Beginning at the parking area across road #37 from the North Fork campground, the trail runs along the North Fork of Little Butte Creek, passing through a corridor of old growth forest opening into small riparian meadows dotted with wildflowers. Brook trout feeding on insects dimple the water in the morning and evening hours. At 0.5 miles, a side trail to the right takes you to the base of Fish Lake Dam. The main trail turns left, leaving the creek and winding north through the woods before following the north shore of Fish Lake (look for Bald Eagles and Osprey).
The picnic areas at Doe Point and Fish Lake campgrounds (parking, toilets and water) are good midpoints to begin a hike in either direction of the trail. Continuing through the campgrounds, the trail takes you past the Fish Lake resort, (cafe, store, pay phone), a good place to pause for refreshment.
Leaving the resort, the trail skirts the end of the lake then heads east through a forest edged with large blocky basalt lava. At mile point 4.0 the trail ends at the High Lakes Trail. Continuing east on the High Lakes Trail at 0.6 miles, an interesting geological phenomena can be viewed. In the early 1900's , the eleven mile Cascade Canal was built to carry water from Four Mile Lake to Fish Lake and subsequently to Medford. At this point near the trail, the water from the canal disappears in to a lava tube and enters Fish Lake one mile away. Appearing as a small pond when the canal is flowing, the deposit of sediment has created a meadow at the edge of the lava when the canal is dry. Continue east another 0.4 miles to the junction with the PCNST (bicycles prohibited). If time permits, consider walking south (turn right) on the PCNST for another one or two miles. This is a very unique section of trail which contours the lower slope of Brown Mountain through massive gray lava flows. Fine views of rugged Brown Mountain and Mount McLoughlin are offered (carry water). To return to Fish Lake or the trailhead at road #37, backtrack the way you came.
If your group has two cars, one-way trips are possible by leaving one car at the trailhead on road #37 and driving to the Summit Trailhead (PCNST) on Highway 140. Follow the PCNST south (crossing highway 140) about 0.5 mile to the Fish Lake trail.
Note for Horse riders and Cyclists! Pack and Saddle stock are not permitted in the recreation area at Fish Lake or on Fish Lake Trail except between the PCNST and the tethering area provided at the east end of Fish Lake. Stock can be led to the lakeshore via the posted path.
Note for PCNST 'through' hikers and horse riders: A designated campsite is located near the tethering area for your free use. Cyclists are expected to reduce speed and ride courteously. Cyclist are prohibited on the PCNST (2 miles east of Fish Lake). Mountain bikers may find the 900 road system an interesting side trip. Turn right on the 900 road and follow the blue diamond Nordic ski markers (Ski trail maps are available from the campground hosts and Fish Lake Resort).
Directions: From Ashland, Travel east on Highway 66 a 1/2 mile past the Ashland Ranger Station to the Dead Indian Memorial Highway. Turn left on this road and follow for 22 miles to the junction with forest road #37 (Big Elk road). Turn left on to road #37 and proceed 7 miles to the North Fork campground. Trailhead parking is on the right, opposite the campground.To begin at Doe Point or Fish Lake campground proceed 1 mile to the junction with highway 140. Turn right on highway 140 and travel 2 miles to the Fish Lake turnoff. Turn right and follow signs. Park at either of the day use picnic areas.To begin at the Summit Trailhead, continue 2 miles past the Fish Lake turn off on highway 140 to the trailhead on the left.
Elevation: 4560 feet
Distance: 4.0 miles
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Rogue River National Forest, Oregon
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