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Mid to late June through October is the time to head a little deeper into the Roaring River Wilderness and experience fantastic trails that loop around the Rock Lakes Basin.  The 9-mile loop starts from the Frazier Trailhead off of the bumpy Frazier Mountain Road.  Add an out and back from Shellrock Lake Trailhead, which is easier to get to than Frazier, and make the run close to 12 miles.

 

Serene Lake – Rock Lakes Loop from Shellrock Lake Trailhead

 

The start from Shellrock Lake Trail #700 starts by entering a clear cut forest to Shellrock Lake.  The trail hugs the lake for a half-mile then ascends almost 1000 feet in less than two miles through the old-growth forest toward Frazier Mountain.  The huckleberries provide a nice snack in late summer.

 

Shellrock Lake from the trail (Steve Schieberl)

Turn left onto Grouse Point Trail #517 and continue on to Frazier Mountain to start the loop.  The summit of Frazier Mountain is reached in about 3/4 of a mile.  Then Grouse Point descends toward Cripple Creek Trail.  This junction is in the center of the beautiful Cache Meadow.  Wildflowers bloom throughout Cache Meadow in the heart of the summer.

 

Cache Meadow blooms several varieties of wildflowers in the heart of the summer (Steve Schieberl)

Stay on Grouse Point Trail following Cache Meadow through several switchbacks and climb up to a cliff that offers a glimpse of Serene Lake. Mt. Hood is viewable on a clear day.

 

Serene Lake from the Grouse Point Trail (Steve Schieberl)

 

After a short and flat section, Grouse Point descends through more switchbacks through thick old-growth forest to the Serene Lake Trail Junction.  Turn right and continue down to Serene Lake.  After a scree patch, the lake is viewable from several camping spots.

 

The sun shining on Serene Lake (Steve Schieberl)

 

Pass a creek at the end of the lake and continue dropping down Serene Lake Trail for another mile.  Cross the South Fork of the Roaring River and start climbing again.  Along the climb are trails on both sides of the trails to each of the three Rock Lakes.  These short trails require some bushwhacking and are not part of the loop.  Continue on Serene Lake Trail passing the swampy creeks of the Rock Lakes Basin, back to the summit of the Frazier turnaround and the Grouse Point Trail junction.  Turn right to head back down to Shellrock Lake Trail and back down to the Shellrock Lake Trailhead.

Mount Mitchell and Cottonwood Meadows

An alternative run in Rock Lakes Basin is Mount Mitchell and Cottonwood Meadows from Ripplebrook.  “Mount Mitchell and Cottonwood Meadows is a great way to experience the east side of the Rock Lakes Basin and bag some of the best views around,” says Estacada trail runner Steve Schieberl.  To get to the start of this 16 mile, 3000′ route, head to Ripplebrook Rd at the end of Hwy 224, take the 120 spur (maybe start your run there) to the Cottonwood Meadows Trail.  “Save some energy up the steep climb,” tells Schieberl.  “Cottonwood Meadow is gorgeous, but you’ll want to outrun the mosquitoes to the Rimrock Trail. Don’t miss the side trip to the summit of Mitchell Mountain. From there, you’ll be able to see every mountain from Rainier to Bachelor, and maybe beyond.”
Continue into Cache Meadow and head up Grouse Point Trail towards Frazier Turnaround. Before reaching the turnaround, make a right onto the Shellrock Lake Trail. Descend the steep, technical trail to the sublime Shellrock Lake. Follow the trail to the end.  For a visit to Hideaway Lake, continue across the trail for a short lollipop excursion to and around the lake. Back at road 5830, head west and south. Stay right past a couple of forks and don’t miss the left onto the Rimrock Trail which you were on earlier. Follow that back to your car.