Mount McLoughlin

Fourmile Lake from Mt. McLoughlin

  • Difficult
  • 10.6 miles round-trip
  • 3915 feet elevation gain
  • Open July through October

Mt. McLoughlin overlooks half the state—and a good share of California, too. For years there was no official trail to the summit, so climbers spread out on a maze of scramble paths, spray-painting dots on rocks to help them find the route back. In the mid-1990s, however, Forest Service crews laid out a single clear route and chipped away the ugly, misleading markings. The hike is still one of the most demanding—and rewarding—in Southern Oregon. Only set out in good weather, bring sunscreen, and carry plenty of water. Maximum group size is eight.

From a distance, Mt. McLoughlin’s relatively smooth cone suggests it is one of the youngest Cascade volcanoes. Climbers, however, can see massive gouges left by Ice Age glaciers on the peak’s hidden north face, exposing a thumb-shaped lava plug. The most recent eruption, 12,000 years ago, poured blocky basalt from a vent low on the mountain’s south slope.

The tallest peak in Southern Oregon has had many names. Klamath Indians called it Kesh yainatat, home of the dwarf old woman who commanded the west wind. The Takelma tribe dubbed it Alwilamchaildis after a mythic hero of their legends, and thought it was the home of Acorn Woman, who made oaks bear fruit each year. In 1838, the first map to show the peak labeled it Mt. McLoughlin in honor of the Hudson’s Bay Company leader at Fort Vancouver. After Rogue Valley settlers began calling the peak Mt. Pitt (for California’s Pit River), the Oregon legislature resolved in 1905 to restore the McLoughlin name.

To find the trailhead …

When you hike down, stick to the …

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