red Rock Valley & Marble Rim

We woke to nature’s alarm clock on Thursday. Birdsong was coming from a vast variety of birds. A soft morning light was falling in the valley and we watched as the bright sunshine made its way down the mountain sides.
It was going to be another warm day and we were happy to be free of our large packs for a day.


After breakfast we threw on our day packs and hiked around the far side of Frying Pan Lake and headed back out of the valley eventually picking up the trail we’d come in on the previous day.


We came to a junction where the right hand fork led back up to the Marble Valley Shelter.

From that point we had another 3.3 miles to go to reach the Red Rock Valley Trail. We soon crossed a branch of Canyon Creek below a small cascade and above a nice little waterfall that was difficult to get a good view of.


This portion of the Canyon Creek Trail crossed a couple of other side streams as it gradually descended through the forest towards the Lovers Camp Trailhead.



When we reached the Red Rock Valley Trail junction we turned right and quickly found ourselves at a bridge-less crossing of Canyon Creek.


We didn’t feel like fording the creek and soaking our shoes this early in our hike so we found a way across on some rocks and debris. The trail then began to climb up and around a ridge end.

When we finally came around the ridge we were suddenly in a different forest. Ponderosa pine trees replaced the Douglas firs along Canyon Creek.


On the way down the Canyon Creek Trail we’d been discussing the fact that we hadn’t seen any large wildlife other than the lone doe near Paradise Lake on the second morning of our trip. We’d seen signs of deer and bear all over the place so we were surprised at the lack of sightings. Coming up the Red Rock Valley Trail that started to change when a doe and her fawns ran up the trail in front of us.

We took a break to let them put some distance between us, then continued on. The trail soon left the drier forest and entered a series of meadows.

The meadows didn’t have quite as many flowers as those along the Shackleford Trail, but there were some and with the open views we could see the red peridotite bedrock that gave the valley its name.




Cascade calicoflower




Tiger lilies


The trail continued to climb up through the open meadows as the day grew warmer. The further up the valley we went the steeper the trail became as well. As we trudged up the valley we began to think that doing the loop in the opposite direction might have been a better idea since the climb would have been along the forested Canyon Creek Trail providing some protection from the Sun. With our minds elsewhere we were startled by a grouse hen and her chicks noisily taking flight. They disappeared quickly and left us startled on the trail.

Nearly 4 miles along the Red Rock Valley Trail we reached the small unnamed lake at the head of Red Rock Creek. There were more tents here than we’d seen in the Sky High Valley which we found a bit perplexing.

As we were passing by the lake Heather spotted a strange looking large insect which turned out to be a wood wasp.

From the lake the trail really launched uphill for the final climb up to the PCT.

A distant Mt. McLoughlin came into view on the way up.

Once we were back on the PCT we were on familiar trail having hiked this section on the way to Paradise Lake two days earlier. The flowers were still wonderful and a new addition this time was another grouse hen and her chicks.

After 2.2 miles on the PCT we arrived at the 3-way junction with the Big Elk Lake and Marble Rim Trails. This time we headed straight on the Marble Rim Trail climbing a wildflower lined ridge.




As we climbed a doe darted across the trail ahead of us and vanished over the ridge.
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The trail passed through a couple of small stands of trees but for the most part remained in open meadows gaining views of the Marble Mountains and Trinity Alps.



Wildflowers were everywhere in the meadows.


Our goal was a marble cliff that we’d seen from the PCT which offered a dramatic view of the Marble Mountains.



We also had a nice view of the south side of Kings Castle which we’d climbed up two days earlier and of Preston Peak in the Siskiyou Wilderness.


On the way back down to the PCT we were seeing lizards scurrying everywhere, but the only pictures I was able to get was of one hiding behind some grass and another with the camera on some weird effects setting.


Once we were back on the PCT we had to backtrack a half mile to the Sky High Lakes Trail. This trail went up and over the ridge then dropped down to the Sky High Lakes. We’d been looking forward to taking this trail to find out the route that it took. We had not been able to tell from the lakes exactly where the trail was located even though we knew the general area.




After returning to camp we grabbed our chairs and headed back down to Frying Pan Lake. Heather was sitting on a rock letting her feet soak when I looked over and noticed something in the water. At first I though it was either a newt or tadpole coming up for air, or some dragon flies that had landed on the water. Then I noticed a long tongue sticking out and realized it was a garter snake swimming around.


Heather decided that was enough of being in the water and surrendered her rock to a chipmunk.

We went to sleep that night knowing we’d be hiking out the next day. It was a bittersweet feeling knowing our trip was almost over but also feeling a little excited to eat some cheap fast food, take a shower, and see our cats. Before we could do any of that we needed to fall asleep though and to do that we needed the little bee that had seemingly become obsessed with Heather to stop buzzing outside our tent. Happy Trails!


California Hiking Klamath Mountains Marble Mountains Trip report

Marble Mountain Wilderness Day 2 -Summit Lake to Paradise Lake

We began our second day in the Marble Mountain Wilderness by waking up early and watching the morning sunlight hit the cliffs above Summit Lake.

