Upper Rogue River Trail (Hamaker Campground to Foster Creek) 16-Sep-2016

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

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 I finished another section – from Foster Creek to Hamaker Campground, going from south to north to accommodate a hike & bike approach.  The LovedOne had a doctor’s appointment plus she was concerned that this section would be the same unmaintained mess as was the Foster Creek to Big Bend section (post), so I was on my own for this one.

I turned east off Highway 230 on to Forest Road 6530 (mostly paved, with two short gravel sections) and followed it (past the turn for National Creek Falls) for about six miles  to FR 6530-810 (all gravel), where I turned left (north) for about two miles to where it intersects the east side of Hamaker Meadow across the Rogue River from Hamaker Campground.  I hid the bike there and then drove back down to the junction of FR 6530 and FR 6535 where there was room to park.  From there, it was a short walk down to where the Upper Rogue River trail crosses FR 6530 just on the east side of the river bridge.  Signage isn’t abundant anywhere along this trail, so there was only a tiny trail sign at this crossing.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Where the trail (black arrow) crosses FR 6530; red arrow points to the “trail” sign

As noted, the Foster Creek to Big Bend section had been a struggle and we’d heard that this section was similarly maintenance challenged. The sign posted at the crossing didn’t do much to ease my concerns about this.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Warning sign posted right off FR 6530

The whole way up to Hamaker, I fully expected to turn the next corner only to find the trail covered with fallen trees as far as you could see into the distance. But that proved to be just needless anxiety. Instead, I found that, while there were some downed trees and sketchy stretches, this section of trail was generally in good condition (it got very good within the last two miles or so of Hamaker) and very easy to follow.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

The trail about 0.25 mile north of FR 6530

When Mount Mazama (today’s Crater Lake) blew up 7,000 years ago, it deposited a thick layer of ash far and wide (we saw some along the Snake River, over 200 miles to the northeast). The Rogue River then proceeded to cut through that layer, exposing tall embankments of white ash.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Ash cliffs along the Upper Rogue

A mile from FR 6530, I crossed National Creek on an improvised log bridge,

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

The bridge over National Creek

and then had to make a sharp left (west) turn to stay on the #1034. If you follow a use trail straight north, you’ll come to an Off-highway Vehicle (OHV) trail that runs back up to FR 6530. For the next four miles, the trail runs along close to the river, which allowed me to see some rapids that are not visible from Highway 238 on the west bank.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Rapids along the Upper Rogue

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Rapids along the Upper Rogue

The trail was pretty clear of obstacles but every once in a while I’d have to deal with a fairly big one by either going around, over, or under it.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

A four foot in diameter tree blocks the trail

The trail continued rambling north along the river, generally climbing very gradually.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

More ash cliffs along the river

But it does have to make a couple of switchback mediated climbs to get around the huge ash cliffs on the east side of the river. The first of these is about three miles from FR 6530 and the view down these very loose cliffs is one of the unique features along this section of the #1034.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Looking down one of the bigger ash cliffs, with the river below

At four miles from FR 6530, there is a small waterfall (shown on the USGS map) where the trail (and the river) make a sharp bend back to the southeast. The three people I saw all day where here, having waded across the Rogue a little further upstream to go fishing.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Falls at a bend in the Upper Rogue

After the Falls, the river and trail turn east, passing through a marshy area,

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Marshes along the Upper Rogue

and some open meadow areas.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Meadows along the Upper Rogue

About 5.5 miles from FR 6530, the trail once again climbs up to the top of the ash cliffs along the river and goes along almost level for some distance.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Trail along the bluffs above the river

From here, I got another of those dizzying views down the crumbling white ash to the river,

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Looking down the ash cliffs

and of just how easily that ash can be eroded.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Just slip, sliding away…

About 6.5 miles from FR 6530, the trail crosses Hurryon Creek – I crossed on a convenient fallen log but it’s obvious from the steps in the embankment that a small bridge once stood here.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Hurryon Creek

Shortly after crossing Hurryon Creek, the trail and the Rogue swing northeast away from Highway 230 (and away from its traffic noise). This is also at the confluence of the Rogue River and Muir Creek, with the creek looking like a larger body of water than the now somewhat diminished river. The trail passes through several stretches of lush riparian vegetation,

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Lush vegetation along the Upper Rogue

before heading a little inland across two sagging footbridges over unnamed side streams,

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

A partial bridge over untroubled waters…

and on through the forest. This last mile or so seems to have received some recent maintenance (as evidenced by fresh cut fallen trees) and was very easy walking.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

A good trail through the forest

Shortly after that, I came to the huge (newish, 2002) horse bridge that takes you across the Rogue River to Hamaker Campground,

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

The bridge to Hamaker Campground

and then turned east into Hamaker Meadow to where I’d hidden the bike.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Hamaker Meadow

It was an awkward 1.5 mile climb on loose gravel back to FR 6530 but then a great downhill glide on that surveyor-straight paved road back to the car.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

A straight shot on FR 6530

A good, fun hike (8.9 miles; 800 feet elevation gain hiking | 5.3 miles biking) along yet another pretty section of the Upper Rogue on a trail that was in vastly better condition than expected.  A stop at Beckie’s in Union Creek for take-home slices of pie rounded out a perfect day in the woods.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Hiking track (red) along the Upper Rogue, with bike return (black)