|Agency:||USDA Forest Service|
|Location:||35 miles east of Brookings on forest roads.|
|Distance:||2 miles (round trip)|
|High Point:||4,655 feet|
|Season:||Possibly year round.|
A splendid sixty-minute journey leads from Brookings, along the crystal clear Chetco River, to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Approaching from the south on broad US Highway 101, turn right onto County Road 784 (North Bank Road) immediately north of the Chetco River bridge.
Continue 8 miles, looping through rural and residential areas to Loeb State Park. Just beyond Loeb, the pavement narrows to a single winding lane which crosses densely wooded slopes far above the River. Pass through a recently (May 1999) paved rural-residential stretch to a bridge over the chilly South Fork Chetco River. There is a nice swimming hole below the bridge which is useful for a refreshing dip on particularly hot days. You are usually beyond the reach of cool ocean breezes here.
Behond the narrow bridge you have your choice of routes. A right leads up Road 1909 to the Kalmiopsis in 18 miles. Rockfalls are common along this route, sometimes completely blocking the way. To the left is Road 1917 which loops further to the north and then rejoins road 1909, covering six extra miles in the process. Pass the intersection is Road 1376, which leads north toward the interesting Green Craggies, though it washes out frequently. Continue up Long Ridge to Packer's Cabin, Quail Prairie Lookout (worth a quick stop) and Upper Chetco Trailhead.
Past the junction with Road 1917, continue several miles on Road 1909. You gradually gain elevation on Devils Ridge, passing a number of side roads, some good timber, and a nice looking campground. For Chetco Rim Trailhead and Vulcan Peak, bear right and continue a short distance on Spur 261. For Johnson Butte Trailhead and Vulcan Lake, follow Spur 260 to the end of the road. Take it slow as it is very rocky.
If you have a water filter, fill your bottles from delicious, cold Moores Creek. I prefer to take the water from UPSTREAM of the road bed. While you're there, make sure to look for a patch of Darlingtonia califoricum (pitcher plants) overhanging the road.
Begin at Johnson Butte Trailhead #1110. Switchback several times through a semi-barren, red landscape to a marvelous, rocky overlook. Then cross a saddle and descend across the slope toward the lake which is visible much of the way. It doesn't disappear from view until you reach the basin floor in a thicket. From here it is but a few feet to the shore.
Vulcan Lake (4,000 feet elevation), one of very few bodies of water in the Kalmiopsis, occupies a beautiful basin. Unfortunately, when my wife and I were there during August of '96, we shared the lake with a couple of highly exuberant folks who we re using fallen logs as floatation devices. They could be heard for a mile in all directions. There were tents set up on the north shore of the lake, obviously a popular summer spot. The lake also supported a large population of California Newt. Despite its muddy bottom the water looked clear. When filtered it tasted fine.
From Chetco Rim Trailhead #1210, ascend an old roadbed to an intersection. The left branch leads to Vulcan Peak. Ascending, the trail cuts diagonally across a south slope, then switches back and crosses a number of small landslides. Abruptly angle east and follow a particularly pleasant, shady section where on sunny winter days I have encountered small, soft snowdrifts. Soon you come out into sunlight on a barren, rocky shoulder immediately beneath a false summit. Contour around to the left of the ridge and continue until you reach the charred remains of a lookout tower.
At 4,655 feet, Vulcan Peak is the third-highest mountain in the Kalmiopsis. It affords a supreme vantage point. I expected to need a jacket on top when I climbed it on a clear January day, but instead hung my cotton shirts on a dwarfed tree to dry while I sunbathed on a rock. Toward the south and east a chain of hills known as the Chetco Rim guard the borders of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. On the southern horizon lay the snow capped Siskiyous, the most conspicuous of which is Preston Peak (7,309'). Just a few degrees to the left of Preston, a sliver of mighty Mount Shasta pokes above the lower, central ridge of the Siskiyous.
The red, clay-like lump of Pearsoll Peak marks the eastern compass point, and beyond it, tiny in the distance, rise the Cascade summits of Union Peak, Mt. Scott, and Llao Rock in Crater Lake National Park. Back before the volcanic explosion which formed Crater Lake, the view of 12,000 foot Mount Mazama must have been impressive from here. Turning northward one sees Green Craggie and the Illinois River valley, and to the west a lighthouse on a tiny rock far offshore in the Pacific Ocean.
Before departing, make your way along the summit ridge to a rocky outcropping at its conclusion. From here, enjoy a bird's eye view of the Vulcan Lakes 900 feet below.
A pleasant loop hike can be made by combining a trip to the Vulcan Lakes with a visit to the abandoned Gardner Mine. The loop covers portions of three trails, which can, of course, be done in either of two directions. The clockwise route described here saves the best (the lakes) for last. From Johnson Butte Trailhead, follow the abandoned roadbed (Trail #1110) to a junction with trail #1122, another old road.
Take this right turn and continue until you reach kind of a quarry where gravel is piled all around. A little exploring here should lead you to the mine shaft, a tiny tunnel drilled laterally into the hillside. After passing the shaft, the trail wander s into a meadow, and emerges as a very faint trace. Contouring across a dry, rocky slope, follow a series of rock cairns. As long as you stay on roughly the same contour, you'll be fine. A left at Vulcan Lake Trail #1110A leads to the main lake; take a right to return to Trail #1110 in close proximity of the trailhead.
||Vault toilet (bring your own t.p.), sign-in box, trash can (please pack out garbage).
||Along FS Road #1909 near Spur #240
||Vault toilet, tables, fire pits, NO drinking water.
||Vault toilets (2), tables (2), fire pit, sign-in box.
||Vulcan Peak, Red Mountain, Navy Monument
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