Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes
        Amar Andalkar's Ski Mountaineering and Climbing Site
Ski Mountaineering Photos & Trip Reports Equipment & Info Cascade Volcanoes Ring of Fire Site Map

Table of Contents | Introduction | Ratings | WebCams | Bibliography | Highest Volcanoes | Snowfall & Snowdepth | Monthly Chart | Conifers | Compare | Distance | Sun Chart
  Lassen Peak
  Mount Shasta
  Medicine Lake Volcano
  Mount McLoughlin
  Pelican Butte
  Crater Lake
  Mount Bailey
  Mount Thielsen
  Diamond Peak
  Newberry Volcano
  Mount Bachelor
  Broken Top
  Three Sisters
  Mount Washington
  Three Fingered Jack
  Mount Jefferson
  Mount Hood
  Mount Saint Helens
  Mount Adams
  Goat Rocks
  Mount Rainier
  Glacier Peak
  Mount Baker
  Mount Garibaldi
  Mount Cayley
  Mount Meager

| Mount McLoughlin from the east in June, seen across a seasonal
pond just NW of the junction of Hwy 140 and Westside Road
(photo by Amar Andalkar)   <click to enlarge>

Mount McLoughlin
    9495 ft (2894 m) .
Location: Cascade Range, southern Oregon,
30 miles (50 km) NW of Klamath Falls
Lat / Long: 42.4° N, 122.3° W
Volcanic Type: Stratovolcano
Volcanic Status: Dormant
First Ascent:
First Ski Descent:
Skiable Vertical: over 5000 ft (1500 m)
Timberline: about 8000 ft (2400 m)
Administration: Rogue River National Forest / Winema National Forest
Protection Status:   Sky Lakes Wilderness
User Fees: Northwest Forest Pass required for parking
(Sno-Park Permit from November-April)

Mount McLoughlin is the highest peak in southern Oregon, a beautiful near-symmetrical volcanic cone. Despite being the highest point in a 200-mile stretch of the Cascade Range between the Three Sisters and Mount Shasta, McLoughlin is relatively unknown and often overlooked. Although not presently glaciated, two huge glacial cirques carved into the north and northeast faces during colder epochs have exposed the very roots of the volcano's lava conduits and removed nearly all traces of the summit crater. These bowls provide over 2000 vertical feet of steep and spectacular ski terrain, easily accessed from the standard trail to the summit along the east ridge. In contrast, the west, south, and east slopes are smooth and uneroded, providing superb, steep fall-line cruising for over 3000 feet. McLoughlin makes an excellent, uncrowded day-trip from late winter through late spring, and the variety of skiable aspects would make repeat trips well worthwhile.

Route Ratings Starting
Quality Effort Ascent Descent
Summit Ski Mountaineering Routes:
East Ridge (Summit Trail)
5600 ft
(1700 m)
3900 ft
(1200 m)
10 miles
(16 km)
This route follows the path of the summer hiking trail up the East Ridge of McLoughlin. When snowcovered the trail is difficult to follow, but it is easy to simply head uphill until tree line is reached near 8000 ft, and then follow the rocky ridge or steep snow slopes just south of it to the summit. A variety of descent options are available, including simply skiing back down the slopes just south of the ridge.
Northeast Bowls
  via East Ridge ascent

3900 ft
(1200 m)
-300 ft
(100 m)
11 miles
(18 km)
The Northeast Bowls of Mount McLoughlin are easily the finest ski descent in Southern Oregon, with a sustained 45-degree pitch in the upper sections and nice open cruising below. From the narrow summit crest, the steepest route drops initially into the North Bowl, then traverses immediately east through a gap into the head of the Northeast Bowl. See my ski trip report from June 1999. It is also possible to drop into the bowls lower from down on the East Ridge near 9000 ft. From the lowest open terrain in the bottom of the cirque, there is a long descending traverse though the woods to Freye Lake in order to return to the normal trailhead. This could be avoided in late season by starting instead from Fourmile Lake Campground, and heading southeast through the forest to the bottom of the Northeast Bowls and then joining the standard ascent route near 8000 ft.
Northeast Bowls
  from Fourmile Lake

5750 ft
(1750 m)
3750 ft
(1150 m)

