Grayback Mountain

The Grayback snow survey cabin

  • Moderate (to cabin and meadow)
  • 2.6 miles round-trip
  • 1100 feet elevation gain
  • Open mid-June to early November
  • Use: hikers, horses, bikes

  • Difficult (to summit)
  • 6.2 miles round-trip
  • 1800 feet elevation gain

A historic cabin and a glorious wildflower meadow adorn the slopes of this landmark peak. The trail ends short of the summit, but adventurers can scramble on to the panoramic view at the top.

This mountain looks like the broad, gray back of an elephant when viewed from the Applegate Valley, but it was named for a much smaller animal. Miners in Southern Oregon’s 1850s gold rush christened the peak after their worst bugaboo—the itchy lice commonly called graybacks.

To drive here …

… to the Grayback Snow Shelter, a funky 10-by-14-foot cabin with a wood floor, rustic table, folding chairs, three glassless windows, and an unlocked door. Use a knife or thin stick to lift the door’s latch. The roof is tight and the loft has bunks for two. The cabin’s stove should not be used in summer due to forest fire danger, so bring a backpacking stove if you want to cook. Notes at the cabin report that hikers often find a foot of snow here in mid-December. In winter, snow survey crews reserve the cabin for their work the last weekend of each month. In June of 2009 a visitor named Aleksander wrote, “Only 11 years old. My dad drug me up here.”

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon.