Shellrock Trail–Rock Lakes Loop
Hike #28 in 100 Hikes in Oregon, 2nd Edition
Saturday, August 9, 2008
This was a hike that my friend Tasha and I went on the weekend before a trip we did to Yosemite to attempt Half Dome. Neither of us had really done any training over the summer, and I in particular was pretty nervous about whether or not my body–especially my knees–could handle the very long, very steep climb. So, we decided to do a little test hike, something pretty long for us–around 14 miles–but not ridiculously strenuous, just to see how we fared.
It turned out to be quite a nice trip with some great views, and it’s very close to Portland, so it’s one that would be easy and fun to do again some day. I even enjoyed the semi-rainy weather we encountered. It was enough drizzle so that it was nice and cool, but not enough that we were soaked or couldn’t enjoy the scenery. And even though I was very tired at the end, I came away feeling much more optimistic about Half Dome, but that’s another slideshow.
We started out from Hideaway Lake Campground, which was fairly well populated with tent campers despite the rain and the ridiculous numbers of mosquitoes. We were swarmed by the annoying insects as soon as we got out of the car and started getting our packs on. We stopped almost immediately to apply copious amounts of REI Jungle Juice, which was definitely an essential throughout the hike. This is Tasha by the first trail sign we saw as we skirted the northeast side of Hideaway Lake.
Hideaway Lake from near the trail sign.
It was a little over a half mile from the campground to a road crossing, from which the trail started its ascent toward Shellrock Lake. The road, 2830, was the continuation of the one we took to get to the campground, and there was a place to park at this trail crossing where we could have started if we wanted to shorten the hike by about a mile.
Also, I don't believe the book we were using mentioned it, but just after that road crossing was a small trail that led down to a view of a waterfall. Knowing we had a decent trip ahead of us, we decided not to decend to that viewpoint, not knowing how far down it was, and we were pretty tired on the way back, but I think next time I go I'll definitely check it out, 'cause it seemed pretty cool from the glimpses I could see and the roaring sounds I could hear.
This was the view from the trail looking east I believe as it ascended along a hillside up to Shellrock Lake.
This was our first nice view of Shellrock Lake from the south where the trail meets it.
When we came to the lake for some reason we decided to go counter-clockwise around it, which we would have realized was the wrong way had we looked at our map. We soon realized that we couldn't easily make our way around in that direction and had to head back, but we encountered some fun terrain and some neat views in the process.
This was our first terrain obstacle, which was actually pretty fun to traverse. I kind of enjoy walking across big rocks like these. The mist you can see at the top of the rockslide was extremely active. It was really a weird phenomenon; it would rush down and totally cover the lake to the point where you couldn't hardly see it at all and then minutes later it would be gone. The cycle went on like that quite a few times as we were exploring that area. It was pretty cool to watch and made for a kind of erie but beautiful scene.
This was the view of the lake from the edge of the rockslide.
You can see the size of the rocks a little better here. I think Tasha was fairly certain we were going the wrong way at this point (or when we first saw the rockslide).
As you can kind of see, at the end of the rockslide the terrain gets forested again, and despite Tasha's insticts that this was a dead end, I thought perhaps we could still go this way, so I started wandering through the thick brush and trees to see if I could find a trail. Although I definitely never found one, I was still glad for the effort, because the view from up where I found myself was pretty neat, being able to see the rockslide and lake from higher up and from a different perspective.
This was where I emerged from the foliage after not discovering any reasonable trail. The view was pretty neat, especially with the magical mists. I had gotten quite a way up the rockslide and had to make my way back down to meet up with Tasha (she was behind the trees from this perspective down near the lake). We met up and headed back the way we came to follow the well established trail along the east side of the lake to continue on toward the Rock Lakes Loop.
We were pretty surprised to see snow still on the trail in late August. Later on we saw considerably larger patches of old snow that made this photo seem kinda silly, but of course, I didn't take pictures of those.
So, according to the book, we reached the start of the Rock Lakes Loop at 2.4 miles and we turned to the left, going around the loop counter-clockwise toward Frazier Mountain. I believe the intersection with this sign was a little under a mile past beginning of the loop and we turned left toward Grouse Point to continue.
I guess this part of the trail was an old jeep route. It looked pretty out of place, unnaturally straight and wide.
We think this is the beginning of Cache Meadow, which turned out to be more like a swamp than what I was expecting from a meadow. When mosquitoes are a problem, this is definitely not the best place to be. We kept moving pretty briskly throughout the trip and especially here, since every time we would stop the mosquitoes would summon their hordes of their brethren to the feast.
You can see the trail continuing on the left.
This is looking more like a meadow, right?
Nevermind... still a swamp. This part was tricky; fortunately I only made one bad step that covered my shoe with wet mud. It could've been considerably worse.
Campground at Cache Meadow
After making its way through the meadow the trail began to climb to another high point, where we found this spectacular viewpoint. I guess in clear weather you can see several mountains, but even in this weather it was quite beautiful. We stopped here for a quick lunch.
The lake we could see from our lunch spot was Serene Lake, which we would see up close later in the hike. It looked pretty neat from up there.
A great view.
There was a firepit and a log to sit on at the viewpoint so we used that as our lunch spot. This was one of the best places as far as mosquitoes went. There were still a few, but it was definitely better than many of the other venues along the trail.
I like taking pictures of signs along trails because it helps me to remember where I went and what things were called. However, this sign is not really helping me out. It was somewhere between the view of Serene Lake and the Lake itself.
Trail Signs, Serene Lake Series, #1
Trail Signs, Serene Lake Series, #2
Trail Signs, Serene Lake Series, #3
So, as you might have guessed by the lovely series of photos of Serene Lake trail signs, we have now reached the Serene Lake basin. This was part of the trail around the lake, and I thought it was pretty cool to see this rhododendron to the left of Tasha.
And now finally we see Serene Lake, after so many signs for it.
After Serene Lake the trail goes past the Rock Lakes, but you don't actually see these lakes unless you go off on the spur trails that lead to them, and being as we were already looking at fourteen miles and were already pretty tired, we decided we could survive without the extra mile or two it might take to see all the lakes on the hike. I did get photos of the signs for them though! That's almost as good, right? Ok, not really.
Tasha by the sign for Lower Rock Lake. We thought about checking this one out, since we knew how far it was, but we were pretty tired, so we still decided to pass. Perhaps next time.
To our surprise, which shouldn't have been a surprise if we had really read the trail description, just a little bit before we finished the loop we encountered this campsite, which I guess is called Frazier Campground.
We attempted to grab some snacks and water at this campground, but the mosquitoes were way too intense and we had to pack up the trail mix and get moving. That was really the only downside to this hike. You couldn't really stop whenever you wanted because of that, but otherwise the scenery and the terrain was very nice.
This photo is a little foggy, but I still like it. There were quite a few of these purple flowers throughout the hike, but for some reason I didn't take any pictures of them except these last two. The next one is more clear but I don't like the layout as well.
So, that wraps up the pictures. After this we finished the loop and headed back to the campground where we parked. We were pretty wiped, but we both really enjoyed it, despite the mosquitoes of doom. I'd like to go back again on a clear day, perhaps on a drier summer where the mosquitoes aren't as bad and the view of the mountains is evident. It's definitely a very pleasant and scenic route.