Portland Landscape Design and Arborist Tree Service

Red Buttes Wilderness: Oregon, California

2009 - 2014 by Mario D. Vaden

red buttes trail cabin

GPS coordinates below

Image: from Butte Fork Trail in Red Buttes Wilderness, taken May, 2006. The historic Butte Fork Toolhouse was built by the Forest Sevice in the 1920s for trail building equipment.

The hiking trailhead sign for trail 954 may say "Shoo Fly Trail", an offshoot that shares the same trailhead. A map from Applegate Ranger station shows that Butte Fork trail leads to Azalea Lake in the Red Buttes Wilderness. Another trail to Azalea Lake ... and shorter at 6 miles ... is farther west near the old Arnold Mine site. Red Buttes Wilderness is in Oregon and California. Most of the area is in California and much of trail and road access comes in from Oregon.

Included below are 3 of the Red Buttes Wilderness trails we hiked. The page links are on my Oregon Hiking Trails page index where Fir Glade Trail is listed as well. Be sure to find emergency travel kits and Poison-oak too.

Here are GPS coordinates (#950 & #953 same road past #954)

41.965656, -123.206562 .... Butte Fork trailhead

42.008695, -123.154660 bridge crossing river

Butte Fork - Trail #954. May be marked as Shoofly. We visited several times during the year. Part of the road on a shaded hill was impeded by snow for some weeks during December and January. The first 1/2 mile of the hike descends quickly. Much of the trail is an easy, ascending hike. There are some very big trees if you keep an eye out for them.

This was a realiable trail for cool season access. The Red Butte Tool House - while it stands - is several miles up the trail in a nice shaded location for resting. 4 to 5 miles along Butte Fork Trail, you may notice a brass memorial and grave of piled stones immediately next to the trail. This was from a single engine plane crash, summer 1945 - historical background about passengers below. The main remnant is the engine which is located almost directly downhill from the memorial. The trail is forested with an abundance of native plants and trees. In the spring, you may see the bright red stalk of the Snow Plant emerging.

Cameron Meadows - Trail #953. Fairly steep for the first mile and a half, then the grade becomes moderate. Considerable elevation gain. Eventually reaches Frog Pond. The road to the trailhead was impeded by snow from about December to March / April. The scenery, view and character of the hike increases as you ascend.

Frog Pond Trail - #950. Similar in nature to Cameron Meadows trail. Frog Pond trail is shorter. Both trails reach Frog Pond, providing a hiking "loop" from either direction. Frog Pond trail is very scenic. In May, there was no snow on the access road, but snow accumulation was encountered for the last 20 minutes of the hike up on the hill prior to the pond. But not enough to prevent reaching the pond. If you hike in April / May when there is snow, identifying the last part of the trail can be a guessing game - mark your steps well for backtracking. In early May, bare areas of ground were available underneath the trees around the pond for resting. Summer brings wildflowers, pond plants and grassy vegetation to the meadow-like setting. Mountains rise in the backdrop. A stream erodes the access road about 1/2 mile before the trailhead. The stream does not impede access to Cameron Meadows trail. The stream crossing will require 4 wheel drive to cross it's 6" depth and 10' width as late as the end of May. Before June, if have you bags, rubber boots or coordination, you can cross that stream and walk up the road for a short distance. Frog Pond trail is a fine experience. Probably worth the effort to cross the stream in the road. In summer, most 2 wheel drive trucks or cars with good clearance, can cross the remnant of the brook.

Trail 954 is the longest of the 3, but most moderate. Only the first 1/2 mile is a bit vigorous on the return, but rests soften the effort. 950 & 953 are vigorous half the way up.

Google Maps Google Earth Click one of these for GPS
coordinates: trail #954

The Search & Rescue / SAR is apparently more established now, with coordinated teams, equipment, teams and aviation. Search & Rescue, managed through the Sheriff departments of Siskiyou County and Jackson County. On call 24/7. SAR help can be contacted by :

Dial 911

Apparently several other counties may assist. Phone signal in the area is near zero. In an emergency, if you don't have a personal locator beacon, somebody will need to reach areas like Williams or Ruch which have some tower signal for phones. Or maybe a land line at homes like the ones along the Appegate River on Upper Applegate Rd., or the Ranger Station.

Important items include map, compass, flashlight, matches, first aid kit, knife, and whistle: three blasts means help. Keep a small Survival Kit. Photographs of this area are in my Southern Oregon or Rogue River National Forest albums. The gallery has Oregon, Oregon Coast, Washington and Coast redwoods. See: M. D. Vaden Photo Gallery

Historical July 28, 1945 plane crash memorial - Trail #954: since it's unusual to find memorials along Wilderness trails, I'm adding history about the family buried by Butte Fork Trail to give identity to the memorial, according to Jackie Finley, niece through Jess, of the passengers. Passengers: Sylvan Gosliner born about 1906 in San Francisco; Ruby (Finley) Gosliner born 1913 in Pulaski County, Missouri; Alma (Finley) Pratt born about 1921 in Pulaski or Camden County, Missouri. Sylvan & Ruby were married for several years and in 1944 adopted twins; boy and girl. They relocated to Portland from San Francisco. Alma lived with her husband near Oakland, California, where he owned a restaurant. The private plane was flying to home in Portland, from San Francisco, where the Gosliners owned a business. Due to rugged terrain and lack of manpower, family hiked into the area and buried them near the crash. These family members included Jess & Tom Finley, brothers to Ruby & Alma, and Alma's husband, Mr. Pratt (first name possibly Rex).

red buttes wilderness plane crash passengers Gosliner and Pratt on plane in mountains

Shortly after burial, memorial services were held in towns near the Red Buttes wilderness. It is unclear what happened with the pilot, but believed that his family retrieved his body. The cause of the crash is unknown.