Endless waves of butterflies swarm over the dusty spine leading to the top of Mount Scott, welcoming hikers from France, Germany, Italy and other parts of the world.
The highest point in Crater Lake National Park, Mount Scott has incomparable views, with the world-famous lake sitting at your feet, Mount Thielsen rising to the north, Mount Shasta to the south — along with Klamath Lake, Mount McLoughlin, Union Peak and numerous lesser Cascades peaks in the distance.
More butterflies surround the fire lookout at the 8,929-foot peak, and when you sit down for a picnic, curious squirrels scurry about your feet looking for crumbs or a handout.
Even though it’s a two-hour drive from Medford and a five-mile round-trip hike, it’s a relatively easy day trip and worth the effort, particularly if you want to say, “I climbed a mountain today.”
The peak is named after Levi Scott, an Oregon pioneer who blazed the Applegate Trail and was one of the founders of the state.
The trip to the top takes about an hour and a half, depending on how many times you stop to catch your breath or sip some water. For most people, it should be relatively easy, though the altitude and continuous climb might be a bit much for someone who’s not in the best condition.
The hike starts out easy enough.
After parking your rig off Rim Drive, about 14 miles east of the park entrance, a large sign points the way to Mount Scott, which looks imposing enough from below. The fire lookout on the peak is just barely visible.
The trail starts along an alpine meadow, which early in the summer is filled with flowers watered by snow melt.
Many hikers heading up the mountain wonder whether there is snow farther up the trail, but the trail was relatively snow-free in late July, and the path ahead is clear by mid-summer. Earlier in the season, expect to find banks of snow that have to be crossed.
After about a quarter mile, the trail becomes steeper, snaking its way through clumps of trees. The path is rocky and the crumbly volcanic soil requires some decent shoes, otherwise the ball-bearing effect can get the better of even the most balanced person.
After another mile or so, the hike becomes even steeper, and you find yourself taking great gulps of air as you gain altitude. Overall, you’ll be climbing just over 1,300 feet.
Before you reach the ridge, the trees start to thin out as you head through a series of switchbacks and steeper inclines.
Along the way, you can stop and take in the views to the east, where endless forests flow down into Klamath County, with farmland off in the distance.
The higher you get the more Crater Lake sparkles into view to the west.
Don’t expect solitude on the climb. Every few hundred feet, you’ll hear the murmur of different languages as groups of hikers pass.
At the summit, it can be a little crowded sometimes. On the east side of the fire lookout, some seek shade from the afternoon sun. On the west side, hikers perch themselves on rocks to look over the lake.
After a few minutes of relaxation, the sweaty climb is almost a distant memory. On top of the mountain, it’s probably some 25 degrees cooler than in Medford. In the shade, it can be downright chilly.
In the middle of summer, light clothing and plenty of water are all that’s necessary for the hike. However, in early and late summer, when weather conditions can change dramatically, hikers should be prepared with a jacket because it can get nippy on top.
So, if you’re looking for a place to beat the heat and take in some of the best views in Southern Oregon, head up Highway 62 to Mount Scott.