“A loop past many wonderful lakes in the Blue Lakes Group, plus a visit to the Judge J. B. Waldo Tree.”
— Bruce Hope
Fall Colors · Lake · Spring · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
This trail enters the Sky Lakes Wilderness and the usual federal wilderness area regulations and restrictions apply here. Practice Leave No Trace (LNT) backcountry skills and ethics. Camp 100 feet from fragile areas; bury human waste at least 200 feet from water, trails, and campsites. This trail is usually closed by snow between November and May.
Southern Oregon's Sky Lakes Wilderness is famous for its many lakes. These are clustered in three basins—the Seven Lakes in the north, the Sky lakes in the middle, and the Blue Lakes in the south. This loop starts at the Blue Canyon Trailhead, descends through the North Blue Lake Group, then passes the South Blue Lake Group before reaching Island Lake and the Judge J. B. Waldo Tree
shortly before the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). It then follows the PCT south, past Christis Spring, to the Cat Hill Way Trail #992
, then follows that trail, with a brief view of Mount McLoughlin, back to the trailhead.
Need to Know
If you come equipped with long sleeves and repellent, the clouds of mosquito that usually infest this area from late June to early September should not deter you from visiting. If the thought of fighting mosquitos is too much, then plan a visit for September or October when the bugs are gone, the weather is still mild, and fall color is happening.
There are no amenities or water at the trailhead. There are no reliable water sources along this loop after you leave Island Lake (Christis Spring may or may not be flowing), so fill up if need be before starting the return part of the loop.
Starting at the Blue Canyon Trailhead, take the Blue Canyon Trail #982
down past past Round Lake and into the South Blue Lake Basin past Blue Lake to a junction with the Upper South Fork Trail #988
. From here, follow the Blue Canyon Trail east past a junction with the Meadow Lake Trail #976
, then past Horseshoe, Pear, and Island Lakes to end at a junction with the Red Lake Trail #987
just north of the PCT. All of these lakes are both fishable and swimable.
Shortly before reaching the Red Lake Trail #987
, look for the use trail that will take you to the Judge J. B. Waldo Tree
. After visiting the tree, continue on a short distance to a junction with the PCT, 5.8 miles from the trailhead.
Once you reach the PCT, follow it south as it climbs gently, past Christis Spring, over the low divide between the Blue Lake and Fourmile Lake drainages. Continue south on the PCT to a junction with the Cat Hill Way Trail #992
, 3.8 miles from the PCT / Red Lake Trail #987
junction. Turn north on this trail and climb easily to the ridge above the South Blue Lake Group. Continue north, looking back once you reach the crest of the ridge for a good view of the north side of Mount McLoughlin. The best viewpoint is from the trail on the southeast side of Cat Hill.
Continue north on the Cat Hill Way Trail #992
, past its junction with the Meadow Lake Trail #976
, back to the trailhead.
Flora & Fauna
Because of all the open water, horrible clouds of mosquito can (and often do) infest this area from late June to early September.