Find haven of coolness along Red Blanket Creek
July 14, 2006
By Bill Kettler
A trail near Crater Lake National Park offers hikers a cool refuge from summer’s heat along with several waterfalls and plenty of big trees.
Red Blanket Creek tumbles out of the Sky Lakes Wilderness and flows west along the southern boundary of Crater Lake National Park. A trail along the north bank of the creek passes through stands of Douglas fir and grand fir on its way to two named waterfalls and several smaller unnamed cascades.
Several factors combine to make the Red Blanket Creek Trail refreshingly cool even on summer’s hottest days. The trail starts at an elevation of 3,900 feet, which guarantees that the temperature will be at least 10 degrees cooler than the valley floor. Dense tree cover keeps the sunshine off the trail, holding down the temperature, and the chilly waters of the creek itself cool the air too.
The trees along Red Blanket Creek are notable enough to have earned mention in “Best Old-Growth Forest Hikes, Washington & Oregon Cascades,” ($16.95, Mountaineers Books) by John and Dianne Cissel. The Cissels’ book has been described as the “definitive guide” for finding outstanding old growth forests in the Cascades by Jerry Franklin, professor of ecosystem analysis at the University of Washington and one of the universally acknowledged experts on old-growth ecosystems.
The trail begins just outside the Sky Lakes Wilderness and climbs steadily for 2.9 miles to Red Blanket Falls, the first of two named waterfalls on the 4.3-mile (one way) trail. Red Blanket is a waterfall in the punchbowl style, where the water descends through a constricted passage to a pool.
People who are content with a six-mile outing may call it a day at Red Blanket Falls, but there’s another waterfall farther up the trail for those who are willing to add another 2.5 miles to their trek. The trail continues past Red Blanket Falls to Stuart Falls, where the creek spreads across an old lava flow in a 40- to 50-foot fan. At this elevation (5,400 feet) hikers can see tree species such as Engelmann spruce, western white pine and mountain hemlock.
To reach the trailhead, take Highway 62 east from Medford for 45 miles to Prospect. Turn right off Highway 62 to “downtown” Prospect and turn onto the Prospect-Butte Falls Highway at the Prospect Hotel.
Go one mile and turn left onto Red Blanket Road; then follow Red Blanket Road (also marked as Forest Road 6205) 11 miles to its end, where the trail begins.
A word to the wise: mosquitoes can be a problem in this area in July. Hikers may want to wear clothing that can minimize the amount of bare skin available for hungry mosquitoes and carry insect repellent. A head net will keep the little buggers out of eyes, ears and nostrils.
Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.