Base Camp: Lost Creek Lake

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This is part of Reid Barbier’s weekly “Base Camp” column on the best hiking and outdoor adventure spots in Southern Oregon. 

At some point this spring, with the sun high overhead and a warm breeze behind you, you might decide to hit the open road out of Ashland and look for a new hike to experience and enjoy. One that my friends and I have enjoyed is Lost Creek Lake, a trail that loops around the banks of a little lake, through trees and meadows, and offers an exciting couple of days of exploration. While a longer drive than any of the hikes discussed so far, Lost Creek Lake is a rewarding hike for anyone willing or able to go a little farther than Ashland and strike out into unexplored territory.

To get to Lost Creek Lake, which is about an hour drive, take I-5 North out of Ashland toward Medford, and then take exit 30 toward North Medford/Crater Lake. Turn right onto OR-62, which will take you all the way until you turn left onto Lewis Road near the lake for 1 mile to the Lewis Road trailhead. The trail starts here in forest, and continues for about a mile until the trail parallels the lake shore itself. On one side you will have the glittering lake basin and on the other endless forest, which will at times open onto meadows full of wildflowers. The beaches all along the trail are good for swimming, so feel free to stop for lunch at some point and cool your feet. The water is cold but clear and clean. The lake is a popular fishing spot, so if you have your proper fishing license and are aware of the local fishing restrictions feel free to bring your pole along. Also keep an eye out for Osprey and the occasional eagle who will swoop down for their afternoon meal.

After 2.5 miles or so you will come to a sign marked “Grotto.” This is a cool bonus area to the hike, a place where ash and lava from Crater Lake’s volcano formed cliffs and walls around a small gully, which now has a small pond in wet years along with a little water fall. Flowers cover the cliff faces, and the rocks themselves offer shade. This is welcome, because the rest of the hike and area can be quite hot and humid. After the grotto, there are no clearly defined landmarks until a boat ramp about 7.5 miles in from the trailhead where you can camp and get a shuttle ride back. When I went in the spring, my friend and I just hiked a few more miles from the grotto, found a suitable campsite on the beach, built up a big fire, and went swimming in the lake. The truly hardy and adventurous can hike around the whole 17 miles of the lake back to the trailhead, but for everyone else any place on the trail with a good camp area is fine, and then hike back the next day.

Lost Creek Lake is a fun hiking and camping spot not too far from Ashland that offers, along with good hiking, swimming and fishing. Make sure to check out the Grotto, an interesting break along the trail, and enjoy the beaches as well. Lost Creek Lake is also a great place to explore in general, as there are plenty of lake side cliffs to scramble up and then jump off into the cold water, as well as plenty of wildlife to observe. Hope you all check this one out, and we’ll continue our hiking exploration next week.