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Judge Waldo Tree Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Blue Lake (B. Hope)
Judge Waldo Tree at Island Lake (B. Hope)
Island Lake (B. Hope)
Map of the Waldo Tree hike (B. Hope)
  • Start point: Blue Canyon TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Blue Canyon Trailhead
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 14.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
  • High Point: 6,388 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer, Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

Congress designated the Sky Lakes Wilderness in 1984 and it now covers 113,849 acres. It stretches along the crest of the volcanic Cascade Mountains from the border of Crater Lake National Park on the north to State Highway 140 in the south, and includes three major lake (former glacial) basins: Seven Lakes, Sky Lakes, and Blue Canyon. From the rugged summit of Mount McLoughlin (9,495’) in at its southern end, this wilderness extends northward into an area of broad plateau-like ridges, dotted with many lakes. With its numerous lakes, easy to moderate elevation changes, generally good trails, and plethora of campsites, this wilderness is an ideal backpacking and dayhiking destination.

This hike takes you on a tour of the Blue Lake (or Canyon) Basin. Caution: While the trails themselves are generally very easy to follow, their naming and numbering schemes can be a bit confusing - so trust the trail and your map, not necessarily the numbers.

From the trailhead, descend the Blue Canyon trail (#976 on the USFS website, #982 on the map) past Round, Blue, Horseshoe, and Pear Lakes to its junction with the Red Lake trail (#987). About 0.4 miles before this junction, there is an unsigned trail to the left (toward the lake) leading to the Judge Waldo Tree.

Judge J.B. Waldo was an early voice for conservation of the Cascade forests. In 1888, during an extended journey along the Cascades, the Judge carved an inscription in a tree on the shores of Island Lake - one of several trees he inscribed in the Cascades. The tree is located on the south shore of the lake and is accessible via a short unsigned use trail (now covered by several fallen trees) off of the Blue Canyon trail. The inscribed tree is surrounded by a fence and is obvious once you get within about 50 feet of it.

After viewing the tree, continue to the Red Lake trail and follow it south for 0.2 miles to a junction with the PCT and the Long Lake / Badger Lake trail (#3758). Then go south on the PCT for 2.1 miles to its junction with the Cathill Way trail (#992) and follow that trail uphill (northwest) back to the trailhead in 3.5 miles. About 1.5 miles from the PCT, you'll come to a poorly signed junction with the Meadow Lake trail (also numbered #976) heading downhill. Don't go down - the Cathill Way trail stays on or near the ridgeline all the way back to the trailhead.


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Hiking Southern Oregon by Art Bernstein and Zach Urness (2014 Edition, Hike #45)
  • 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon by William L. Sullivan (Third Edition, Hike #46)

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Page 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.