I’m going to tell you right off the bat that Mt Mcloughlin is one of my favorite picks for perfect first mountain. It has a very nice trail up to the false summit and then gets into a pick your way up to the summit. Another good thing is that it isn’t a long trail. We will get to all that in a minute. Let’s get some of the other stuff out of the way first.
I have had the pleasure of climbing Mcloughlin three times in the last couple of years. I have used the same trailhead each time. It looks like there is another trailhead that is being or going to be used. If I was to head out today to climb it again, I would use the same trail that I did before. It has good parking and the trail was very nice. Here are the directions to get to the trailhead of which I speak. Take highway 140 to Lake of the Woods resort. Take the first right after passing the entrance to Lake of the Woods if traveling from the Klamath Falls area. It is Forest Service Road NF-3661. Continue on this road for a few miles. You will come to a four road intersection, turn left. In not much more than a quarter mile, you will find the trailhead on the right. There hasn’t been a fee for parking any of the times I have visited, my alltrails app says there is a $5 charge for parking. Now to the good stuff.
This is an out and back trail, less than 11 miles. It will give you a nice taste of climbing a bigger mountain. A nice 4000’ elevation gain lies ahead of the fortunate traveler. The first three miles are moderately uphill, nothing to get yourself too worked up about yet. During the third mile, the trail really gets to be a lot of fun. There are some boulder fields that the trail meanders through, giving you a nice change from the forest trail up to that point.
The trail starts to get steeper and soon you reach a spot that opens up and gives you a great view of the mountain. We take a break and enjoy the view here.
The climb starts to feel more like a mountain now. Mountains have an atmosphere about them. As you climb, you are making your way to a very specific point, the place where you run out of trail, the summit. In a way it’s like a river. As long as you keep moving along with the flow of the trail, the destination has already been determined. It feels like the mountain is pushing, guiding you. It has become a partner in your pursuit of reaching the top.
You will keep climbing and soon a top will be high above. This is what we like to call the false summit. Just remember when you see what you believe to be the top of Mchloughlin high above you, it is not the top. So when you reach that point and look way, way up at the real summit, don’t poop your pants.
You have reached the hardest, but funnest part of the climb. It’s a big steep boulder pile, and you get to pick your way up. Some try to stay close to the ridgeline and ride that pony to the top. Others veer to the left and follow a crude trail. You really can’t lose, it’s a great mountain and you are getting close to the top. Enjoy the experience.
I have been up once when it was snow covered and it gets really steep for the last couple hundred of feet. I recommend micro spikes at the very least. I would say crampons are a better idea. When dry, that steep section is a sandy, mess. Just stay focused, it doesn’t take long to reach the top.
My pro tip for Mclouglin is to stay to the right of the final rocky section near the summit. It is sandy but people that use the rocks have reported a rougher go of it.
My favorite moments from the climbs I have been a part of are when Tyler heard that the snowy summit was a thin spine. He wasn’t digging the idea of that. Than close to the summit, we had to traverse a steep snow wall to get to the final little climb to the summit. It was very exciting. The summit was a snowy spine. The wind had let down and the views were really exceptional.
If you are thinking about climbing a mountain and haven’t settled on one. Mt Mcloughlin is a great choice. We camped alongside the trail on one of the expeditions. There are multiple campgrounds in the area, but they are closed since July 2021. Please visit fs.usda.gov for information on The North Fork and Fourmile Lake Campground closure status. Here is a link explaining the reason for the closures https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd932128.pdf
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The views around the four mile mark
Mt Mcloughlin looks formidable from Fourmile Lake. Don't be fooled. This is quite the climb.
Beyond the false summit the "trail" is mostly rocks and boulders. Someone painted white spots on the rocks to help guide the way.
Standing on the ridge, looking up to the summit.
The final push to the summit of Mt Mcloughlin
A great view from our snowy ascent
The snow covered summit
Walking the spine at the summit of Mt Mcloughlin
Great views from the trail
As you leave the trees, the boulders show up
From the false summit. Don't lose heart, you can make it.
Stay to the right of the darker rocks toward the summit.