Big Elk Guard Station

Area Status: Open

Interagency Annual Pass HangtagIn the early days of Forest Service guard work, guard station locations were chosen based on their access to good grazing for the many riding and pack horses that assisted and transported forest guards and their equipment. Big Elk Guard Station sits on the fringe of Big Elk Meadow, a grassy expanse that floods to a shallow pond in the spring and dries out in the summer, providing good grazing for a dozen or more horses. Stroll across the meadow, and you can see Mt. McLoughlin (9,495 feet above sea level) and the edge of a 20,000 year old lava flow from Brown Mountain. The surrounding forest, which includes lodgepole pine, quaking aspen, Shasta red fir and Douglas fir, add to the incredible beauty of the site.

Big Elk Guard Station, a rustic log cabin within a fenced yard, is located just off of Forest Road 37, the main access route through the east side of the beautiful Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The fully furnished cabin has two upper-story bunk rooms that are reached by a double landing staircase (the stairway is steep, and young children would require assistance going up and down). The first floor rooms include a large, comfortable living room with a mortared-rock fireplace (firewood is provided), and a well-equipped kitchen with a table and chairs, a dry sink, and an electric range and refrigerator. The original fir flooring remains intact. There are electric lights and heat throughout the cabin.

No potable water is available on site; visitors must bring plenty of water for drinking, cooking and washing. Water can be obtained at the North Fork Campground approximately 1 mile north on Forest Road 37. A vault toilet is located near the cabin. A picnic table and fire ring are available for outdoor dining. An outbuilding, circa mid-1930s and built by the Civilian Conservation Corp, acts as a storage shed for firewood.


Built in 1929 to replace a 1907 cabin, Big Elk Guard Station is the oldest continuously used administrative site within the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. For many decades it served as summer headquarters for solitary forest "guards" who built forest trails, fought forest fires, and patrolled the forest on horseback. Most recently the site was used to house Forest Service seasonal fire crews. The cabin is the last remaining example of Forest Service log construction on the Forest. The cabin and associated outbuildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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At a Glance

Reservations: Reservations must be made at
  • $75/night
Open Season: May - October
Usage: Heavy
Closest Towns:
  • 21 miles from Butte Falls, OR
  • 26 miles from Ashland, OR
  • 31 miles from White City, OR
  • 38 miles from Medford, OR
Information Center: High Cascades Ranger District - Butte Falls Ranger Station

General Information


From Butte Falls, OR, drive east on the Butte Falls-Fish Lake Highway (County Road 821) for approximately 19 miles to the junction with State Highway 140. Turn right, go one-eighth mile on Highway 140 to junction with Forest Road 37. Turn left, go approximately 2 miles to the junction with the guard station driveway, (the station is visible on the left from this location). Turn left, travel through the gate to the guard station.

From White City, OR, for an alternative route to Big Elk Guard Station that bypasses the town of Butte Falls, take State Highway 140 traveling east to the Junction with Forest Road 37, or take State Highway 140 traveling west from Klamath Falls, OR to the Junction with Forest Road 37. Turning onto Forest Road 37 traveling south, follow directions as above to the guard station.

General Notes:
  • No smoking
  • Pets are welcome


  • Vault Toilet
  • Electric Refrigerator
  • Electric Range
  • Fireplace
  • Table & Chairs
  • Beds
  • Picnic Table
  • Garage
  • Fenced yard with a gate
  • Electricity – Lights
  • No water
  • There is additional space for tent camping.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Road Cycling

  • There are many back-country forest roads and country highways connecting campgrounds and communities together making enjoyable day, or overnight rides possible.

Cabin Rentals

The cabin is located approximately 13 miles from Howard Prairie Lake to the South and 7 miles from Fish Lake to the North. There are several campgrounds along Forest Service Road #37. Hiking opportunities abound, including the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail to the south and west of Brown Mountain. Hike or mountain bike the trail between Fish Lake Campground and Lake of the Woods, which crosses through the Brown Mountain lava flows and has several interpretive signs along the way, as well as on the paved Forest Service Road #37 and other paved and gravel roads off of Forest Service Road #37. Additional opportunities for fishing, hiking, mountain biking, cross country skiing and snowmobiling exist closer to the highly developed recreation areas around Howard Prairie Lake and Fish Lake, a resort with a restaurant, boats for rent and camping.

Day Hiking

Related Information

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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