Bear Lake (Siskiyou Wilderness)

Rating (Out of 5): 4.5

Open: mid-June to mid-November

Location: Near Happy Camp, Calif.

Distance: 6.3 miles round-trip

Difficulty: moderate/hard

Camping: Yes near Bear Lake

Quick hit: Located on the eastern side of the Siskiyou Wilderness near Happy Camp, Calif., Bear Lake Trail — or South Kelsey Trail, it’s called both — follows a wide-open ridgeline with great views of mountains on both sides. The trail climbs about 1,000 feet through trees that were recently burned in a forest fire, and there’s a some new growth of wildflowers along the way. After about two miles, you’ll reach a sign that says “Siskiyou Wilderness” on the right, which leads down a steep, rocky path to Bear Lake. This valley has wonderful, multi-colored cliffs and holds both Bear Lake and Lower Bear Lake. There are campsites around both, and plenty of area for exploring.

The trail is good for either day-hiking or the beginning of a longer backpacking trip. Because of the burned trees, there is almost no shade, so be sure to bring sunscreen. For those more intereped, follow the ridgeline near the junction of the trails to the Bear Peak, which provides the best views of the stunning valley.

Directions: From Grants Pass, follow Redwood Highway 199 past Cave Junction to O’Brien. Turn left on Waldo Road and continue five miles to a junction with Takelma Road. Continue straight, following pointers for Bolan Lake, and keep going to Happy Camp, Calif. on a road sometimes called “Grayback Road” or the “Bigfoot Scenic Highway.” From Happy Camp, continue south on Highway 96 for about 10 miles to Forest Service Road 15N19, where you turn right. Follow pointers for “Bear Lake Trail” for 11 miles on a road that is half paved and half gravel. After 11 miles, follow a “Bear Lake” sign and veer right and uphill to Elbow Springs Trailhead.

For more info: http://www.rei.com/guidepost/detail/california/hiking/south-kelsey-trail-to-bear-lake-little-bear-valley/6407

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