Adventurer’s Guide to Mount McLoughlin

Camp, hike, or climb Southern Oregon’s highest volcano in this wilderness playground.

Mount McLoughlin is the shortest of the six major volcanoes in Oregon’s Cascade Range, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. The often snow-capped, 9,493-foot peak is the most prominent landmark on the Rogue River Valley skyline. In fact, the conical silhouette is so striking that it’s been a feature of human lore for centuries: The indigenous Takelma people called it Alwilamchaldis after a mythic figure who brought abundance to the area. The peak also makes up the southernmost end of the Sky Lakes Wilderness, an incredible area for hiking, camping, and alpine-lake swimming. Whether you’re interested in climbing the mountain itself or just enjoying the view from below, utilize this guide to help you make the most of your visit.

When To Go 

Most people visit Mount McLoughlin between late June and early fall. During that window, the snow has mostly melted from lower elevations and hasn’t yet started to fall again. The other perk of a summer visit is the wildflower show. Target July for peak color—that’s when purple penstemon, yellow asters, and red coralroot orchids bloom.  

Getting There 

The summit trail starts at the Mount McLoughlin Trailhead, which is about an hour’s drive east of Medford and a five-hour drive south from Portland (another great basecamp for outdoor adventure). If you’re road-tripping, consider making stops at both Mount McLoughlin and Crater Lake National Park, which is only a 90-minute drive north.  

Pro tip: Besides Medford, the closest town with a large grocery store is Klamath Falls (45 minutes southeast of Mount McLoughlin). There are small general stores closer by, but if you’re visiting for a weekend, you’re better off bringing your provisions with you. 

Things To Do

At Mount McLoughlin, you’ll have plenty of options to fill your time, from hiking and birding to relaxing lakeside. 

Summit Mount McLoughlin

This 11-mile summit trek is not an easy one, but experienced hikers will find it more than worth the 4,000 feet of elevation gain. The first mile follows the famed Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) through a forest of red fir and mountain hemlock. After that, the route winds up toward timberline and a rocky ridge marked with old Forest Service telephone poles. After a false summit you’ll be on your way to the real one, which offers 360-degree views of the surrounding wilderness. (Note: There’s a $5 mandatory parking fee at this trailhead.)

Plan a Hike

If the McLoughlin summit trek doesn’t entice you, there are dozens of other local trails that might. More ambitious hikers can try multi-day sections on the PCT or the 19-mile circumnavigation of Brown Mountain. But if you’re more interested in day-hiking, the network of mellow trails around Lake of the Woods provides a perfect setting. 

Go Birding

Birders can look for flying friends like hummingbirds, nuthatches, warblers, and flycatchers in the hills and woods surrounding Mount McLoughlin. The eastern side of the peak, with its lush springs, offers even more opportunity to practice your bird ID skills. The red-necked grebe, yellow rail, least bittern, sandhill crane, and pileated woodpecker can all be spotted here.

Spend a Day at the Lake

There are a few lakes in the area that visitors can enjoy: Fish Lake, Lake of the Woods, Fourmile Lake, Willow Lake, and Upper Klamath Lake. You can partake in a number of different activities from swimming to picnicking to lakeside fishing.  

Camping Options 

Choose to stay at one of Mount McLoughlin’s many campsites and you’ll always be close to the action.

Aspen Point Campground

Aspen Point is on the banks of Lake of the Woods and has 40 campsites available to book online. (It includes a group site that can accommodate up to 100 people.) This campground has all the amenities: picnic tables, fire rings, potable water, flush toilets, a beach, and a boat ramp. The resort at Lake of the Woods also has some amenities and dining options.

Fourmile Lake Campground

This campground is closed for 2022 to remove dead and damaged trees from the mountain pine beetle epidemic. When it reopens, guests can expect access to fishing, kayaking, rafting, camping, and boating. The area boasts beautiful views of both the lake and Mount McLoughlin, plus the campground is equipped with picnic tables, campfire rings, a boat ramp, and vault toilets. There are 29 sites available for online booking starting in 2023.

Other camping options

There are a few smaller, more remote campgrounds available, as well, including North Fork Campground and Fish Lake Campground. The Willow Prairie Horsecamp is great for folks with horses—it’s equipped with corrals and water troughs, and connected to 19 miles of equestrian trails.

Other Accommodations 

Not ready to rough it? Have no fear: The Mount McLoughlin area has a couple of worthy lodging options that don’t involve staying in a tent. 

Lake of the Woods Resort

Lake of the Woods is a full-service resort that fits families well. There’s a general store, restaurant, marina, and even a lakeside pizza parlor. While the resort actually operates a few of the nearby campgrounds (Aspen Point, Sunset, and Fourmile), it also has its own lodging available with 35 cabins for rent and 22 RV sites with hookups. Visitors will find no shortage of activities, including water skiing, fly fishing, paddle boating, and motor boating. There are also showers and laundry available. 

Fish Lake Resort

Fish Lake Resort is nestled in old-growth forest and has 11 cabins for rent (available year-round), as well as 45 full hook-up RV sites. There’s a general store and cafe, plus boat rentals available. Boaters, be aware: The name of the game at Fish Lake is peace and quiet; jet skis and speed boats aren’t allowed (and the speed limit is 10 mph). Guests can fish the lake for rainbow and eastern brook trout, as well as Chinook salmon. 

More Info

Mount McLoughlin is part of the Sky Lakes Wilderness, which is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. For a full list of wilderness regulations and recent updates, visit

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.