Upper Rogue River Trail Big Bend Natural Bridge Oregon

The Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) follows the Rogue River for about 47 miles from near its headwaters at Boundary Springs in the northwest corner of Crater Lake National Park to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area outside of Prospect, Oregon. The trail can be day hiked in sections between readily accessible trailheads.  Today we did the short (~7 mile) section from Big Bend to Natural Bridge and allowed for slow going due to winter storm damage and limited trail maintenance.

We started our hike to Natural Bridge at the Big Bend Trailhead on Forest Road 6510, one mile west of Highway 230. Fortunately, it’s signed!

Upper Rogue River Trail Big Bend Natural Bridge Oregon
The south-bound Big Bend Trailhead sign

We followed the trail as it climbed abruptly up into the forest,

Up into the forest

where it stays for about 3.5 miles, with only occasional glimpses of the river.

A glimpse of the river

But there are some seriously large trees to hug,

Loving a big old growth tree

and an old wooden water tank to consider (across the river from Farewell Bend Campground),

A water tank from a by-gone era
Water tank close-up

and then we continued on down to the river.

Rogue River, Oregon
Rogue River

The unique features along this section of the #1034 are where the river has been channeled into collapsed lava tubes.

The river is channeled into a topless lava tube
Still channeled

This was a great spot for lunch!

We lunch on the rock shelf above the river

And then it was back into the trees,

Into the green tunnel

before coming back to the river at one of its quiet reaches, followed by a very, very COLD fording of Flat Creek, one of the Rogue’s bridgeless tributaries.

A foot-numbing crossing of Flat Creek

Then one of the few trailside flowers (with guest) at this time of year,

Flower with insect

another quiet reach,

Slack water

and then another torrent along an open lava tube.

Tubed again
And again downstream
And the tubing continues

There are two bridges over the Rogue River in this area – a footbridge north of Natural Bridge and Natural Bridge itself – where the river flows underneath an un-collapsed lava tube. Because the Natural Bridge Recreational Site isn’t open yet and we didn’t want to leave our shuttle car along Highway 230, we opted to park it at the Union Creek Wayside about one mile north of Natural Bridge. So we crossed the first footbridge,

The footbridge across the Rogue River
The Rogue River just upstream of Natural Bridge
The Rogue River just upstream of Natural Bridge

and hiked upstream along the east bank of the Rogue, thus missing the Natural Bridge itself.

A fun section (7 miles; no elevation gain) of the Upper trail with a mix of forest, riverside meadow, and raging lava tubes – fun! We had plans to stop at Beckie’s Cafe in Union Creek for a piece of homemade pie but the place was mobbed so we headed home so the LovedOne could make us our own homemade pie!

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