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The Cripple Creek to Dry Ridge via Rock Lakes Basin is an extension of two other runs in the Clackamas and Roaring River Wilderness Areas.  This run from Estacada resident Steve Schieberl is 21 miles long with 5500′ of climbing and 7000′ of descent.

Cripple Creek to Dry Ridge via Rock Lakes Basin

NOTE: Bring map + compass (and know how to use them), GPS w/ route, and lots of water + filter
This one-way, net downhill route is a killer way to get the grand tour of the Rock Lakes Basin without making the long drive to Hideaway or Shellrock Lake. Leave a car parked at the Roaring River Campground (or nearby pullout). Continue driving up the 224 then make a left up Pipeline Rd. A few turns above the small PGE-made town of Three Lynx is the trailhead to Cripple Creek which you will almost certainly miss.

Sun shining through the old-growth trees on Cripple Creek Trail (Steve Schieberl)

Strong navigation skills come in handy up the steep, seldom-traveled, or maintained trail as it crosses several defunct fire roads before it reaches the gorgeous Cache Meadow. Make a right onto Grouse Point Trail, which is more of a road in that section. Be sure to bushwhack the boulder field and scramble up to the summit of Frazier Mountain for infinite views to the south. Turn left at Frazier Turnaround onto the Serene Lake Trail to enter the Rock Lakes Basin. The short out-and-backs to each lake are worthy side trips (grab a skinny-dip in the summer) on the way to the aptly named Serene Lake.

The Cripple Creek Trail faintly divides a meadow of wildflowers (Scotty Strain)

Climb out of the old Serene Lake Campground to return to the Grouse Point Trail and make a right. Bomb down the ridge for a couple of miles, hurdling blowdown, and trying not to miss the left to the Dry Ridge Trail (you’ll definitely turn around if you miss it). It won’t be until the final few miles when you’ll reach your first cold, clear, fast-running, natural water source of the day. The route finishes with a steep descent into the Roaring River Campground.

Steve and Denzil Jennings after scrambling to the true summit of Frazier Mountain (Scotty Strain)

 

If you aren’t feeling as adventurous, but still want to experience these trails, try the Serene Lakes – Rock Lakes Loop or an out and back on Dry Ridge Trail.  Feeling more adventurous and want to make it a loop?  Add 13 extra miles and 3000′ of ascent by running back to the road and to Indian Henry Trailhead.  Take the Clackamas River Trail to Fish Creek and back on the highway to Roaring River Campground.