Home > Oregon > Salamander Lake
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Agency:USDA Forest Service
Location:30 miles east of Brookings on Forest Roads
Difficulty:Moderate
Distance:8 miles (round trip)
High Point:4,000 feet
Updated:May 1997
Season:Spring, summer and fall

Hike: Salamander Lake via Johnson Butte Trail - 4 miles / 2 hrs each way

From Johnson Butte Trailhead, follow Johnson Butte Trail #1110 northeast. The trail starts out as an old, rocky roadbed; during winter it can become something of a streambed. Almost immediately past the sign-in box the junction to Vulcan Lake angles up a slope to the right. This is the beginning of the Vulcan Lakes loop. After about a mile the main Johnson Butte trail comes to a junction (right) with Gardner Mine Trail, which represents the other end of the loop route. Continue ahead into a short section of heavily forested land, evidently a pocket of fertile soil in an otherwise nutrient-poor zone.

Our destination will take us a few miles further along a ridge with almost continuously unobstructed views of the alien-looking landscape. You would never expect a place that gets 100 inches of precipitation a year to look like a desert, yet here it does. About three miles out, in the shadow of Dry Butte, the trail turns abruptly right and contours across a north facing slope. We have entered a Kalmiopsis plant area. Kalmiopsis leachiana is a relic of the ice age and one of the oldest members of the heath family. When in bloom (May and early June) these plants put on quite a show. In addition, there are numerous exotic mosses and ferns along the trail. The blue jewel of Valen Lake is visible in the depths of Boulder Creek Canyon. It is virtually inaccessible, 300 meters below the trail down an extreme slope. We will have to satisfy ourselves with a none-too-easy side trip to less attractive Salamander Lake.

This side trail (marked be a sign) begins at a saddle between Dry Butte and peak 3747. It angles down a slope of loose gravel to an attractive campsite, then plunges steeply through a thicket. About five minutes brings us to the placid, shallow lake. There sure are salamanders in there, as well as water lillies. This makes a nice spot to eat lunch and prepare oneself for the strenuous climb back up.

Johnson Butte Trail contours around this drainage to eventually intersect Upper Chetco Trail #1102 east of Johnson Butte. Trail #1102 crosses the Kalmiopsis east-west from Road 1917 at Quail Prairie to Spur 142 at Onion Camp, 17.1 miles in total.

Photos taken from Johnson Butte Trail enroute to Salamander Lake. Click on each thumbnail to see a larger version. Thank you Paul for motivating me to post these pictures. See the Vulcan Peak page for driving instructions to Johnson Butte Trailhead.

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