If you are looking for a wilderness experience that offers real solitude, you’ll want to check out Bessie Shelter, a dispersed campsite at the northern end of the beautiful Sky Lakes Wilderness. The rugged trails in this area are not for novices, but the savvy rider will enjoy meadows, mountain views, waterfalls, and plenty of peace and quiet.
- Challenging trails
- 20+ miles of trails
- Elevation 4,700 feet
The horses get a quick bite at McKie Meadow, while the riders enjoy the wildflowers.
From Bessie Shelter, you can ride a 12.5-mile loop on the Tom and Jerry and Mudjekewis Trails. The trails run through beautiful hemlock and fir forest, through the fire scar for the 2008 Middle Fork Fire, along lush meadows with seasonal wildflowers, and past gigantic views of the Middle Fork Canyon (nearly 3,000 feet deep), the Rogue Valley, Mt. McLoughlin, and Mt. Shasta.
A short trailer ride away, the Red Blanket Loop has unfortunately been closed for the past couple of years because of severe winter storm damage. The Forest Service hopes to restore the trail, which runs through a canyon near the southern boundary of Crater Lake National Park. The trail provides access to Red Blanket Falls, Stuart Falls, and several other waterfalls.
The best camping at the north end of the Sky Lakes Wilderness is at Bessie Shelter, a dispersed site in a lush meadow. The shelter itself is in good condition, but the corrals are falling down, and you won’t find a toilet or picnic tables. You will find stock water from nearby Bessie Creek, parking for many trailers, and trees for highlining.
To reach Bessie Shelter from Medford, take Hwy. 62 (Crater Lake Hwy.) north for 45 miles and turn right at the turnoff for the town of Prospect. In 0.7 mile, just beyond the Prospect Hotel, turn east on Hwy. 992 (Red Blanket Road) toward Butte Falls. In 2.7 miles, turn left on Bessie Creek Road (Road 37). Follow it 3.1 miles, then veer left on Road 3795. Continue 5.8 miles and, when the road makes a hairpin turn to the left, go straight on Road 600. The horse camp is on your right in 0.1 mile.
You’ll find more information about the riding at the northern end of the Sky Lakes Wilderness in Riding Southern Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2017), available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.