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Lower Devils Peak in the Klamath National Forest

As the year winds down and the weather becomes more changeable, it's tempting for hikers to avoid higher elevation trails.

But it's still not too late for some moderately high trails before winter weather comes, although it's a good idea to check for trail information in advance this time of year. You can give yourself several options by tackling the trail to 5,040-foot Lower Devils Peak in the Klamath National Forest.

The trail is arduous, 4.9 miles of climbing along the Pacific Crest Trail to a stunning viewpoint, where you can see peaks in the Red Buttes Wilderness to the north. If this isn't enough of a high, there is the option of walking another two miles past 5,569-foot Middle Devils Peak to 6,041-foot Upper Devils Peak.

There were a few inches of snow near the top of Lower Devils Peak this week, according to the Happy Camp Ranger District, so you might want to stop at the lower peak and go to the two higher ones some other time. The initial 4.9-mile leg of the route to Lower Devils Peak has a challenging 3,700-foot elevation gain.

The second two miles gain 960 feet, making this outing one for fit hikers only. To get to the trailhead, take Interstate 5 south for 11 miles across the border into California. Next, go west on the Klamath River Highway (96) for 44 miles toward the Seiad Valley. Then drive .7 miles to the trail sign on the right, where you'll find a small parking area.

The hike is described briefly in the "100 more hikes" section at the back of Bill Sullivan's "100 Hikes of Southern Oregon." The drive along the Klamath River Highway is half the fun of this trip. At this time of year the black cottonwoods along the river have turned bright yellow, and you can see Oregon white oaks turning color on the south-facing slopes above it.

You may also see some red-leaved poison oak along the river, although many of these plants are already bare this late in October. As you continue toward the Seiad Valley, ponderosa pines become more prominent and you'll see some vine maple on the inclines above the highway on the left.

Because you are going up from a canyon, the vegetation changes dramatically as you begin hiking - the dry brushy lower slopes of oaks and some ponderosas shift to thicker groves of pines and Douglas firs as you approach the summit. The top has a nice promontory where you can rest and have lunch.

You'll be able to see the trail to Middle and Upper Devils peaks curling around the ridge to the left, and decide if you want to continue. For the latest weather information and trail access conditions, call the Happy Camp Ranger District of the Klamath National Forest at 530-493-2243.