The Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) is a National Recreation Trail that closely follows the Rogue River for about 47 miles from its headwaters at Boundary Springs in the northwest corner of Crater Lake National Park to to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area outside Prospect, Oregon. The trail can be day hiked in sections between readily accessible trailheads. Today we did the ~8 mile section from Natural Bridge Campground, past Woodruff Bridge and the Takelma Gorge, to River Bridge Campground. Unlike other sections of this trail, the trail here was great – and the Takelma Gorge (which we hadn’t visited before) was an amazing sight!
This trail is described in a few hiking guides for Southern Oregon, but those descriptions are more than a little out of date with its current state. Of course, I didn’t know that at the start, so this hike became a bit of an adventure rather than just a walk in the woods. There are no actual stairs, so it’s not clear whether “Golden Stairs” refers to the trail’s steepness, to the yellowish rock on some of the rock formations it passes, or to an alleged gold mine (there being no genuine gold mines in the Cascades) owned in ages past by the Abbott Brothers (who named a great number of places in this area). Starting at around 4,000 feet, the Golden Stairs Trail (USFS #1092) climbs the southern ridge of Falcon Butte to an intersection with the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail (USFS #1470). From there, the #1470 goes west, past the Abbott Butte Lookout (post) to its southern trailhead at Huckleberry Gap on Forest Road 68. So, to make a loop out of this, I planned to hide my bike at the Gap, drive around to the #1092 trailhead on Spur 550 (off FR 68), and then hike from there over to the Gap and coast back to my truck. What I should have remembered is that the #1092, while it eventually reaches the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness, is not itself in wilderness, but only on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. And that forest, particularly on the east side of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide, has a penchant for Off-Highway-Vehicle (OHV) “trails.”
Mount McLoughlin, at 9,495 feet, is the lowest in Oregon’s chain of six major Cascade Range volcanic peaks (the others are Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, and the Three Sisters, all above 10,000 feet). Viewed from the northwest (i.e., from Interstate 5), Mount McLoughlin’s strikingly symmetrical shape is the dominant landmark of the Rogue River Valley. We first climbed it in 2009, only to find the summit shrouded in a cloud beanie which rendered views non-existent (post). Time passed, we moved south, many other hikes availed themselves, a return to McLoughlin languished. Finally, in 2015, I snowshoed to the top of McLoughlin on a clear day to get that coveted view (post). After waiting out this year’s truculant El Niño-driven weather, I got myself back up there yesterday on a near perfect bluebird day. So, time to compare and contrast the winter versus summer Mt. McLoughlin experiences.
When our friends Wayne and Diane came north to join us on our recent raft trip of the Rogue River (Rogue Rafting), we looked around for a short dayhike to give them a small taste of the hiking opportunities here in Southern Oregon. While doing so, we came across a delightful little guide to local hikes (Favorite Hikes of the Applegate, Diana Coogle and Janeen Sathre,Laughing Dog Press, 2013) which described what the author’s called the “Silver Fork Trail” along the Siskiyou Crest west of Mount Ashland. If you miss the wildlflowers at lower elevations earlier in the season, then the high, flower-rich meadows scattered along the crest offer a chance at floral redemption. Using the Silver Fork Trail as inspiration, we took Wayne and Diane on a short out-and-back dayhike along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to Kettle Lake, where we were greeted by a mighty frog chorus. This short hike was just a teaser and we planned to return and attempt the loop described by Coogle and Sathre. We had to bide our time as some truculent El Niño-inspired weather passed through the area but then we were off. One plus of this hike is that it’s acessible on paved and good gravel roads.
The 113,849 acre Sky Lakes Wilderness stretches south along the crest of the Cascades from the southern boundary of Crater Lake National Park to State Highway 140 (details, USFS). The numerous lakes in this wilderness divide somewhat in to three basins – the Seven Lakes Basin north of Devils Peak (accessible via the Seven Lakes trailhead), the Sky Lakes Area (accessible from the east via the Nannie Creek trailhead and from the south via the Cold Springs trailhead), and the Blue Lake Basin just north of Fourmile Lake (acessible from the south via the Fourmile Lake trailhead and from the west via the Blue Lakes trailhead). Basically, if you like lakes, good trails, easy backpacking, the option of dayhikes, overnight or longer trips, and a choice of campsites, along with ready access to water, then this is the wilderness for you.
Oregon’s Rogue River flows from its headwaters at Boundary Springs within Crater Lake National Park westward for 215 miles to where it enters the Pacific Ocean near Gold Beach, Oregon. One hundred twenty-four miles of the river have been designated as Wild and Scenic and hiking trails follow it for approximately 100 miles. The most well know and justifiably famous of these is the Rogue River Trail, a National Recreation Trail which runs for 40 miles from Grave Creek to Foster Bar. In 2015, we backpacked this trail over four days and three nights, with camps at Bunker Creek, West Mule Creek, and Brushy Bar Creek (post). This year, we did short dayhikes to Rainie Falls (post) and Whiskey Creek Cabin (post), having bypassed the cabin during our backpacking trip. After having walked the trail, we thought rafting the river would a complimentary (and less energetic) way to gain a different perspective on one of Southern Oregon’s most iconic features. We got our friends Wayne and Diane to join us and arranged for a 4-day raft camp/lodge package with Morrison’s Rogue Wilderness Adventures (based on our having used them previously to shuttle our car for the backpack and for a “family comes to visit” day of rafting on the recreational (Hog Creek to Grave Creek) section of the river). We were also enamoured of the beer-carrying capabilities of a raft versus our backs (since freeze dried beer has proven to be the ultimate oxymoron).
Last year, I came across a small book (The 7 Summits of the Siskiyou Trail) by Aria Zoner – an Ashland-based ultra hiker/backpacker/peakbagger – that described a 448-mile hiking route through seven wilderness areas in Northern California. The route includes climbs of the high points in each wilderness. With one exception (Mount Shasta), all of these summits can be reached via a combination of trails and judicious scrambling (i.e., easy Class 3 or less). So while 448 miles seemed like a bit much, the scrambles looked like fun, so we added the 7 Summits to our to do list.