By Josh Bronson

Pilot staff writer

For the wild at heart, Vulcan Lake, which lies in the middle of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, provides a rugged place to escape for the day.

Located 32 miles up North Bank Chetco River Road, the drive to Vulcan Lake is just as adventurous as the hike itself.

After driving up North Bank for about 14 miles of paved road, follow the signs to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and take Forest Service Road 1376.

The one lane gravel road winds through the wilderness for about 18 miles, connecting with Forest Service Road 1909, which leads to the trailhead at road's end.

Travelers should be cautious when driving along these roads because loose rocks and fallen branches litter the gravel road.

Higher clearance vehicles such as four-wheel drive trucks or SUVs are recommended for this trip, although cars with fairly good clearance and a careful driver can survive the sketchy road. The drive takes around an hour and a half to complete.

Once hikers finish the rocky ride to the trailhead, the real work begins.

The trail to Vulcan Lake is a fairly difficult trail and should not be taken lightly.

Hiking boots or sturdy shoes with good tread are a must, along with plenty of drinking water.

Tip: For longer hikes, take two bottles of water: one refrigerated and one frozen the night before. Drink the refrigerated bottle first, and on the way back from your hike, the frozen bottle of water will be thawed, but still very cold and refreshing.

After about 100 yards, the trail splits and Trail 1110A to Vulcan Lake leads to the right and heads uphill while the other trail eventually leads to Gardner Mine.

The trail heads up the side of a ridge, switching back several times and making its way to the top.

Hikers should be cautious and deliberate when navigating the trail because loose rocks and roots abound, making the trail treacherous.

And although the trail heads uphill for the first half of the hike, there are several places to pause for a moment and enjoy a breathtaking view of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

Parts of the wilderness are still burnt and bare from the 2002 Biscuit Fire.

While looking out over the vastness of hills and forests, the only sounds are those of the occasional gust of wind and the constant snapping of grasshoppers and other insects.

Once hikers round the top of the ridge, Vulcan Lake and Little Vulcan Lake can be seen nestled at the foot of Vulcan Peak.

The trail heads back down the other side of the ridge and weaves through fallen trees and burnt out trunks to the two lakes.

Trail 1110A continues to the right to Vulcan Lake.

The reward of the pristine lake is definitely worth the turmoil of the trek.

A peaceful setting provides weary hikers a moment to relax and enjoy the surroundings before tackling any more trails.

The crystal blue waters of the lake provide hikers with a refreshing dip after a sweaty hike.

The lake is still and clear, making it easy to peer down to its bottom.

At the split in the path, Trail 1110B veers off to the left and heads to Little Vulcan Lake.

The trail descends to the smaller lake, which is located lower in the hills than its larger counterpart.

Little Vulcan Lake does not have the crystal blue hue of the larger lake and is not as easily accessible for a swim.

Instead, the smaller lake is in a more marsh-like setting, with lush greenery surrounding its edges of the lake and moss and algae thick in the lake itself.

Wildlife is scarce throughout the area, with only insects and lizards scurrying about the shrubs.

Wild berries and other edibles are also few and far between on the way to the lake, with only a few currant berry bushes scattered along the path.

Hikers wishing to tackle the Vulcan Lake adventure should allow a full day for the drive and hike, with time in between to enjoy the beautiful setting in which it all takes place.