Klamath Lake / East

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Just 15 minutes north of Klamath Falls, this easily-accessible excursion kicks off with a dramatic drive up a shelf road carved into the steep cliffs that line the eastern shore of massive Klamath Lake in southern Oregon. While everyone else is cruising along the already picturesque lakeshore on Hwy 97 below, your views will grow increasingly spectacular as you proceed uphill. The paved portion of this National Forest road ends about half a mile up, with a well-maintained gravel road continuing northward along the the top edge of the cliff. Go easy as you explore the multiple short dead-end spurs along the west side of the road. They offer positively gorgeous views of the craggy cliffs, the extensive shimmering lake, and the (seasonally) snow-capped peaks just to the west of the lake...but this largely treeless area provides absolutely nothing to stop you from plummeting over the edge to the main highway 700+ feet below.

The initial westernmost portion of this Winema National Forest excursion has an arid, rocky appearance, mostly sagebrush with a few scattered pines, broken up by areas of crumbled lava and jutting basalt. If you follow the fork to the right which climbs up and over a secondary cliff to the east, you will quickly find yourself in a slightly greener environment, with a sparse pine forest occasionally yielding tantilizing views of volcanic cones and valleys to the east. Our visit in late March included quite a bit of snow in the forested areas, eventually halting our progress (look for an update next time we're in the area).

The network of roads includes a pleasurable range for any comfort level, from wide, well-graded gravel to steep, narrow, chunky spurs winding through the trees. While we very much enjoyed the more "back country" portion of our exploration, the star of the show is unquestionably the westernmost route along the cliffs overlooking the lake. We ran out of time in our afternoon excursion to push as far north as we would have liked, but on the maps it looks like you can eventually find your way back down to Hwy 97 just south of Chiloquin near the Jeld-Wen facility, for a quick return to Klamath Falls.

Drive north from Klamath Falls on Hwy 97. National Forest road 9718 heads up off the east side of the highway just north of Hagelstein County Park.