Tag Archives: Red Lake

Red Lake Trail – Olallie Lake Scenic Area

We hadn’t been out on a single night backpacking trip yet this year so when a somewhat favorable forecast for the Labor Day weekend presented itself we decided to take advantage and make return trip to the Red Lake Trail. Our first visit had been in October 2013 when an early snowfall resulted in a winter wonderland. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/red-lake-trail/
On that hike we had not gotten the views of Mt. Hood and especially Mt. Jefferson that we had hoped for. Were hoping that either the partly sunny skies on Saturday or the mostly sunny skies on Sunday that were called for would offer up those views this time around.

The plan this time around was to start at the west end of the Red Lake Trail along Road 380 and hike to the Pacific Crest Trail. We were hoping we would find a suitable camp site near Neknoberts Lake a little off of the PCT then take the rest of our day to explore the area. We planned on doing a small loop using the Red Lake Trail and PCT to visit Olallie Lake then take the PCT south to the Ruddy Hill Trail where we hoped to climb to the former lookout site for a grand view of Mt. Jefferson. We also planned on climbing Double Peaks, which we had done the last trip, on our way back to camp. The second day we would pack up and revisit Potato Butte on the way back to the trailhead.

Our first inkling that the forecast may have been a bit off came when we arrived at the trailhead where a low sheet of clouds hung above the forest.
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We began climbing up toward Red Lake and quickly entered a misty fog which did a wonderful job of soaking our shoes, socks, and pant legs. By the time we had reached the short side trail to Red Lake the fog was so thick the lake wasn’t really visible. We passed by Averll Lake next which was a little less foggy.
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The lakes were proving difficult to see but the fall colors showing along the trail weren’t as we passed Wall Lake.
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We were finally able to get a good look at one of the lakes when we reached Fork Lake. It was a lot lower than it had been in 2013 giving a good indication of the drought conditions we experienced this year.
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Fork Lake October 2013
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We arrived at the Pacific Crest Trail after 4.3 miles at a four way junction.
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Here we turned right (south) on the PCT. We were looking for a low spot where we could turn off the trail and head cross-country to nearby Neknoberts Lake. With the help of our GPS unit we were able to make our way to the lake where we found an old sign.
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There were a few suitable camp sites so we picked one out and set up our tent.
Campsite (after the fog had lifted)
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The fog seemed to be lifting by the time we finished getting situated. We threw on our day packs and headed back to the trail. The original plan had been to take the PCT north from the 4-way junction to Olallie Lake then return to the junction on the Red Lake Trail. When we got back to the 4-way junction though I forgot the plan and we turned right down the Red Lake Trail toward Top Lake. In the end it didn’t matter which way we went but it did manage to confuse me a bit when I realized that we would have to go north briefly instead of south from Olallie Lake to complete the loop. We had taken this portion of trail down to Top Lake on our previous visit and it was interesting to see the differences along the way.
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From Top Lake we continued downhill on the Red Lake Trail passing several ponds lined with color.
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Just over a mile from Top Lake we arrived at the eastern end of the Red Lake Trail on Skyline Rd. A .3 mile road walk brought us to the Olallie Lake Picnic Area.
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There wasn’t much of a view form the lake due to the low clouds but we wandered along the shore for a bit hoping that things would improve before we headed for Ruddy Hill.
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From Olallie Lake we went north on Skyline Rd for about a tenth of a mile where we connected back up with the Pacific Crest Trail at Head Lake. Swimming is banned in Olallie Lake but this lake had a little platform in the water for warmer days.
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It was 1.4 miles from Head Lake back to the junction. Along the way we passed another small lake/pond, more fall colors, and some views back down of Olallie Lake.
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We passed the 4-way junction for the third time that day staying on the PCT and making for Cigar Lake, just a half mile away.
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We passed the trail to Double Peaks here and continued south. We were headed for the Ruddy Hill Trail which was another 2.3 miles down the PCT. The scenery along this section was an interesting mix. There were ponds, meadows, forested sections, and large Upper Lake.
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We also passed the signed “Many Lakes Viewpoint”.
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Most of the lakes were hidden by the clouds but we were able to make out a few.
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We arrived at the Ruddy Hill Trail resigned to the reality that we weren’t likely to have any kind of a view from the top, but we weren’t about to let that stop us so we headed on up.
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The half mile trail to the top was a steep one. As we trudged up the hill we noticed what looked like it might be snow.
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Upon closer inspection though it appeared to be hail that must have recently fallen.
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It must have been a pretty good storm because there was still a fair amount if it left in spots along the way.
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As we neared the top we passed a large group of hikers who were headed down. They confirmed that the summit was socked in and there weren’t any views to be had.
