Fall Winter and Spring Route
The main page directions will work for most of the summer and well into fall, but for those of you that enjoy winter and spring hiking in the high desert the roads will be buried under deep layers of snow that persist into June. An alternative is to approach from the Goose Lake Basin in the west, it requires more elevation gain and a slightly longer approach with a possible need for snowshoes. The Kelly Creek Route climbs directly up the west face of Crane Mountain gaining over 1600 feet in the first mile and half providing you can drive to the end of the Kelly Creek Road. Realistically, you will not be able to drive to the end of Kelly Creek and will be looking at a snow covered road approach. In mid-May using Kelly Creek I was able to drive within a mile of the end of Kelly Creek Road, your results may vary. Consult a good topo map before attempting this route to have a good feel for the terrain and route options.
To reach the gravel 4x4 road that climbs up Kelly Creek you will travel south out of Lakeview towards the California border.
Snowy Summit Ridge
The Kelly Creek Road is exactly 1.3 miles north of the border on the east side of highway 395 and is clearly marked. For reference the town of New Pine Creek sits on the Oregon-California border, Kelly Creek Road is about a mile north of town.
Just after turning off highway 395 onto Kelly Creek Road, it has the appearances of a residential driveway leading to a house. Pass the house to the south where the road loops around on the right. Once you have passed this house the road increases in roughness and has a creek crossing within the first mile. Late in a warm afternoon, the water here can be pretty deep so you might want to test the depth before driving through it. The road will follow along the north side of Kelly Creek for nearly 3 miles before it starts to climb steeply up the ridge. This is a point where four wheel drive comes in handy. The road here is steep and rough, maybe too much for anything without high clearance. Beginning the climb here would require a one-way distance of 3.7 miles with 2700 feet of elevation gain. If you can climb this hill in your rig, follow the road as far as possible. It eventually loops back around a site known as the Bow Spring.
The route begins below tree-line at the head of Kelly Creek where it branches into several smaller forks. A GPS or map and compass comes in handy here for route-finding purposes, especially getting back to your rig wherever you left it to begin approach. Watch for the horizon through the trees and begin angling towards it. You will likely be following the northernmost fork of Kelly Creek and the land will begin to climb pretty rapidly. Follow Kelly Creek up the draw using game trails until you can cut back west gaining a prominent ridge that connects Crane Mountain with Sugar Peak. This ridge leads directly to the summit ridgeline of Crane Mountain. As ascending this steep ridge there does exist a possibility of dealing with avalanche conditions as your are climbing a fault scarp. Be aware of this possibility, especially if making this attempt in winter or early spring.
Route marked in bright red
Once the summit ridgeline is reached, its a mild ridge traverse northward along Crane Mountain towards the summit, distance should be within a mile. Again, you will be traversing along a fault scarp so be aware of avalanche possibility.
From Bow Spring:
Elevation Gain - 1900 feet
Distance one way - 2.2 miles
From Kelly Creek where the roads climbs up out of the canyon:
Elevation Gain - 2800 feet
Distance one way - 3.6 miles
Snowshoes should be on hand and potentially crampons. This route makes the most sense in late Spring or early Fall when you wont be dealing with avalanche conditions. More than likely you will need a 4x4 with high-clearance, especially for the last couple miles of Kelly Creek. Not much for trails here, and roads are overgrown a bit so route-finding tools will be a necessity.
I did this route in mid May and was able to reach a meadow about half a mile from Bow Springs before running into 2-foot deep snowberms crossing the road. From this point I traveled directly NNW to a draw with a prominent game trail along its north bank. I climbed a short distance up this until I decided it was easier to climb straight up the bank and get on the Sugar Peak - Crane Mountain Ridgeline. Reaching Crane Mountain's summit ridge from here was a snap, but the northward traverse was interesting. As usual I left the snowshoes behind and ended up regretting it. The snow along the high ridge was still in excess of 5 feet deep and postholing was a definite problem on the return hike once the snow had softened. Nonetheless, total hike completed in roughly 3 hours with minimal difficulties. The water level of Kelly Creek had increased noticeably on the drive back out. In the morning it reached mid wheel, by afternoon it was near the top of my tire. Not a real problem, but still enough to make me take notice.