Mount Bailey stands in the southern Oregon Cascade mountains sandwiched between beautiful Crater Lake and Mount Thielsen. This 8,375-foot shield volcano receives around 600 inches of annual snowfall and provides some excellent opportunities for backcountry skiing. The mountain is currently home to a commercial cat-ski operation based at Diamond Lake Resort during the winters. For those looking for more human powered adventures, the mountain can be accessed from the southeast via the Three Lakes Sno-Park. There are two areas that are easily accessible from this point. One is the southeast ridge, and the second is the east bowl, which is better known as Avalanche Bowl or “Avy Bowl.”
The southeast ridge offers the easiest access to both the mountain summit and Avy Bowl. After about 3.5 miles from the sno-park, the Mount Bailey summit trail branches left from the Hemlock Butte Trail (NF-380). The trail climbs the ridge pretty gradually with only two steeper spots. If a trail has not been broken by others, simply follow the contours of the ridge up. Once above the tree line the route to the summit will be apparent. At this point there are opportunities to drop into the north side of the ridge if you don’t wish to go further. If you chose to summit or proceed further, both the north and south sides of the ridge offer great routes down. If the north aspect of the southeast ridge is chosen as your decent path, stay to the skier's right once you descend into the smaller growth trees of the bowl. You will want to hug and follow the natural line created by the transition of the older growth trees and the debris field trees. This natural line will eventually lead you to a catch line of NF-380, which then leads back to the sno-park.
Avy Bowl got its nickname from a large avalanche in the 1960s that cleared a 200 yard pathway from the summit all the way down to the 6,000-foot elevation mark. The bowl can be accessed from the southeast ridge, or you can follow the Hemlock Butte Trail (NF-380) road to its terminus at the base of the debris field and follow the natural tree line up into the center of the cirque. From there just follow the tree line on the north side, and this will provide the most gradual approach. After reaching those trees the terrain becomes steeper and a long traverse may be required for a gradual climb to the summit. Ski crampons are highly recommended and could shorten the traverse time. Once at the summit, there are many options for descent. The steeper sections are directly east of the summit, while the most moderate route down is the way you came up.
Note that there is shared access with snowmobilers on the entire mountain. Always be aware and use caution. Also, for those lucky enough to snag a reservation, Hemlock Butte Cabin offers an excellent base camp for a multi-day outing.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.