Fish Lake, Oregon is located about 77.5 miles east of Roseburg in the Umpqua National Forest. This Fish Lake isn’t to be confused with another Fish Lake that’s located south near Lake of the Woods.
The roads leading up to Fish Lake can get a bit confusing. Just make sure to bring or study directions and pay attention to the signage. You can find directions to the trailhead here and find more information about Fish Lake Trail here.
Fish Lake, Oregon
There are two trails that lead to the lake. Fish Lake Trail is the longer route at about 4 miles one way. Beaver Swamp Trail is a quick 1/2 mile and perfect for day fishing trips. The two trails intersect at around 1 mile from the lake. You can find a comprehensive map here. (Click on the middle icon in the top right corner and select “Topographic” for a detailed view.)
Nat and I decided to backpack in and out via Fish Lake Trail. The trailhead is on the right side of the road across from a parking area. There’s a picnic table, fire pit, and hitching posts but no restrooms or potable water. The USDA Forest Service states on their website that there’s no fee but we brought our forest pass just in case.
Fish Lake Trail
We arrived at Fish Lake Trailhead around 11 am on Saturday, June 16. We were the only ones there – this trail is less traveled in general but especially compared to Beaver Swamp Trail.
The mosquitoes were swarming us in the parking area but dissipated once we hit the trail. We still lathered ourselves with bug spray in hopes to avoid other creepy crawlies, such as ticks.
The forest is open and bright with a lot of encroaching underbrush. The path is narrow throughout most of the hike.
Fish Lake Creek meanders along the trail – there are plenty of spots to view the water.
Periodically the trail dips down and passes through a low, rocky brook that trickles into the creek.
Some parts of the trail are maintained and trimmed, while other areas are overgrown. We assume it’s due to the fact that this trail isn’t well traveled.
This part of the Umpqua National Forest reminds us of Badger Creek Trail, Oregon. It has the same open tree canopy and rocky, low underbrush in addition to forested stretches.
Soon after we dipped back into the tree canopy and met up with a small wooden bridge.
The trail begins to climb out of the cover of the forest and eventually up to a rocky cliffside.
It was great to see all of the tiny trees growing strong within the burned area.
The views are beautiful throughout this part of the trail.
Bushy flowers scattered among the underbrush in the exposed parts of the trail.
We eventually hiked around Beaver Swamp located far down below the trail.
After a while Beaver Swamp Trail intersects with Fish Lake Trail from the left.
We saw an old wood sign leaning against a tree before we finally arrived at Fish Lake!
The trail hugs the western, northern, and eastern sides of Fish Lake and then drops south toward other smaller lakes.
Fish Lake is beautiful and clear – a bit too chilly to wade in, though. At least when we were there in mid June.
Setting up camp
We decided to look for a campsite along the northern edge a ways off the trail. The underbrush thickened up in this area but we managed to spot a side trail that leads to the site.
Our campsite was private, covered, and had perfect spaces to set up our tent. It was clearly previously occupied with a fire pit, sitting logs, and unfortunately trash. We picked up as much as we could and set it aside to pack it out.
After setting up camp we explored Fish Lake and the surrounding forest. We climbed up a steep hillside adjacent to our campsite and discovered some odd structures.
As we climbed into our tent to settle into our sleeping bags, Nat asked me to check his back for ticks. He explained there was a slight pain on his back and he was worried it was a tick. He lifted up his shirt and I thoroughly examined his back. Nope, I didn’t see anything. While we were at it, I asked Nat to check me for ticks, too.
I lifted up the front of my shirt, looked down, and what did I see? Oh, just a small pine needle – no big deal. I didn’t see anything else out of the ordinary. However, I could sense Nat’s eyes widen without even looking over as he tells me I have one. I HAVE ONE?! My first bite. Chaos ensued.
Long story short, Nat successfully pulled the tick out for me. He also found another baby tick crawling over my shoulder and plucked it off. In our panic, we both stripped naked and thoroughly checked each other for any other ticks. I found one on Nat hiding on his back just below his belt line and pulled it out. To cap the night we scrutinized everything in the tent to ensure there were no more ticks. It was a late night and we didn’t sleep all too well, but now I can look back and laugh (kind of). ;]
The next morning
Thankfully we were able to sleep in to make up for a restless night. We boiled water for tea and coffee and cooked breakfast.
As I was sipping on my green tea, I noticed a small bug slowly crawling up my pant leg. It was a tick. A tick had crawled up my pant leg in the campsite. Crazy!
After a while we packed up camp and filtered water for our hike out. Nat and I tucked in our shirts and sported long-sleeve shirts despite the heat to protect against ticks. We again lathered ourselves in bug spray, said our farewells, and then hit the trail.
I decided to wear my light gray leggings this time so I could watch for ticks. I kid you not – I counted 4 ticks that latched onto my legs throughout the entire hike out. Once we arrived back at the car we thoroughly checked each other for ticks. Unfortunately I found one more on Nat’s upper back and promptly removed it. Somehow I made it out unscathed.
Fish Lake makes for a great backpacking trip with the established campsites and lovely forest to explore. Plus there’s the lake to enjoy, of course, too! I would consider Fish Lake Trail to be intermediate due to the amount of debris and overgrowth as well as elevation change. Beaver Swamp Trail is perfect for shorter day hikes and fishing trips.
Although we encountered many ticks, Fish Lake is such a beautiful area and somewhere I would love to visit again.