We had originally planned on eating breakfast on the rocks at the north end of the lake, but more hikers had arrived the night before and someone had set up camp there. The mosquitoes were out and Heather had quite a few bites already so after packing up camp, setting out just after 6am, we decided to have breakfast somewhere on the trail.

We were headed for the Pacific Crest Trail, a .7 mile climb from the lake. The trail began on the west side of the outlet creek and was obscured by some blowdown. There was a fair amount of it along this section of trail but nothing that was too difficult to get around. The scenery along the trail was beautiful alternating between forest and meadows.


Near the top of a series of switchbacks we stopped to cook breakfast on a large rock outcropping next to a meadow that could have passed for a lawn.


The rocks offered views and wildflowers as well as some protection from mosquitoes.

Sierran woodbeauty
Sierran woodbeauty

Lewis flax

We climbed through another damp meadow with shooting star, marsh marigolds and western pasque flowers before reaching the junction with the PCT.





We reached the PCT junction just in time to meet a thru-hiker on his way to Canada. We couldn’t help but be a little envious as he sped off with his lighter pack. We knew he lacked some of the luxuries we were carrying, but his seemingly effortless walk was a stark contrast to the labored climb we’d just made.

We were glad to be on the PCT and after a short break we started north toward Paradise Lake which was 10.3 miles away. The 3.5 mile section from where we had started to the junction with the trail to the Sky High Lakes was wonderful. Because the PCT sticks to ridgelines whenever possible it provides some good views and minimizes elevation changes. There were some areas where the trees had burned but there were lots of wildflowers along the way and other areas where the trees were not burnt.




Torrey’s blue-eyed mary and Jepson’s monkeflower

Monument plant



Ballhead sandwort


Oregon Sunshine






Trinity Alps in the distance.

Scarlet gilia

We had been considering staying at Shadow Lake on the 3rd and 4th nights of our trip so when we reached the signed trail for it, we decided to detour down to the lake to check it out.

There had been a fire in the area at some point in the last few years and the trail was further north than our map or GPS showed it. We had already passed another spot where a second trail was shown on our maps without seeing any sign of it. This trail started out climbing up a ridge before beginning to descend down to Shadow Lake’s basin.


From the ridge we could see Frying Pan and Lower Sky High Lakes in the Sky High Lakes Valley which was below the basin that held Shadow Lake.

We wound up turning back when we encountered a decently sized snow drift over the trail.

We could see a little bit of the lake from there and just didn’t feel like it was worth it to attempt to navigate the snow given the steepness of the trail and having our full packs on.

We would run into another couple the next day who did make it down and camp at the lake. They had found a way around the snow with the help of another gentleman but said that it was pretty “sketchy” so we were glad we had chosen not to continue.

Back on the PCT the flower show was only getting better as we approached the Sky High Lakes junction.

Blue Gilia



Nettle-leaf Giant-hyssop



From the Sky High Lakes junction the PCT remained on the ridge for another .5 wildflower filled miles to a three way trail junction.
Orange agoseris

Mountain coyote mint



Grand collomia

Penstemon lined trail

Marble & Black Marble Mountains

Washington lily

Toothed owl’s clover

At the junction the PCT headed downhill to the right toward Marble Valley. The trail to the left headed to Big Elk Lake while the Marble Rim Trail continued straight ahead. We were tentatively planning on hiking on the Marble Rim on Thursday but for now we stuck to the PCT.

The PCT descended beneath the marble of Marble Mountain for 1.1 miles to the locked Marble Valley Shelter.






We took a break near the shelter before beginning the climb out of Marble Valley. The trail was fairly level as we passed the Marble Gap Trail on our left and crossed Canyon Creek. Then we began to regain the elevation we’d lost coming down into the valley. We began encountering patches of snow and glacier lilies below Black Marble Mountain.


Marble and meadows dominated the scenery as we continued north of Black Marble Mountain toward Box Rock Camp.





From Box Rock Camp the trail climbed through more meadows to a junction with the Box Camp Trail at a saddle known as “Jumpoff”.

Views to the south included the snowy peaks of the Trinity Alps.



Views to north opened up here and we spotted the familiar Kangaroo Mountain and Red Buttes.


The PCT switchbacked down a couple of times before leveling out again. Patches of snow lingered on the trail in spots. Most were easily crossed or bypassed with one exception. One large, sloped drift extended quite a way downhill into the trees and required some careful maneuvering. Beyond that patch there was one other large snowfield over a creek but it was much more level and other hikers and created a nice track to follow across.

Not long after that snowy creek crossing Kings Castle came into view.

Our destination, Paradise Lake, lay below that peak and we were anxious to get there. It had been a beautiful day, but it was warm and we were pretty drained when we passed the Paradise Lake Trail coming up from the right.

