Vulcan Lake Hike
A good introduction to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Areas is along the one-mile trail to Vulcan Lake at the foot of Vulcan Peak, which is the major jumping-off point for trails into the wilderness. The trail begins at Forest Road 1909 and takes off up the mountains past Pollywog Butte and Red Mountain Prairie. The open patches in the Douglas firs reveal a kaleidoscope of Pacific Ocean views and panoramas of the Chetco Valley and the Big Craggies.
For the botanist in search of rare plants, however, the real show is on the trail. No matter how expert you might consider yourself, bring along a good plant guide to help you identify the many exotic species.
On the final leg of the hike, Sadler oak, manzanita, Jeffrey pine, white pine, and azalea precede the sharp descent to the lake. Despite steep spots, the walk from County Road 1909 to Vulcan Lake is not difficult.
If you backtrack from the lake to Spur 260 on the trail, you can make the steep ascent over talus slopes and brush to Vulcan Peak. At the top, from an old lookout, a view of Kalmiopsis treetops and the coast awaits. Before going, check with the Forest Service in Brookings to see if the road to Vulcan Lake trailhead is open, because weather-related closures occasionally occur.
Getting to the Vulcan Lake Hike
To reach the trailhead from Brookings, turn east off U.S. 101 at the north end of the Chetco River Bridge, follow County Roads 784 and 1376 along the Chetco River for six miles, and then turn right and follow County Road 1909 to its end. Driving distance from Brookings is 31 miles.
Hikers should watch out for the three shiny leaves of poison oak, as well as for rattlesnakes, which are numerous. Black bears also populate the area, but their lack of contact with humans makes them shier than their Cascade counterparts.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel