The Little Kachess Trail is a rough rollercoaster of a hike that bounds along the western shore of Little Kachess Lake. Not to be confused with a lakeside stroll, this moderately strenuous trail climbs and drops repeatedly in an attempt to avoid cliffs while providing occasional access to the lakeshore. Note that this trail is not suitable for stock or bicycles.
From the parking lot, begin by locating the obvious path along Box Canyon Creek. Heading west and upstream, the way descends where a bridge used to exist. The supports are still there, but the deck is gone. Fording until mid summer might be necessary, although by August it is usually possible to rock hop. On the other side the tread is wide and deceivingly level on compacted dirt.
At 0.3 mile a nice viewing platform marks the end of the gentle trail. Beyond here the trail changes into a rugged series of ascents and descents designed to avoid sheer cliffs that drop into the water. The first big climb may come as a surprise, but the repetition of ascending and descending will soon become familiar, if not memorable.
On the plus side, the Douglas fir, hemlock, and cedar are delightfully mixed and open with plenty of views across the lake. Vanilla leaf and Oregon grape create a splendid ground texture. Here and there a hand hold has been gratefully hacked into any rock that must be negotiated. At other times the way resumes a pleasant dirt tread, although the way is narrow, rarely level, and somewhat sloping in places.
At 1.3 miles the trail climbs steeply to a grand view of distant peaks over an island that might be dotted with kayaks and tents on any summer morning. Late afternoon is an especially good time to hike here when the trail is in shadow, as the constant elevation change and dry conditions can be exhausting on a hot day.
The trail crosses a creek on a sturdy bridge next to a bay filled with logs and suddenly comes out to a scenic, rocky point at 2.8 miles. This location, perfect for picnics or swimming, also makes a wonderful turnaround spot for those who have seen enough, or do not wish to climb another several hundred feet through mostly viewless forest.
If possible, the way becomes rougher at this point, narrowing as it climbs steeply uphill–only to drop again. Eventually the trail makes a deliberate aim for the shore, appearing near the shallow lake head dotted with cedar stumps at 3.5 miles. The path now follows an old road grade for its final mile through silent forest.
Gone are the sounds of motorboats and maybe even other hikers. A major stream must be crossed here, which runs on the trail at times. The junction with Mineral Creek Trail suddenly appears and marks the end of the Little Kachess. To the right is FS Road 2284, 0.5 mile away. To the left is the long and usually unmaintained way to Park Lakes and the PCT. Return the same way for a total of 9 miles.