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It was actually pretty nice up on the summit and we took a short break with one of the locals before heading back down.
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As we headed back toward Cigar Lake on the PCT we decided that we would only climb Double Peaks if we could see the summit when we reached that trail. It was hard to tell but things had been improving all day which was evidenced when we passed the Many Lake Viewpoint again.
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When we did reach the Double Peaks Trail we had a tough decision to make. There was just thin bit of cloud hanging on the summit and it appeared to be lifting as we watched.
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It was just under a mile up to the summit via another steep climb. We debated whether or not we should give it a shot and in the end decided that if we didn’t and the clouds did lift then we’d regret it so up we went. Here again the contrast in scenery from our last visit was huge.
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As we climbed we got a good view of Neknoberts Lake where we’d set up camp.
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Once we reached the top of Double Peaks we headed for the western summit first. The clouds were beginning to break up but they just kept coming from that direction.
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We then headed over to the eastern summit where the views were better.
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The view we were really hoping for had eluded us again though as Mt. Jefferson was once again hidden by clouds.
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After watching the clouds go by for quite awhile we returned down to the PCT and headed back to Neknoberts Lake. We stopped briefly at nearby Ring Lake where we had a good view of a cloud free Double Peaks.
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We got a much better look at Neknoberts Lake when we arrived back at camp.
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We fixed ourselves dinner and then turned in for the night having covered 17.9 miles that day. The next morning we woke to much clearer skies.
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We had had the lake to ourselves other than a lone duck that paddled around as we packed up.
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We headed back to the PCT and the 4-way junction and turned left on the Red Lake Trail. We were enjoying some nice sunshine and hoping they were an omen of good views atop Potato Butte. The closer we got to the Potato Butte Trail though the less likely that looked. The blue skies of the morning were already being replaced by another curtain of grey clouds at Fork Lake.
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When we reached Sheep Lake we turned right on the unsigned Potato Butte Trail.
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We stopped briefly to watch a busy Downy Woodpecker searching for breakfast.
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Yet another steep climb awaited us to reach the top of Potato Butte. We took a short side trail near the top to a rocky viewpoint facing Mt. Jefferson. Olallie Butte was cloud free, but alas Mt. Jefferson was not. At least it was a better view than the day before as we could see the lower portion of the mountain including some of the Whitewater and Jefferson Park Glaciers. A dusting of newer snow also showed on the slopes.
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We continued on to the summit even though we knew there was virtually no chance that we’d get a glimpse of Mt. Hood to the north.
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We headed back down to the Red Lake trail stopping at all the lakes to take a final look.
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Double Peaks from Sheep Lake
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Potato Butte from Wall Lake
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Double Peaks from Averill Lake
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Red Lake
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It had started raining off and on while we were on Potato Butte so we didn’t stay long at any of the lakes and we were quickly headed back down the trail from Red Lake for the final 1.6 mile stretch.
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It had been a nice trip and the fall colors were great, but we still hadn’t managed to experience the areas mountain views. I was already thinking of other places we could visit in the area as an excuse to come back and try again for the elusive views. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157657878053358

Red Lake Trail

I am a bit behind on our trip reports but that’s because we were busy getting a few more hikes in on our final week of vacation. After our hike on the coast at Pacific City we headed back toward the mountains on Thursday. We had been debating on whether or not to attempt the hike we had planned due to the early snow that had been falling in the Cascades. The planned hike had us starting on the west end of the Red Lake Trail, climbing Potato Butte, continuing on to Top Lake, and then making a small loop past Cigar Lake where we would attempt to climb Double Peaks before returning to the Red Lake Trail and our car.

It was a nice morning as we set off and there were some good Fall colors on display. We climbed for a mile and a half before reaching the trails namesake – Red Lake.
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Water on the Red Lake Trail
Water on the Red Lake Trail
Red Lake
Red Lake

After passing Red Lake the trail then visits three more lakes in the next 1.3 miles. Avrill Lake was up first with a great reflection of Olallie Butte and Twin Peaks.
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Next up was Wall Lake where we got our first good glimpse of Potato Butte.
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Finally we came to Sheep Lake where a pair of ducks paddled beneath the reflection of Double Peaks.
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We took a trail on the eastern end of Sheep Lake that led up to Potato Butte. There were several swollen ponds along this trail and in places standing water obscured the path. We wound up losing the trail at the base of the butte and decided to scramble to the top and hope to pick up the correct trail at the summit.

