Update: This entire area was burned by the 2018 Klondike Fire. Consider checking with the Forest Service about bridge and trail conditions before attempting this hike.
A few weeks ago, our local paper, the Medford Tribune, ran a story (here) about how the Forest Service, in collaboration with numerous volunteers (and with some artful grantsmanship), had been able to replace five bridges on the Taylor Creek Trail (USFS #1142). This was a near miraculous story given that trail building (and even trail maintenance) too often seems but a distant memory. So, of course, we had to see this miracle for ourselves. Taylor Creek is a popular hiking and mountain biking trail in summer (because it’s shaded and goes along the creek), in Fall (because of the colors), and in winter and spring (because it’s too low for snow). We managed to miss almost all of the Fall colors and so, again, focused on the mushrooms, which were numerous.
There are several trailheads strung out along the Briggs Valley Road (Forest Road (FR) 25), which is 8.5 miles west of Merlin and 12.1 miles west of I-5 (Exit 61). The first trailhead is 3.1 miles up the Briggs Valley Road but, after hiding the bike at the Big Pine Campground, we returned to park at Spur Road 023. This is a popular mountain biker trailhead and also one that would involve less uphill for me on the bike return part of this hike & bike. Spur Road 023 quickly connects with the Taylor Creek Trail, which soon reaches the creek,
and soon thereafter crosses the first of the five new bridges. It’s been a long, long time since we’ve seen a new bridge and it’s an impressive structure! We were much taken with the arched laminated main beams. It even smells new – like the inside of a woodworking shop. Ahhhhh…
For about the first four miles, the trail is mostly level and undulates only a little as it runs along above the creek,
passes a junction with the Burned Timber Interpretive Trail (USFS #1148), and then crosses Burned Timber Creek,
just beyond which a very short side trail gave us a view of the falls on this side creek.
We passed the site of the now closed Tin Can Campground, with its guard-rail-lined stretch of trail,
and ambled on, mostly level, past the junction with the Minnow Creek Trail (USFS #1156), and on over the second new bridge across the main fork of Taylor Creek.
We continued ambling along, gaining some elevation but not much.
We soon passed the third bridge, which crosses the South Fork of Taylor Creek to provide access to FR 25 and the China Creek Trail (USFS #1130).
Soon thereafter, we crossed bridge #4, wandered through a dirt lot alongside FR 25, found the continuation of the trail, and then crossed the last of the new bridges.
After the last of the new bridges, we passed two decrepid “camps” festooned with crap, junk, and derelict dwellings – possibly connected with all the mining claims posted along the creek. We think it’s way past time to repeal the now obsolete General Mining Act of 1872 and replace it with something more in keeping with the needs (and constraints) of the 21st Century.
After the last bridge, the trail swung away from FR 25 and started climbing up to Lone Tree Pass on two long switchbacks. Most of the 1,700 feet of overall elevation gain occurs in the 2.5 miles leading up to this pass.
Southwest from the pass, we entered a drier type of forest, with more madrones in the mix.
This part of the trail gradually descends along the ridge and culminates near a four-way road junction just before Sam Brown Campground, about 0.5 miles down FR 25 from Big Pine Campground. About 0.6 miles before this end, the Big Pine Spur Trail (USFS #1154A) turns off to the west and goes directly back to Big Pine Campground. Unfortunately, the (undated) Forest Service website said that this spur trail was temporarily closed due to hazardous trees. Maybe not but we didn’t want to go a mile or so out of our way just to find out. So, instead, we climbed up to the old road (FR 606) on the ridge above Big Pine Campground and then went directly downslope to the campground. This was steep, but open, forest at first and then leveled off through some minor brush just before we reached FR 25. After that it was a cold (yahoo!) bike ride down to the car and then a drive back to pick-up The LovedOne (we did this as a hike & bike but, because all the access roads are paved, it probably would have been easier just to use two cars). No views to speak of, but still an interesting hike (11.2 miles on trail; 8.3 miles on road with bike; 1,700 feet of elevation gain) and one worth doing just to see the NEW bridges (and probably worth doing again on a sunny day in early summer).
And now, a medley of mushrooms…