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Up in California's northeast corner, Medicine Lake is clear, cold, high.

Pooling in the bottom of a caldera, the waters of northeastern California's Medicine Lake are cold and clear. Local fishermen have long known the lake for its big trout. Now that its access roads are paved, visitors are discovering the lake, too. It's an easy detour if you're visiting Mount Shasta or Burney Falls.

Medicine Lake is still relatively remote about a 2-hour drive northeast of Interstate 5 and the town of Mount Shasta. This lonely setting lends a stark beauty to the lake, sitting as it does amid ancient shield volcanoes now blanketed with pines and firs. The remoteness also means you're likely to have the swimming beach on the southeast shore practically to yourself, and your pick of lakeside campsites. Since tbe lake is so high (6,700 feet) and so far north, winter snows tend to be deep; summer season doesn't usually start until July and ends mid-September. But by midsummer, the water temperature at the shallow swimming beach can reach 70 degrees.

It's a big lake, some 600 acres, and so clear you can usually see 30 feet down. Fed by snowmelt and a small spring which percolates through the porous lava rock, the lake is exceptionally clean and healthy for the stocked trout population. There's one boat ramp on the cast shore, but no rentals.

Choose a site at one of three Forest Service campgrounds (72 sites total, available on a first-come basis; $5 a night). All areas have bathrooms and firepits.

To get to Medicine Lake from State Highway 89 out of Bartle, head 28 miles northeast on Powder Hill Road (paved since 1982). About 20 miles from the State 89 turnoff, watch for the signed pullout for the Ice Caves. A signed, 1/2mile trail leads to the caverns: small, collapsed lava tubes which fill with seepage water. The cave pools freeze in winter and stay frozen well into summer. Bring a flashlight to view the ice.

You can also reach Medicine Lake from Tulelake. Head south on State Highway 139, then turn west on County Road 97 (paved in 1985) through Tionesta (no town remains); follow signs for Medicine Lake, 16 miles.

If you're visiting nearby Lava Beds National Monument, you can reach the lake over a paved road around Glass Mountain, a 7,622-foot pile of black obsidian, once prized by local Indians as a source of materials for tools and weapon points. Check ahead at the monument office for road conditions and directions (it's open daily 9 to 6; 916/667-2282).

From Medicine Lake, consider a side trip to Glass Mountain. It's about a 3-mile drive on an unpaved road; check conditions at Forest Service headquarters near the lake's northwest end. Anglers can also ask there for directions to two small fishing lakes (Bull's-eye and Blanche), just off Powder Hill Road.
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Date:Sep 1, 1988
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