“Wow! That’s a pretty impressive view!” my friend Connie exclaimed as we rode along the Badger Lake Trail. The azure Fourmile Lake stretched away from us to the west, with Mt. McLoughlin rising impressively on the far shore. “You really don’t realize how massive the mountain is until you see it from this perspective.”
Few trails offer better views of the impressive Mt. McLoughlin than those you’ll find along the Badger Lake Trail, a fun, moderate-difficulty ride along the eastern edge of Fourmile Lake. You won’t gain much elevation on this trail, and in addition to seeing great views of Fourmile Lake and Mt. McLoughlin, you’ll visit picturesque Badger, Woodpecker, and Long Lakes.
The ride starts at Fourmile Lake Campground, located midway between Medford and Klamath Falls on the shore of – you guessed it — Fourmile Lake. The campground, which is a horse camp on one side and a family campground on the other, is the southern gateway to the beautiful Sky Lakes Wilderness.
To begin your ride, pick up the trail that departs from the day-use parking area adjacent to the horse camp section of Fourmile Lake Campground. Just after you pass campsite 18, turn left on the Twin Ponds Trail #993. In 0.4 mile (after crossing the campground road and then a concrete bridge over the Cascade Canal), you’ll reach the junction with the Badger Lake Trail #3759 and the Rye Spur Trail #3771. Turn left on the Badger Lake Trail.
Continue on the Badger Lake Trail for about 0.8 mile to a vantage point that offers you an excellent view of Mt. McLoughlin across Fourmile Lake. About 0.5 mile beyond that you’ll pass Woodpecker Lake. In another 0.4 mile you’ll come to Badger Lake, and 1.8 miles after that you’ll reach Long Lake. From here you can retrace your steps to the horse camp to complete a very pleasant 9-mile ride.
If you want to continue beyond Long Lake, note that from here the trail name changes to the Long Lake Trail #3758. You can follow it to connect to the Pacific Crest Trail for a moderate-difficulty 13.5-mile loop, or to the Blue Canyon Trail #982 for a challenging 15.5-mile loop.
Trail Statistics: The Badger Lake Trail is a 9-mile out-and-back ride with elevations of 5,700 to 6,050 feet. The best map of the trail is the Sky Lakes Wilderness map.
Getting to Fourmile Lake Campground: From Medford, drive north on Hwy. 62 for 6 miles, then turn right on Hwy. 140 and continue 35 miles. Between mileposts 35 and 36, turn left on Road 3661 and follow it 5.7 miles to the campground. From Klamath Falls, take Hwy. 140 northwest for 35 miles. Between mileposts 35 and 36, turn right on Road 3661 and follow it 5.7 miles to the campground.
Season: Mid-June to mid-October
Parking and Camping Facilities: Nine sites at Fourmile Lake allow horses, and of these three sites have 2- or 4-horse corrals. All other horse sites allow high-lining or portable corrals. The horse camp has a toilet and hand-pumped potable water, though both are rather a long way from most of the horse sites. (Bring some lidded containers so you can drive over to get your stock water.) Manure is to be dispersed or carried out. The day-use parking area has room for several trailers.
More Information: The Badger Lake Trail is covered in more detail in the Fourmile Lake Campground chapter of Riding Northwest Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, Ponderosa Press, 2013).
Reprinted with permission from Northwest Rider Magazine, July 2015 issue.