Hike Difficulty: moderately challenging, but long
Hike Length: 9.2 mi RT +
Elevation Gain: 1488 ft. +
My Rating (out of 5): 5.0 – Mountain Lakes Wilderness is a new area for me. It has an interesting history. The area is actually the site of a collapsed caldera, similar to Crater Lake. The main difference is that this site is a lot older, so it has had glaciers come through and change the topography a bit. MLW was also one of the first Primitive Areas designated by the Forest Service in 1930. It is a perfect 6 mi x 6 mi square.
I entered the MLW from the southern side, via Clover Creek trailhead. To get there, I took Dead Indian Memorial Highway from Ashland for about 28 miles. Clover Creek Rd. is marked pretty clearly, so take a right. Follow that road for a little over 3 miles. Keep your eyes open for the Clover Creek trailhead sign telling you to turn left.
Once I got going on the trail, there was a lot of climbing. You have to climb to the rim of the volcano caldera before making your way to the Mountain Loop trail, which connects to the Clover Creek trail about 3.3 miles in. From the Mountain Loop trail junction, if you go right, it takes you to the Aspen Butte summit (eventually).
I only have one day of the week that I can really get away and discover new hikes. I usually just have to deal with whatever weather Sundays give me. Today, I knew that there was a 30% chance of rain on either side of the mountains, so to me that meant that I was for sure going to get rained on the higher I climbed. Still, my hike through the clouds was pretty, even if it didn’t give me the money shot from the summit like I wanted. I had great views of Clover Lake and Lake Harriette. I got to explore a new territory to which I will definitely return.