Mount McLoughlin is the shortest of the six major volcanoes in Oregon’s Cascade Range, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. The often snow-capped, 9,493-foot peak is the most prominent landmark on the Rogue River Valley skyline. In fact, the conical silhouette is so striking that it’s been a feature of human lore for centuries: The indigenous Takelma people called it Alwilamchaldis after a mythic figure who brought abundance to the area. The peak also makes up the southernmost end of the Sky Lakes Wilderness, an incredible area for hiking, camping, and alpine-lake swimming. Whether you’re interested in climbing the mountain itself or just enjoying the view from below, utilize this guide to help you make the most of your visit.
When To Go
Most people visit Mount McLoughlin between late June and early fall. During that window, the snow has mostly melted from lower elevations and hasn’t yet started to fall again. The other perk of a summer visit is the wildflower show. Target July for peak color—that’s when purple penstemon, yellow asters, and red coralroot orchids bloom.
The summit trail starts at the Mount McLoughlin Trailhead, which is about an hour’s drive east of Medford and a five-hour drive south from Portland (another great basecamp for outdoor adventure). If you’re road-tripping, consider making stops at both Mount McLoughlin and Crater Lake National Park, which is only a 90-minute drive north.
Pro tip: Besides Medford, the closest town with a large grocery store is Klamath Falls (45 minutes southeast of Mount McLoughlin). There are small general stores closer by, but if you’re visiting for a weekend, you’re better off bringing your provisions with you.
Things To Do
At Mount McLoughlin, you’ll have plenty of options to fill your time, from hiking and birding to relaxing lakeside.
Summit Mount McLoughlin
This 11-mile summit trek is not an easy one, but experienced hikers will find it more than worth the 4,000 feet of elevation gain. The first mile follows the famed Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) through a forest of red fir and mountain hemlock. After that, the route winds up toward timberline and a rocky ridge marked with old Forest Service telephone poles. After a false summit you’ll be on your way to the real one, which offers 360-degree views of the surrounding wilderness. (Note: There’s a $5 mandatory parking fee at this trailhead.)
Plan a Hike
If the McLoughlin summit trek doesn’t entice you, there are dozens of other local trails that might. More ambitious hikers can try multi-day sections on the PCT or the 19-mile circumnavigation of Brown Mountain. But if you’re more interested in day-hiking, the network of mellow trails around Lake of the Woods provides a perfect setting.
Birders can look for flying friends like hummingbirds, nuthatches, warblers, and flycatchers in the hills and woods surrounding Mount McLoughlin. The eastern side of the peak, with its lush springs, offers even more opportunity to practice your bird ID skills. The red-necked grebe, yellow rail, least bittern, sandhill crane, and pileated woodpecker can all be spotted here.
Spend a Day at the Lake
There are a few lakes in the area that visitors can enjoy: Fish Lake, Lake of the Woods, Fourmile Lake, Willow Lake, and Upper Klamath Lake. You can partake in a number of different activities from swimming to picnicking to lakeside fishing.