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Vulcan Peak Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View down Box Canyon Creek to Pearsoll Peak from Vulcan Peak, Kalmiopsis Wilderness (bobcat)
Yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum), Vulcan Peak Trail (bobcat)
View to Red Mountain and Chetco Peak from the Vulcan Peak Trail (bobcat)
Biscuit Fire slopes, Vulcan Peak (bobcat)
The hike to Vulcan Peak (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Vulcan Peak TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Vulcan Peak
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 2.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 935 feet
  • High Point: 4,655 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Mid-spring to mid-fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The hike to Vulcan Peak, along the edge of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, offers views to the surrounding peaks of the wilderness, including the highest, Pearsoll Peak. The route follows a serpentine ridge that transitions to red peridotite on the summit ridge. From the old lookout site, you’ll scramble along the ridge to get views down to Vulcan Lake and Lish Lake. The whole area was thoroughly scorched by the 2002 Biscuit Fire, the largest forest fire in Oregon’s modern history but, while only whitened snags remain of the montane coniferous forest, the understory shrubbery is rich in variety.

Around the trailhead, rhododendrons bloom in June in a patch of standing forest. Follow the Chetco Divide Trail up a ridge into the zone of the Biscuit Fire. Here, manzanita, chinquapin, Sadler oak, and canyon live oak compose the dominant vegetation. You’re on an old jeep road, now converted to a trail, that used to convey miners’ ore and supplies to O’Brien, Oregon. Soon, however, you’ll come to a junction where the Chetco Divide Trail splits off to the right.

Follow the Vulcan Lake Trail up to the left. At an old vehicle landing, get a view down to the head of the Boulder Creek valley and the narrow, rough track that leads to the Johnson Butte Trailhead for Vulcan Lake. Looking south to Mount Emily, you can see that much of the forest canopy remains after the devastating forest fires. To the west, the Pacific Ocean shimmers. The trail makes a traverse across a steep slope of whitened snags; in places, you’ll have to cross a few small slide chutes. Looking down, you notice the Chetco Divide Trail proceeding along an even contour. Then make a switchback to get a view of Bosley Butte standing out to the west. Once you round a ridge, you'll see the red peridotite summit ridge of Vulcan Peak. The plants become more stunted, but you’ll pick out columbine, California lovage, and pincushion mats of sandwort. At a windy saddle, views extend southeast to Chetco Peak, while on the skyline, the snow-capped peaks of Preston Peak, Copper Mountain, and Youngs Peak appear.

The final traverse up to the summit of Vulcan Peak takes you through boulders of red rock to a lookout site where only the guy cable anchors and broken glass remain. To get more views, scramble along the ridge where azalea and iris bloom in June. First you’ll see Lish Lake and, when you come to the end of the ridge, you’re looking down on Vulcan Lake. To the east, you can make out Canyon Peak, with Grayback Mountain the highest point on the eastern horizon. Pearsoll Peak is to the northeast, and in the northwest are the Big Craggies and Collier Butte.

Off-trail loop connector:

You can make a loop to Vulcan Lake by taking advantage of an easy scramble down Vulcan Peak’s northeast ridge to hit the Vulcan Lake Trail. This means a hike back to the Vulcan Peak Trailhead on the Vulcan Lake Road – about 1 ¾ miles.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Kalmiopsis and Wild Rogue Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Powers and Gold Beach Ranger Districts
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Siskiyou National Forest

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Wilderness regulations apply
  • Restrooms, picnic tables at trailhead

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • 75 Hikes on Oregon’s Coast Range & Siskiyous by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • A Guide to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness by the U.S. Forest Service
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

More Links


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.