Memaloose Lake and South Fork Mountain

Saturday’s forecast called for clear sunny skies so I wanted to do a hike with views. I chose the hike to Memaloose Lake and South Fork Mountain, down south of Estacada. I had NO idea that in addition to sunshine and views I would also encounter snow, and lots of it.

The first sign of snow was on Road 46, climbing up to the trailhead. It was along the sides of the road and on the trees. I took this through my windshield about a quarter mile from the trailhead (at around 3,500′).


There was one truck at the trailhead, and a group camped out by the parking area, but other than that, no one was around. The vine maple growing in the nearby clearcut was in full fall color. It would be one of only two patches of fall color I’d see all day.


There was snow on the trail pretty much right away. I kept taking pictures thinking how odd it was to be hiking in snow so early in the fall. If only I knew! There was MUCH more snow to come.


I saw these cool mushrooms growing out of a log. They looked a little frozen. Kind of how I felt! (It was very cold out there!)


There was plenty of snow on the ground and some snow on the trees at Memaloose Lake. The higher I got, the more I heard the sound of snow plopping to the ground from the trees above. It was all around me, and sometimes ON me! Not pleasant. Notice the fall color on the vine maple next to the snowy trees. Fall and winter at the same time.


Three people – who were headed down as I was headed up – had gone as far as the lake, but it appeared they’d gone no farther. So I had no tracks to follow. But I decided to head up South Fork Mountain as long as I could find the trail and keep my footing. The higher I went, the more the world looked like a winter wonderland.



About halfway up, one set of footprints suddenly appeared out of the forest and were on the trail the rest of the way up. It was as though the person had just bushwhacked uphill to that point and picked up the trail. There was a return set of prints too, which also disappeared into the forest at hte same spot. Very weird.

With the help of my poles, I managed to not fall down as I climbed higher. I also managed to not lose the trail. So up and up I went. By the time I reached the top, I was hiking through almost two inches of snow. After a very difficult climb, I was finally rewarded with the sunny summit and some great views.

Mt. Jefferson:

Mt. Hood:

Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood

I could also see the Three Sisters, but I didn’t get a good picture of it. The trees are getting pretty tall around the summit. After about another decade, the views may be rather nonexistent up there.

I ate my lunch and enjoyed the views and the sun. I had hoped the sun would warm me up some, but even though there was no wind it was still pretty cold up there. I marveled that someone had driven up there sometime in the morning.


It was an uneventful hike down, though tricky in parts. Going downhill in the snow is even harder than going uphill! Thank goodness for my poles, that’s all I have to say.

About ten minutes from the trailhead, I heard a loud sound and recognized the sound of an ATV. I thought I must be closer to the trailhead than I realized, and then I saw an ATV with two riders barreling up the trail towards me. Right behind it was a dirt bike. Fortunately I was able to get out of the way in time. They paid me no mind as they roared past. I really wanted to shout at them “You’re not allowed up here!” But I was alone and figured that was unwise. So I just gave them dirty looks as they sailed past. I don’t know how far they made it. Once the trail starts climbing and switch-backing, I find it hard to believe the ATV could have kept going, but who knows. I was very disheartened to see the damage they had done already. The wide ATV on the narrow trail had ripped up the trailside vegetation. The tracks from both vehicles could be seen on the damp ground and in the snow.


Encountering those awful machines ripping through the forest was not a great way to end the hike. I found a mostly empty Coors can right on the trail very close to the trailhead. I assume it belonged to the drivers I had just seen. I emptied it and threw it in my trunk with disgust.

Anyway, ATVs aside, it was a good hike. The snow was pretty, but I would have given up the winter wonderland scenes for an easier hike. This isn’t one I’ve done before, so it was nice to go someplace new. I saw lots of Rhodies and Beargrass, so I’d like to come back in summer!