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PHOTO BY LEE JUILLERAT

Water from Little Hyatt Lake spills over the 18-foot-high spillway.

Surprises on the hike to Little Hyatt Lake

Excuse my language, but the trek along the Pacific Crest Trail to Little Hyatt Lake is a dam good hike.

That’s because the hike, which begins from either the PCT trailhead off the Greensprings Highway or from a parking area a short drive north, ends near the Little Hyatt Dam. The dam good view is from a footbridge toward the lake, where water from Little Hyatt cascades over a broad, 18-foot-high spillway into Keene Creek. Along with great views both upstream and downstream, for northbound hikers the bridge provides access to meadows and fields alongside the 11-acre reservoir that is Little Hyatt Lake.

Getting to the lake is part of the hike’s allure. There are two starting points — one from the parking area off Highway 66 or a section a few miles north from the highway off Hyatt Lake Road near the Greensprings Mountain Loop Trail.

From either starting point, the PCT follows what’s become known as the “Sound of Music” meadow, actually three meadows. All overlook Bear Creek Valley, with views of Pilot Rock and, this time of year, the snow-free slopes of Mount Ashland. Before and after the meadows, the trail gently undulates through stands of yellow-bellied Ponderosa pine, occasionally crossing Hyatt Lake Road while working its way north. Seasonal delights include trailside delights like wild iris and penstemon and colorful smatterings of columbine.

As the trail works its way north, it drops into Hyatt Meadows, an expansive meadow that’s seasonally brightened with sea blush and marked with tall, trail-marking rock cairns.

Heard before being seen is Keene Creek as it rumble-tumbles over the spillway. Built in 1923, the concrete dam was repaired a few years ago after engineers working it realized it was crumbling. Crews from the Bureau of Land Management drained the lake to relieve pressure on the old structure, which had exceeded its expected lifespan. Maintaining the dam was important because Little Hyatt, like nearby Hyatt Lake just upstream, travels along the Ashland Lateral Canal to Emigrant Lake outside of Ashland.

Some guidebooks describe Little Hyatt Lake as stagnant, but not this early in the year. Our group found lakeside places between wildflowers to eat lunch and enjoy the lake’s sparkling clear waters. On the other side of Little Hyatt, campers lounged. One group loaded into a rubber raft and floated along lake, seemingly letting the wind move them lazily along.

The return was mostly a replay of what we’d seen on the way out. At the turnoff for the Greenspring Mountain Loop, instead of following the PCT around the meadows we took the Loop Trail’s more direct route that leads to the original loop trail junction, again passing alongside columbine and flax.

From the Hyatt Lake Road parking area, the hike measures about 7.5 miles, while starting from the Greensprings Highway parking area adds nearly 2 miles each way. It’s not a difficult hike, with only some mostly brief up and downhills, most notably the climb from Hyatt Meadows when heading south back to the trailhead parking areas.

Little Hyatt Lake is intimate enough to enjoy without the crowds of neighboring, much larger Hyatt Lake, which has a surface area of 957 acres along with resorts, campgrounds and boaters. It’s a pleasant hike with surprise delights. Dam if you, damn if you don’t.

Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.

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