9 miles
(14 km)
Southeast Face
  via East Ridge ascent

5600 ft
(1700 m)
3900 ft
(1200 m)
11 miles
(18 km)
There are several shallow bowls on the southeast side which angle away from the summit trail as they descend towards tree line. Skiing these routes from the normal trailhead requires a long traverse through the woods to get back. Another option, especially useful in early season when the Forest Service road to the summit trailhead is snowcovered, is to start from the Pacific Crest Trail parking area on Highway 140. Ski the snowcovered trail northward, until it crosses the standard summit trail after 3 miles. Or one could simply angle northwest through the relatively open forest, and then head directly up the Southeast Face to the summit.
Southeast Face
  from PCT trailhead

5000 ft
(1700 m)
4500 ft
(1200 m)
12 miles
(19 km)
Southwest Face
  from Rye Spring

5200 ft
(1600 m)
4300 ft
(1300 m)
6 miles
(10 km)
The shortest and most direct approach (when snowcovered) to the summit of Mount McLoughlin begins from Rye Spring, just southwest of a lava flow on the southwest flanks. The route heads directly northeast across the lava flow and then straight for the summit, up steepening snow slopes which eventually reach a sustained 35-degree pitch for the uppermost 1000 vertical feet. However, due to its windward and southwesterly aspect, this slope tends to lose its snowcover somewhat earlier than other routes.
Northwest Ridge / Face
  from Twin Ponds Road

4100 ft
(1250 m)
5400 ft
(1650 m)
7 miles
(11 km)
A little-used road to the Twin Ponds trailhead provides access to the remote northwest side of McLoughlin. Although this route begins much lower than the standard summit trail, it makes up for it by being much shorter and more direct, following open slopes to the shallow bowls of the Northwest Ridge. The descent can return via this route or drop into the steep, open expanses of the North Bowls, rejoining the ascent route with minimal traversing below 6000 feet. These bowls offer excellent skiing to match that of the NE Bowls.
North Face / Bowls
  via NW Ridge ascent

8 miles
(13 km)

| The northeast Bowls of Mount McLoughlin, during a ski descent in June 1999
(photo by Amar Andalkar) <click to enlarge>

| View looking down the Northeast Bowls of McLoughlin,
with Pelican Butte in the distance
(photo by Amar Andalkar) <click to enlarge>

| Topographic map of Mount McLoughlin
showing ski routes listed in table above
<click map to enlarge, 224 kB file>

| The foundation of the lookout at the summit of Mount McLoughlin
with the Klamath Lakes Basin in the distance below
(photo by Amar Andalkar) <click to enlarge>

Useful Web Links:

Winema National Forest: Home Page
Winema National Forest: Virtual Winema (Quicktime panoramas, very cool)
Winema National Forest: Climbing Mount McLoughlin
Rogue River National Forest: Home Page
Rogue River National Forest: Mount McLoughlin Trail
Oregon Department of Forestry: Medford Oregon Weathercam
National Weather Service Office: Medford, OR
National Weather Service: Southern Oregon Cascades Zone Forecast (alternate link)
The Weather Channel: Klamath Falls, OR, Forecast
USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory: Mount McLoughlin
Deschutes National Forest: Oregon Volcanoes: Mount McLoughlin

List of Guidebooks:  (detailed references on the bibliography page)

Oregon Descents Southeast / Northeast Sides (skiing info)
Climbing the Cascade Volcanoes Summit trail(hiking info)
100 Hikes in Oregon Summit trail(hiking info)

List of Maps:

Map Series Scale Topo? Map Names Year Notes
USGS 7.5-minute 1:24,000 Yes, 40 ft Mount McLoughlin 1988 McLoughlin is nicely centered on this map
USGS 30' x 60' 1:100,000 Yes, 50 m Medford 1991 Only marginally useful for a regional overview
USFS Wilderness 1:63,360 Yes, 40 ft / 20 ft Sky Lakes Wilderness 1993 Very useful for forest road information
  and overview of local area
US Forest Service 1:126,720 No Winema National Forest
Rogue River Natl. Forest
Somewhat useful for forest road information

More photos, routes, links, references, etc. coming soon...
Please contact me with any suggestions, additions, or corrections.

Previous Page (Medicine Lake Volcano) | Mount McLoughlin | Next Page (Pelican Butte)
Table of Contents | Introduction | Ratings | WebCams | Bibliography | Highest Volcanoes | Snowfall & Snowdepth | Monthly Chart | Conifers | Compare | Distance | Sun Chart
Ski Mountaineering Photos & Trip Reports Equipment & Info Cascade Volcanoes Ring of Fire Site Map

Amar Andalkar   Seattle, WA, USA   <About the Author / Contact Me>
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