Brown Mountain Lava Flow

Mt. McLoughlin from Brown Mountain

  • Easy (to view at high point)
  • 5.8-mile loop
  • 550 feet elevation gain
  • Open June to mid-November
  • Use: hikers, horses

The lava flows on Brown Mountain are so rugged that trail builders had to dynamite the jumbled basalt surface and lay a tread of crushed red cinders. Perhaps the most expensive portion of the 2400-mile Pacific Crest Trail, this spectacular section is now easy to hike. From Highway 140, the path climbs gently to viewpoints of Brown Mountain, Fish Lake, and Mt. McLoughlin.

From Medford, take Highway …

A surprising variety of life has gained a foothold here. Where the rocks aren’t disturbed, they’re crusted with gray, green, and black lichens—a combination of fungus and algae that gets all the nutrients it needs from the rain and the air. Another pioneer, chinkapin, forms 10-foot-tall bushes along the trail, with sprays of white flowers in summer and spiny fruit (known as “porcupine eggs”) in the fall. Some animals live in lava to escape predators. Watch for orange-bellied Douglas squirrels and listen for the meep! of guinea-pig-shaped pikas.

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