Our first impression of Paradise Lake was to wonder how it got it’s name. The setting was pretty impressive, but the lake itself was fairly shallow, a little muddy, and had some vegetation on the surface.

Despite the lake not being spectacular the area had some other nice features including a small waterfall cascading into the lake and a meadow full of shooting star.



A nearby osprey indicated that there were fish in the lake.
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We picked out a camp site, pulled out our Alite Mayfly chairs and plopped down for a rest.

We had originally planned on taking a climbers trail up to the summit of Kings Castle in the afternoon/evening, but we were having second thoughts after the long hot day of hiking. The longer we sat and looked at Kings Castle the higher it seemed to get.

We had passed the hikers who had made the tracks in the snowfield and they arrived and set up camp on the other end of the lake after we had settled in. Several thru hikers also passed by including one gentleman from France who stopped to take a picture of our campsite. He was attempting to document all the possible camp sites along the PCT. His impression of the lake was the same as ours, with a name like Paradise Lake he was expecting a lake with clear blue water.

We had almost talked ourselves out of attempting the climb up Kings Castle and were now thinking of trying it in the morning before we broke camp. We had not been able to definitively make out any trail heading up from the lake but after having dinner we decided to at least see if we could locate the climbers trail to see if it was even worth trying in the morning. We put our day packs on just in case and set off on a trail we’d seen across from the inlet creek at the south end of the lake. The trail led up a small hill then turned into a small stream. The other hikers had gone this way to the small waterfall where they had taken a swim earlier so we knew we could go further. We veered off the trail onto a rock shelf above the lake to bypass the flooded trail. Just before the stream that fed the waterfall we cut back through the brush to pick up the climbers trail.

The climbers trail was faint but there were a few small cairns to help in locating it. Being just after 6pm, we knew we had enough light if we wanted to try and make the summit, so we sallied forth.

We had to pass through a cloud of small bugs before starting the steep ascent to the ridge along the south side of Kings Castle.



We lost and picked up the trail a couple of times until we hit a meadow on the steep slope below the ridge. Here the trail became clearer as it switchbacked up to a saddle.




The trail became even fainter as we continued toward Kings Castle. The hillside was covered with wildflowers and we did our best to avoid stepping on them as we made our way up.




Split-hair Indian paintbrush

We also had to watch out for the local residents.

To reach the summit we had to swing out and around the rocky south eastern face of Kings Castle to reach the summit where someone had fashioned a rock bench.

The 360 degree view included Mt. Shasta to the NW. This would be the only time the 14,180′ mountain would be visible to us during the trip.


Marble Mountains and Trinity Alps


Red Buttes

As we sat atop Kings Castle we were glad we’d wound up making the climb after all. We eventually climbed down and returned to our tent to turn in for the night. As we were falling asleep a chorus of frogs began croaking. It was a sound we hear all the time in TV shows and movies but in reality most nights in the tent are nearly silent except for the sounds of wind or running water. Maybe the lake was named correctly after all. Happy Trails!


High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Canyon Creek Meadows

Canyon Creek Meadows had been a monkey on our backs, or is it packs for hikers? We had tried several times in the past two years to get this hike in and either snow or forest fires forced us to change our plans. We had put it back on our schedule for August 2nd this year hoping this year would be different. Thanks to a very helpful trip report on 7/26 by pdxgene via we learned that the meadows were not only snow free but the flowers were in bloom. We were now in danger of being too late for the full flower display so we moved the hike up in the rotation and off we went.

It was a beautiful morning at the Jack Lake trail head and after a minor detour around the wrong side of the lake we were headed for the lower Canyon Creek meadow. The trail alternated between burned and unburned forest as it climbed to the first meadow. The flowers here were still in bloom despite some already feeling the effects of a warm and dry late Spring and early Summer.
Beyond the meadow Three Fingered Jack filled the horizon beneath a blue sky.

As we continued on toward the upper meadow the views of the mountain got better and better. A near full moon hovered above the summit all morning shifting positions as time passed. We skirted the edge of the upper meadow and headed up toward a saddle with a view of a cirque lake below a glacier on the flank of Three Fingered Jack. The path was steep with a lot of loose rock but the views were more than worth it, and a healthy wind quickly cooled us off on top of the saddle.

Looking south from the saddle
Looking south from the saddle

We had some food and explored the ridge along the saddle where we found a less steep trail down from the east. In the post on portlandhikers Gene had mentioned that after 12:00 the shadows from the mountain causes issues with picture quality from the upper meadow so we wanted to get back down before we ran out of time. Canyon Creek flows out of the cirque lake through the upper meadow creating a wonderful wildflower display. The lupine was especially thick here.

After exploring the upper meadow we followed Canyon Creek down to the lower meadow and began the loop back to the car. (To help control the foot traffic on this popular hike there is a loop that you are asked to hike in a clockwise direction.) Before we got back we took a short side trip to Wasco Lake for no particular reason. It was pretty and quite but we were ready to get back to the car so we took a quick break and finished the hike and removed the monkey from our packs. Happy Trails.

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