“An amazing journey through all of the major lake basins in the Sky Lakes Wilderness.”
— Bruce Hope
Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers
This route traverses 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 route weaves its way through all three basins on established trails, minimizing use of the Pacific Crest Trail but maximizing your access to lakes.
The route can be done in either direction (with a shuttle) but is described here from north to south, starting from the Sevenmile Marsh Trailhead in the north and ending at the Fourmile Lake Trailhead in the south. Both water and campsites are plentiful along this route. You have options of a short side trip to the views from Devils Peak
or for side trips to the many small lakes not directly accessed by this route or a quick stop at the Judge J. B. Waldo Tree
. Most of the lakes offer great opportunities for fishing or swimming or both. The biggest downside is the mosquitoes, which are fiercely plentiful between June and early September (or first frost).
Need to Know
If you come equipped with long sleeves and repellent, the clouds of mosquitoes that usually infest this area from late June to early September should not deter you from visiting. If the thought of fighting mosquitoes 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.
This route starts at the Sevenmile Marsh Trailhead at the end of Forest Road 3334 on the east side of the wilderness. There is no drinking water at the trailhead and no reliable water sources between here and Grass Lake. From the trailhead, follow the Sevenmile Trail #3703
for under 2.0 miles to a junction with the PCT: Highway 140 to Highway 138 (near Cascade Crest)
. Go south on the PCT for about 3.0 miles, past a junction with the Seven Lakes Trail #981
, to a junction with the Cliff Lake Trail #983
. Follow the #983 until it rejoins the #981 near Cliff Lake. There are good campsites at Cliff Lake or a nearby North, South, Grass, and Middle Lakes.
Follow the #981 as it climbs past a junction with the Alta Lake Trail #979
(a short side trip to a beautiful lake and good campsites), to a junction with the Devils Peak Trail #984
. Turn left (east) on the #984 (goods views of the Crater Lake Rim) to a junction with the PCT. You have the option here of a side trip to the top of Devils Peak
Go south on the PCT for about 1.5 miles to a junction with the Snow Lakes Trail #3739
and follow it down, past a junction with the Nannie Creek Trail #3707
, to a junction with the Sky Lakes Trail #3762
. Follow the #3762 south, past Trapper and Margurette Lakes (excellent swimming, good campsites) and a junction with the Cherry Creek Trail #3708
, for about 4.0 miles to a junction with the Isherwood Trail #3729
near Heavenly Twin Lakes. Note that this trail junction is not where it is shown on many maps.
Turn right (west) on to the #3729 and follow it, past Isherwood Lake, back to the Sky Lakes Trail #3762
near Lake Notasha. Continue southwest on the #3762 to its end at the PCT. Continue south on the PCT to a junction with the Red Lake Trail #987
, and follow that south past Red and Island Lakes to a junction with the Blue Canyon Trail #982
. Turn right (west) here, visit the Judge J.B. Waldo Tree, and continue west on the #982, past Pear and Horseshoe Lakes, to its junction with the Meadow Lake Trail #976
near Blue Lake (great swimming and camping).
The Meadow Lake Trail #976
is probably the hardest segment of trail on this route, mainly because it's short, steep, and a little eroded. It's a 1.8 mile, 800-foot climb up the #976 to the Cat Hill Way Trail #992
on top of the ridge. Turn south here and follow the #992 south along the ridge (there will be a brief view of Mount McLoughlin's north face) and down to the PCT north of Fourmile Lake. Go south on the PCT, past Squaw Lake, to the traverse's end at the Fourmile Lake Trailhead.
History & Background