The trail to Stein Butte is one of the classic hikes in Southern Oregon’s Upper Applegate River Valley. I did it for the first time last New Year’s Eve when there was a touch of snow on it (a touch being all it got last winter). It’s a little hot for a summer hike but otherwise excellent year-round, particularly now in the Fall. I did it as an out-and-back before finally realizing it could be done as a loop if you didn’t mind a little walking on a gravel road. The LovedOne’s mention that she hadn’t done this hike yet was enough to get us in the car and away to the Stein Butte Trailhead near Seattle Bar.
We went up the Stein Butte Trail, which is a very pleasant trail in great condition – we hardly noticed we were gaining 2,400 feet! Along the way, we encountered Fall colors,
and a view north up the Applegate Valley.
I’d seen these claw marks on this particular madrone before and thought it was a bear. But this time the marks extended some 20 to 30 feet up the trunk, so now we’re thinking bobcat or cougar.
After 4.6 very mellow miles, we reached the top of the butte, which was once home to a lookout,
of which only part of the foundation remains.
From the summit we got an almost 360º view and certainly one of Applegate Lake – drawn down in anticipation of this winter’s rains (here’s hoping!).
After lunch on the summit, we continued on the #929 trail to its end at its junction with the New London Trail (USFS #928) and the Elliott Ridge Trail (USFS #969).
This proved to be almost as nice a trail as the #929, just a little narrower in spots. We descended steadily for about 1.5 miles through windrows of fallen leaves,
and then crossed into California,
at the site of one of the two prospects along the trail. I’d call them more adits than mere prospects since they are 100-foot long tunnels hewn through basalt. Copper was apparently the metal being sought here. The amount of time and energy it took miners back in the day (about 1914) to reach these then very remote locations – not to mention then hack long tunnels through rock – never ceases to amaze me! But then lure of mineral wealth has always been quite an incentive – whether it was actually there or not (and quite often it wasn’t).
Another mile or so down the trail, we reached the New London Trailhead on Forest Road 1050, which we then followed through Fall colors back to the Stein Butte Trailhead.
An excellent hike (11 miles roundtrip, 2,400 feet of elevation gain) on good trail with views, history (a lookout site, old mine shafts), and a lovely understory ecosystem. This is Hike #66 in Sullivan’s Southern Oregon hiking guide (3rd edition), with one exception: Sullivan says you can drive to the New London Trailhead but there is now a locked gate across FR 1050 just past its junction with FR 1055. You can apparently get a key for this gate from the district ranger station. Otherwise, you can do what we did – park at the Stein Butte Trailhead and just walk back along the road.