The section of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs over the shoulder of 7,340-foot Brown Mountain is a wonder of trail engineering. This stretch of the PCT runs across massive lava flows of tumbled basalt boulders, so trail builders had to dynamite their way through the lava, then bring in tons of cinders to fill in the trail tread between the boulders.
The gray basalt boulders contrast sharply with the red cinders brought in to create the trail tread.
The result is a delightfully horse-friendly trail. The trail tread is smooth even though it runs across impressive rock avalanches. And the open expanses of lava offer stunning views of nearby Mt. McLoughlin.
Brown Mountain is located about midway between Medford and Klamath Falls at the crest of the Cascades off Hwy. 140. The mountain is a cinder cone on top of a shield volcano, its sides striped by flows that are relatively recent in geologic terms. As the lava flowed its surface cooled and hardened, then broke apart when it was pushed up by the lava that continued to flow beneath it, creating the impressive basalt flows we see today.
Brown Mountain from Summit Sno-Park
The ride over Brown Mountain starts at Summit Sno-Park, just off Hwy. 140. From the western edge of the parking area, the Summit Trail #3732 will take you to the PCT in 0.2 mile. Turn left, and in 0.4 mile the PCT crosses Hwy. 140. On the other side the trail runs through forest for a short distance before it reaches the expanses of tumbled lava boulders.
The trail runs through forest of mixed conifers and chinquapins as it travels up to the Brown Mountain lava flows.
The first 4 miles of trail offers expansive views of Mt. McLoughlin as you ride to the trail’s highest-elevation point on Brown Mountain’s shoulder.
Mt. McLoughlin from the PCT on Brown Mountain.
After that, the trail gently descends for 3.7 miles to a junction with the Brown Mountain Trail #1005.
The PCT intersects with the Brown Mountain Trail of the south side of the mountain.
Ride Statistics: This moderate out-and-back ride is 8 miles round trip to the highest-elevation point on Brown Mountain, or 15.5 miles round trip to the Brown Mountain Trail. Elevations are 5,000 to 5,500 feet. Stock water is available on the trail on a seasonal basis. Hoof protection is recommended. You can find this trail on the Pacific Crest Trail Southern Oregon map, Klamath and Butte Falls Ranger District maps, and the Winema and Rogue River National Forest maps.
Getting to Summit Sno-Park: From Medford, take Hwy. 62 north for 6 miles and turn right on Hwy. 140. From Klamath Falls, take Hwy. 140 northwest. All, between mileposts 32 and 33, turn north at the sign for Summit Sno-Park.
Summit Sno-Park Trailhead Facilities: Toilet, parking for many trailers. Stock water is available on a seasonal basis from the Cascade Canal, which runs past the west side of the parking area. You can find overnight horse-camping facilities at nearby Fourmile Lake Campground and at Willow Prairie Horse Camp.
More Information: The Pacific Crest Trail over Brown Mountain is covered in the Brown Mountain chapter of Riding Southern Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2014).