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Rock Lakes-Serene Lake Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Serene Lake and Indian Ridge from the Serene Lake Viewpoint (bobcat)
Buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata), Lower Rock Lake (bobcat)
Campsite at Serene Lake (bobcat)
Cripple Creek in Cache Meadows (bobcat)
Mariposa copper (Lycaena mariposa) on cascara, Frazier Mountain (bobcat)
The loop route to Rock Lakes and Serene Lake (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Frazier TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Serene Lake
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop with spurs
  • Distance: 8.9 miles
  • High point: 4,970 feet
  • Elevation gain: 1265 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: June through October
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids as a backpack
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

This classic loop, now preserved as wilderness thanks to the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, takes you to the heart of Roaring River country. You have the opportunity to visit four lakes, pass a couple of scenic viewpoints, and check out the bog flowers (and friendly clouds of mosquitoes) at Cache Meadows. There are campsites at the lakes and meadows, making the area a good one-night backpacking destination. The only catch is that, to get here, your vehicle needs to endure 4 1/2 miles of the tortuous, annually deteriorating 4610-240 spur road, a narrow, rocky, dusty trundle that tries one's patience and frazzles nerves. Those without clearance may want to begin at the Shellrock Lake Trailhead (See the Cache Meadows-Shellrock Lake Loop Hike), but this adds more miles to your efforts. Another longer way to access the area is described in the Cache Meadows via Cripple Creek Loop Hike.

Find the Serene Lake Trail #512 on the right, near the tall Frazier Turnaround sign. There's a wilderness permit box here that you need to sign in at. The trail loses 400 feet of elevation in the first 0.8 mile in silver fir, noble fir, mountain hemlock and huckleberry woods. At that point you will reach a junction where a short 0.2 mile side trail on the left takes you to Middle Rock Lake. Upper Rock Lake is another 0.4 miles beyond Middle Rock Lake via the latter's west shore. There are good campsites at both lakes.

Back on the main trail you will quickly come to a junction with a side trail on the right that goes down through huckleberry bushes to Lower Rock Lake, where you'll find another nice campsite. Look for buckbean and white rhododendrons blooming here in summer.

Hiking on you'll soon cross the outlet stream for Middle Rock Lake, which is actually the South Fork Roaring River. Descend and note a small lake becoming a meadow through the trees on your right. Up to your left is another swampy meadow. Head up under silver firs, cedars and mountain hemlocks. Traverse and drop to cross a vine maple-cloaked talus slope. Then, begin to climb, making four switchbacks before you traverse up and cross a talus slope with a clear view of Indian Ridge and the South Fork Roaring River valley. Switchback twice and hike on the level past a boulder field. The trail drops a little and comes to a junction. The spur on the left leads up to Serene Lake. Keep right and cross the creek at the end of the lake. Walk around the lakeshore; you may experience clouds of furious mosquitoes here in mid-summer! There are several campsites here and at a site with a picnic table, find the sign for the continuation of the Serene Lake Trail.

It’s three miles from Serene Lake to Cache Meadows. The trail angles up the ridge. Head across a scree slope and loop around the nose of the ridge into a much drier silver fir, noble fir, mountain hemlock forest. Enter a rhododendron understory as the trail begins to rise. Switchback four times and come to the Grouse Point-Serene Lake Trail Junction. Here you'll turn left on the Grouse Point Trail #517. In about 0.8 mile, after a cleared spot which served as an emergency helipad, you'll reach a clifftop viewpoint overlooking Serene Lake. On a clear day, you'll see Mount Hood from here as well.

The trail loses about 500 feet of elevation over the next mile as you descend to Cache Meadows. The trail drops off the ridge and winds down, levels, and then drops again. Pass the first of the Cache Meadows and come to the Grouse Point-Cache Meadow Trail Junction. A spur leads into the second meadow here, where Cripple Creek cuts through it. Tofieldia, shooting stars, white bog orchids and bog paintbrush bloom in summer. On the main trail, pass the lake at the end of this meadow and then the site of the burned-down Cache Meadows shelter at the Grouse Point-Cripple Creek Trail Junction. Come to a bog and the third meadow with its small lake. At the end of the bog crossing, an abandoned trail leads up to the right (Following this in a generally easterly direction takes you down a slope to join the Shellrock Lake Trail).

From the last of the Cache Meadows, rise in silver fir/mountain hemlock forest. There’s a short, steep, rocky section of trail and then the gradient becomes more gradual. The trail skirts a talus slope and then levels. Reach an old road bed and go right. Huckleberry bushes hang over the old track as it descends along the eastern slope of Frazier Mountain. One can barely glimpse Shellrock Lake through the trees here. Cross an open talus slope and get a view straight ahead of Mount Hood. Noble fir, cascara, boxwood, thimbleberry and elderberry grow here. Come to the Grouse Point-Shellrock Lake Trail Junction and descend to the Frazier Trailhead.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Sign in at Wilderness Permit box

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Serene Lake Trail #512 (USFS)
  • Grouse Point Trail #517 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: High Rock, OR #493 and Fish Creek Mtn, OR #492
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Clackamas River Ranger District
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald (via Shellrock Lake)
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain (via Cripple Creek)
  • 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon by Douglas Lorain (via Cripple Creek)
  • One Night Wilderness: Portland by Douglas Lorain (via Shellrock Lake)
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 62 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

More Links


Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.