An Adventure on the way to the Trailhead

Mileage (Roundtrip): 6 Trail Conditions: Light hikers recommended.
Hike #: 3 Scenery (1 "Meh" to 10 "Amazing, Wow"): 7
Sullivan Hike #: 44 Difficulty (1 "Easy" to 5 "Difficult"): 1
Hike Name: Proxy Falls and Linton Lake Region: Three Sisters Wilderness / McKenzie Pass

Driving Directions: The Proxy Falls trailhead is on the McKenzie Highway (Oregon Route 242) between mileposts 64 and 65 which is 13.5 miles west of the McKenzie Pass. Linton Lake is 1.6 miles closer to McKenzie Pass, also on Oregon Route 242.

Bring: Wading shoes if you want to hike up to the base of Lower Proxy Falls.

Other Things to Know: Sullivan recommends hiking the Proxy Falls loop counter-clockwise. I think Lower Proxy Falls is more impressive than Upper Proxy Falls so it might be better to hike the loop clockwise and save the best for last.

This was a nice day of hiking with an interesting adventure on the way to the trailhead. The McKenzie Highway (Oregon Route 242) is very scenic and twisty/turny on the west side of McKenzie Pass past the Dee Wright Observatory. While I love driving on curvy roads I learned that our Subaru Outback has an issue with hairpin turns if there is vegetation protruding into the road. Long story short – when I pulled over to the right to let a motorcycle pass our Outback slammed on the brakes when its sensors thought I was going to crash into an imaginary obstacle (vine maple) on the right side of the road. I’ll probably buy a self driving car one day, but I have to say that I did not like surrendering control of the car to the car’s computer/sensors. No harm no foul but I think I’ll be disabling that particular safety feature soon.

Sullivan’s recommendation to combine the hikes to Upper and Lower Proxy Falls with the hike to Linton Lake is spot on.  While we vastly preferred the hike to Upper and Lower Proxy Falls, the hike to Linton Lake would have been better if we knew about the side trip to Linton Falls.  More on that later in this post.

So the hike to Upper and Lower Proxy Falls is very short and very crowded but the falls are

waterfall, Oregon, Proxy Falls, hiking

Lower Proxy Falls

waterfall, Oregon, hiking

Upper Proxy Falls

impressive (especially Lower Proxy Falls) and even though you are relatively close to the car park at all times there is a bit of a backcountry feel at both of the falls.  I enjoyed exploring the lava fields during the first half mile or so of the hike but the falls and the stretch of the trail in between the falls was the highlight with an abundance of Douglass-Fir and vine maple.  Due to the abundance of vine maple along the trail this is probably a great place to visit in the Fall.  As for the falls, Lower Proxy Falls is more impressive and it is definitely worthwhile scrambling down the trail to the creek and then rock hopping up to the falls themselves. Very nice.

The hike to Linton Lake starts out in a beautiful forest of Douglass-Fir and old growth hemlock. There are interesting lava piles along the first mile or so of the hike that made me think of the McKenzie River trail. The hike gains a few hundred feet in the first mile (and then loses a few hundred feet on the way to Linton Lake) but the change in elevation was more noticeable on the return trip to the car.  Once we reached Linton Lake we were

lakes, McKenzie Pass, Linton, waterfall

Linton Lake

disappointed to see that much of the shoreline is overgrown. Also less than optimal was the fact that Zoe was determined to spar with the two dogs that we ran into lakeside.  After a few minutes of searching for the sandy beach mentioned in Sullivan’s guide we decided to turn back. Big mistake according to Scott Cook’s guidebook  and others we have talked with since late June.  Evidently the faint trail to Linton Falls (and Linton Falls itself) is the main reason to visit Linton Lake.  I’m not sure when/if we’ll get back to Linton Lake but if we are in the area again we’ll likely do this hike again.

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