South Fork Mountain via Memaloose Lake

Trailhead Location: 45.100002, -122.220705
Parking Fee: No
Location: Oregon
Land type: USFS Wilderness
Length: 4.6 mi.
Elevation Gain: 1600 ft.
Highest Point: 4850 ft.
Loop/OnB: Out & Back
Year Round: No
Best Month: 6
Popular: Yes
Waterfall: No
Lake: Yes
Stream: Yes
View: Yes
Old Growth: Yes
Backpacking: Yes
Fishing: Yes
Bicycles: No
Dogs: Yes
Horses: Yes

The Hike

After a long pothole filled drive you'll be happy to get out of the car and breathe in the fresh air of the Clackamas Wilderness. The trail is pleasant stroll up to the lake through lush old growth forest. You wouldn't know that surrounding this small pocket are acres of heavily logged tracks of land, except that whole drive in thing.

If you are here in June you'll surely be treated to a wonderful carpet of Oxalis in bloom. Even if the pretty white with purple striation flowers haven't opened yet, the contrast of the trail against a carpet of green will still renew your soul.

The lake has several well established campsites, which sometimes have trash from previous occupants. Consider bringing a trash bag along and helping keep this area pristine. While taking a break at the lake be sure to walk out on a rock or log and peer down, chances are you'll see crowds of Rouch-skinned Newts lounging in the clear waters.

After taking in your fill of beauty at the lake continue to the south side of the lake and up an unmaintained trail to South Fork Mountain. Even though it isn't officially maintained the trails see's enough traffic that it is established. Once at the top of the mountain be sure to wander around and try to spot as many Cascade volcano's as you can. I was able to see:
  • Mt. Rainer
  • Mt. Adams
  • Mt. St. Helens
  • Mt. Hood
  • Mt. Jefferson
  • Mt. Washington
  • Three Sisters


This hike is located in the Memaloose Lake tract, which is 1 of 5 tracts that make up the 9,474 Clackamas Wilderness. The Clackamas Wilderness is a more recent addition, being created in 2009. 

There once was a fire lookout at the top of south fork mountain, you can still see four concrete pylons, which is all that remains.

Memaloose is derived from the Chinook word memalust, which means "to die". Historically tribes of the Columbia River did not bury the dead, instead, it was a custom to wrap the deceased in robes, mats or furs and deposit them in canoes or burial vaults that were then placed in the woods, on rocky points or on islands. Often the body was placed in an upright sitting position.