Elk Hole Botanical Area

Shannon Browne | July 25, 2016

Elk Hole is an extremely remote part of the southern Siskiyou Mountains. The Botanical Area is about 250 acres, and was designated in 1995 for the southernmost existence of Alaska yellow cedar.

The conifer habitat here is quite diverse, as you hike the 4 miles up into the Botanical Area you pass through different conifer zones. Species sighted include Douglas fir, Port Orford cedar, western white pine, sugar pine, Brewer spruce, Shasta red fir, and Alaska yellow cedar.

Sawtooth Mt on the left. Elk Hole Botanical Area located in the basin below. 

Access to Elk Hole is from the Elk Valley Trailhead. Take the G-O Road (Forest Road 15) from the town of Orleans 30 miles; this road is completely paved. Turn left onto Forest Road 14N03, the trailhead is 1.5 miles down a rough road, high clearance and 4-wheel drive vehicles are recommended.

The area is most frequented by local American Indians for traditional ceremonies. There was a sign posted by the Six Rivers National Forest at the cutoff to Route 14N03 that spoke about this. One aspect of traditional ceremonies is seclusion. Be respectful if you come across native people. Do not approach or speak to them, be quiet, and continue moving swiftly past.

Views from between Flatiron Lake and Lake of the Newts. 

It was clear on this particular weekend in late July, we were the only people out there for miles. The temperatures were quite hot, and some of the smaller lakes were already dried up. Flatiron Lake, one of the larger tarns is about 1 mile (and then an additional .5 mile bushwalk off trail) from the trailhead.

We camped out the next lake which is unnamed on maps. There were so many rough skinned newts swimming, at any time I could count between 10-20 newts. I took the liberty of naming it Lake of the Newts. It was quite a charming place to enjoy the solitude of the region.

Lake of the Newts in the morning light. 

Note: the Boundary Trail beyond Lake of the Newts is not very well maintained. A fire burned through much of it in the last few years and the trail is lost in some places. Leave extra time to search for the path and rock cairns.

Rough skinned newts going for a swim.