Mount Elijah (Oregon Caves National Monument) 16-Feb-2015

Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon

Our original plan had been to visit Stuart Falls onthe south edge of Crater Lake National Park. But fallen trees had blocked the main access road (Forest Road (FR) 6205) about six miles from the trailhead. Our attempt to reach the falls via another trail was foiled when we found that trail had been largely obliterated by the 2008 Middle Fork Fire and had not been rebuilt. Sigh. So we kept Stuart Falls on the to do list and opted instead to visit Mount Elijah (actually both of them), which is now in the Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve. In 2014, the Monument was expanded from 488 acres to about 4,000 acres (to protect the watershed that feeds the underground river in the caves), which put Mount Elijah and the Bigelow Lakes within within the National Park system.

You can get to Mount Elijah and the Bigelow Lakes from either the west (via the Monument headquarters) or from the east (as we did) via the Sturgis Fork Trail (USFS #903). A short hike up the #903 through towering forests (which were pumping out pine scent as though it was June rather than February!),

Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
Ascending the #903

brought us to an unassuming junction with the Boundary Trail (USFS #1207), which runs from near Tanner Lake to Grayback Mountain along the spine of the Siskiyous and the Mount Elijah Trail (USFS #1206).

Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
At the #1207 / #1206 junction

From there we ascended the #1206,

Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
Up the #1206

to the summit of the higher of the two Mount Elijahs.

Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
On Mount Elijah, with Lake Mountain in the distance

Up where we were, it was the requisite bluebird day but still foggy in the Illinois River Valley.

Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
Illinois River Valley under fog
Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
Preston Peak in the Siskiyou Wilderness was visible to the southwest
Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
Shasta and the Red Buttes could be seen to the southeast
Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
Kerby Peak (arrow) stood out to the northwest

We left the summit of Mount Elijah (6,390′) and headed down past the summit of Mount Elijah (6,281′) – yes, both are on the map,

Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
Going down to the other Mount Elijah

traversed in view of Preston,

Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
Preston Peak in the Siskiyou Wilderness

then swung back east on a well-abandoned old road,

Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
Formerly a part of FR 070

to the junction with the Lake Mountain/Bigelow Lake Trail (USFS #1214), the trail that would take us back up past the lakes.

Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
At the #1214 trailhead

Although it doesn’t look like it, it’s still February, so the lakes were bug-free and thus a great place for our lunch break.

Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
Bigelow Lake
Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
Bigelow Lake

After lunch, it was up the big meadows on the northeast side of the lake basin,

Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
Climbing back to the #1214

From near the upper end of the #1214, we had a good view of the lakes shortly before it reconnected with the #1206 which we would take back to the trailhead.

Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
Bigelow Lakes

A short (9 miles round-trip; 1,800 feet of elevation gain) but sunny hike in a beautiful area that’s now part of the National Monument. Since Mount Elijah and the lakes can be reached via a short hike from the monument side, that’s something to consider adding to a visit to see the caves.

Mount Elijah Oregon Caves National Monument Sturgis Fork Oregon
Our loop around the Bigelow Lakes

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