Paynes Lake

Paynes Lake

  • Moderate (to Upper Ruffey Lake)
  • 4.2 miles round-trip
  • 1200 feet elevation gain
  • Open late June to mid-November
  • Use: hikers, horses

  • Difficult (to Paynes Lake)
  • 12 miles round-trip
  • 2210 feet elevation gain

Hikers often drive past the Russian Wilderness on their way to its larger, more famous neighbors, the Trinity Alps and Marble Mountain Wilderness Areas. But this craggy chunk of the Salmon Mountains rivals those more crowded destinations in scenery. For a first-rate sample of the Russian Wilderness’ charms, take the Pacific Crest Trail along a view-packed ridgecrest to Paynes Lake’s dramatic granite basin. Car drivers for this trip will appreciate that the route to the trailhead is entirely paved. Backpackers need to pick up a free permit from the Scott River ranger station in Fort Jones.

From Interstate 5, …

... Along the way you’ll pass a cliffy slope with views across Smith Lake to distant Mt. Shasta, a saddle with a view west to Taylor Lake, and a series of granite steps with bouquets of goldenrod, blue aster, and red paintbrush. When you reach a junction by Paynes Lake’s outlet creek, turn right to a large wooded area with dozens of campsites overlooking the lakeshore.

Other Hiking Options

Here are four interesting goals in the Russian Wilderness for adventurers: …

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