One of the many swollen ponds along the Potato Butte Trail
One of the many swollen ponds along the Potato Butte Trail

We arrived at the summit and easily picked up the official trail. We had a fairly good view of Mt. Hood despite the presence of some clouds and a great view of Olallie Butte.

Mt. Hood from Potato Butte
Mt. Hood from Potato Butte
Olallie Butte from Potato Butte
Olallie Butte from Potato Butte

On the way down on the real trail we got a good look toward Mt. Jefferson which was hiding in the clouds and at Double Peaks. At 5280′ Potato Butte had only small amounts of scattered snow but Double Peaks was clearly snow-covered at its height of 5998′.

Looking toward Mt. Jefferson from Potato Butte
Looking toward Mt. Jefferson from Potato Butte
Twin Peaks on the left and Double Peaks on the right from Potato Butte
Twin Peaks on the left and Double Peaks on the right from Potato Butte

When we got to the base of the butte we saw the reason for our having lost the trail on the way up. One of the ponds had enveloped the actual trail making it impossible to see. We made our way around the edge of the pond and back to the Red Lake Trail and continued east toward the Pacific Crest Trail which we would use for part of our small loop to Cigar Lake.

The trail passed Fork Lake and several other unnamed ponds/lakes as it slowly climbed toward the PCT. We also began encountering more and more snow as we went.

Pond below Twin Peaks
Pond below Twin Peaks
Increasing amounts of snow
Increasing amounts of snow

The snow made it possible to see a variety of animal tracks showing us just how many different species that we never see walk these same trails. At the PCT junction we continued on the Red Lake Trail heading down now to Top Lake.

Some of the tracks in the snow
Some of the tracks in the snow
Top Lake
Top Lake
Fall on the shore of Top Lake
Fall on the shore of Top Lake

At Top Lake we left the Red Lake Trail and skirted the overflowing lake to its south end and climbed back up to the PCT near Cigar Lake.

Double Peaks from Cigar Lake
Double Peaks from Cigar Lake

There was a good amount of snow at Cigar Lake but we decided to see how far up Double Peaks we could make it. We found the marker for the trail easily enough, but between the snow and the extra water around Cigar Lake we were having a hard time determining just where the trail actually was. Luckily for us a deer had left us a set of tracks that we were able to follow that led us across and around the edge of Cigar Lake and to the continuation of the Double Peaks Trail which was just barely identifiable by a slight indentation in the snow.

Snow and water near Cigar Lake
Snow and water near Cigar Lake
Double Peaks Trail
Double Peaks Trail

Once we found the trail it was like walking through a winter wonderland. The snow was anywhere from a half-inch deep to mid-shin. The snow-covered trees looked ready for Christmas making this one of the most enjoyable stretches of hikes we’d had.

Heather on the Double Peaks Trail
Heather on the Double Peaks Trail
Christmas Trees in October
Christmas Trees in October

The trail was fairly steep and we almost lost it near the top when it veered up between some boulders but we managed to follow it all the way to the summit.

The base of Mt. Jefferson from Double Peaks
The base of Mt. Jefferson from Double Peaks
Evidence of wind and ice
Evidence of wind and ice
Potato Butte from Double Peaks
Potato Butte from Double Peaks
Olallie Butte
Olallie Butte
Timber, Olallie, Long, and Monon Lake from Double Peaks
Timber, Olallie, Long, and Monon Lake from Double Peaks

We didn’t get the view of Mt. Jefferson we’d hoped for but the snow more than made up for that. As we started down Double Peaks the day began to warm up and the snow was melting quickly. We did a lot of sliding down the slushy trail before reaching the PCT again and heading back to the Red Lake Trail. We returned the way we’d come only now we had some blue skies and sunlight as we passed the lakes and arrived back at our car. Happy Trails!

Sunlight mushroom
Sunlight mushroom
Twin Peaks from Sheep Lake in the afternoon
Twin Peaks from Sheep Lake in the afternoon

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