Brown Mountain is a small youthful looking shield volcano topped by a cinder cone whose central depression is still 15 meters deep. Much of the mountain is bare, unweathered, dark-colored, block-lava. There is evidence of some minor glaciation, but the mountain is only between 12,000 and 60,000 years old with the last eruption taking place about 15,000 years ago.
A summertime climb to the summit of Brown Mountain is mostly a scramble over fresh talus since there is no maintained trail to the summit. During the winter and early spring, snowshoes or crosscountry skis can be used to reach the summit. The Brown Mountain Trail does not go to the summit. It is a hiking and biking trail that can be used along with other trails to circumnavigate Brown Mountain.
Your are treated to a wonderful view of Mt. McLoughlin
which is only 6 miles north of Brown Mountain. Brown Mountain is listed as #70 on the Oregon Prominence List
with a prominence of 2,029 ft.
The Brown Mountain Topo and many other sources list the elevation as 7,311 ft because of a benchmark placed on the southern edge of the summit crater. The northeast edge of the crater is obviously higher and the topos show a closed contour of at least 7,340 ft.
Brown Mountain is easy to find. Take Hwy 140 from Klamath Falls and head west, or from Medford head east. Hwy 140 crosses the Cascades and passes between Mt. McLoughlin and Brown Mountain.
In the winter when snow closes all the access roads off of Hwy 140, you need to park along Hwy 140 near the summit and start your hike from there. The highway summit is at about 5,100 ft and I parked on the south side of the highway just west of the summit at elevation 5,075 ft. You can also park at the large snowpark parking area about ¼ mile west of the highway summit. This snowpark parking area is on the north side of the highway and also serves as an access point to the PCT
In the summer, you can hike from the highway also, but be prepared for a lot of rock hopping on talus. If you want the shortest route possible, take the turn off from Hwy 140 that accesses the west side of Lake of the Woods
. There is a sign on for this turn on Hwy 140 for Camp McLoughlin and Camp Esther Applegate. Take the first gravel road to the right and continue for about 3 miles to an elevation about 5,600ft and you are only about 1.4 miles from the summit. Find a place to park off the road and mark your location with your GPS. You will need it on the descent to find your car.
A Snow Park Permit
is required to park along Hwy 140 from Nov 15 thru April 30.
Brown Mountain is located in the Winema National Forest
and the Rogue River National Forest
. The boundary of these two National Forests crosses the summit of Brown Mountain.
Klamath Falls Office Medford Office
Winema National Forest Rogue River National Forest
2819 Dahlia Street 333 W. 8th St.
Klamath Falls, OR 97601 Medford, OR 97501
Phone 541-883-6714 Phone 541-858-2200
There are lots of camping areas within a few miles of the trailhead. including areas around Lake of the Woods
and Fish lake
. Some of these campgrounds are closed in the winter, so call ahead to find out about access.
There really is no backpack camping available until you get to the summit area.. You could make a bivy site once you get up to the summit if you wish.
Follow this link for more camping information.
Forest Service Camping
When to Climb
The mountain is accessible year round. You should always be wary of the weather. Winter storms dump several feet of snow on Brown Mountain. In June, the mosquitoes will launch unprovoked attacks that can be quite annoying. The heat of August will be radiated off of the black lava rocks and cook you alive.
Winter travel in the area can be problematic. There is a Trip Check Camera
located on Hwy 140 at the summit that gives visual confirmation of highway conditions.
Summer hiking could be quite hot. The mountain is not tall enough to get above the 100 degree plus temperatures in the valley. This would be a good morning hike and then cool off in the lake in the afternoon.
For current weather conditions in Medford follow this link