Cathedral Hills Park (Grants Pass, Oregon) 05-Feb-2017

Cathedral Hills Park Grants Pass Oregon

It was the driest of times; it was the moistest of times.  Well, mostly moistest lately.  So when the forecast shifted abruptly to “possibly clear” for the morrow’s morning and early afternoon, we felt compelled to sieze the moment.  But what moment and where?  After consulting the oracles (and Glenn & Carol’s website), it was decided that we should make our first visit to the 400 acre Cathedral Hills Park just southwest of Grants Pass, Oregon.  Using the park’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) map, we sketched out a double lollipop with the Skycrest Loop to the north, the Outback Loop in the middle, and the Wild Rose Loop to the south.


We elected to start at the Espey Trailhead just off of Highway 238, since it featured a pit toilet amenity.  There are 10 parking spaces for cars at this trailhead and all but one were taken when we got there at 0900 on a Superbowl Sunday morning!  There had been sunbreaks as we drove to the trailhead but it was still a little cloudy as we started off northwest on the Outback Loop Trail.  Unlike some of the places we hike in Southern Oregon, here the signage is excellent (and intact) and that, along with the BLM map, makes navigation really easy.

Cathedral Hills Park Grants Pass Oregon

The Outback Loop Trail not far from the trailhead

Despite the recent wet weather, all the trails we were on were mostly dry and only muddy in a few small areas. It’s too early for the wildflowers that this park is known for, so we just ambled along enjoying the excellent trails and the scenery. Things got even better once the clouds dissipated and the sun came out about an hour into the hike!

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Madrones and firs along the Outback Loop Trail

There were a fair number of large, old madrones along this trail,

Cathedral Hills Park Grants Pass Oregon

A large, old madrone

and the bark of these trees, viewed up close, produces an amazing array of abstract designs and textures. Not having any wildflowers to distract us, we spent some time looking at madrone bark. Abstract expressionism for free! Unbeatable!

Cathedral Hills Park Grants Pass Oregon

Texture on the lower trunk of a madrone

Cathedral Hills Park Grants Pass Oregon

Design on a madrone’s bark

The Outback Loop Trail eventually turns northeast and climbs to a ridge top,

Cathedral Hills Park Grants Pass Oregon

The Outback Loop Trail along the ridge

and from here we caught some views of Grants Pass to the north.

Cathedral Hills Park Grants Pass Oregon

Looking north from the Outback Loop Trail; Grants Pass is on the right

We came to the point where the Outback Trail doubles back on itself and here took the Timber Riders Trail for a short distance to the Skycrest Loop Trail. This took us around an unnamed peaklet through some Ponderosa pines,

Cathedral Hills Park Grants Pass Oregon

Ponderosa pines along the Skycrest Loop Trail

and past a point where we could look west to Bolt Mountain, another short, fun hike in the Grants Pass area.

Cathedral Hills Park Grants Pass Oregon

Looking west toward Bolt Mountain from the Skycrest Loop Trail

By now the sun was out, the clouds having retreated to a supporting role as atmospheric decoration, and it was feeling like a bluebird day on the trail.  After completing the Skycrest Loop, we went back to the Outback Loop and followed its eastern side soutwest to the Hogsback Trail. A short but steep climb brought us to the top of a another peaklet, through an avenue of manzanitas,

Cathedral Hills Park Grants Pass Oregon

Manzanitas along the Hogsback Trail

past the junction with Walker Trail coming in from the Walker Trailhead, and then down to a junction with the “W” Trail.

Cathedral Hills Park Grants Pass Oregon

Toward the “W” Trail

We followed the “W” as it went southeast up toward the Wild Rose Loop,

Cathedral Hills Park Grants Pass Oregon

Up the “W” Trail

and then went around that loop, with another view of Grants Pass,

Cathedral Hills Park Grants Pass Oregon

Grants Pass from the Wild Rose Loop Trail

before returning along the “W”,

Cathedral Hills Park Grants Pass Oregon

Back along the “W” Trail

to the Backside Loop Trail, which we followed back to the trailhead.  Overall, a nice, easy hike (7.8 miles round-trip; 500 feet of elevation gain) on what turned-out to be a very nice day!  This park is absolutely worth a return visit – likely on a weekday judging by how busy the parking lot was when we got back – once the wildflower season starts.  An easy hike but one which we preferred to think of as “arduous” so as to justify a stop at Climate City Brewing in Grants Pass for restorative burgers and libations.

Cathedral Hills Park Grants Pass Oregon

Our double lollipop loop through Cathedral Hills Park

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2 thoughts on “Cathedral Hills Park (Grants Pass, Oregon) 05-Feb-2017

  1. Glenn & Carol Pitcairn

    Your views of Grants Pass were much better than our views – which were just clouds. Glad you enjoeyed the trails. We often hike there when in Grants Pass along with Bolt Mt, Waters Creek, Limpy Creek and even the Jeffrey Pines Loop/Little Illinois River Falls. Hope to meetup with you sometime and with the Southern Oregon Happy Trails group. We are hiking with the Friends of the Umpqua towards the end of February as they hike the Peyton Bridge trail at Lost Creek Lake. They call it the Cascade Gorge trail.

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    1. Boots on the Trail Post author

      Thanks! We got lucky with a nice break in the weather – looking forward to looking for wildflowers at Cathedral Hills in the Spring. Actually just looking forward to Spring in general, so we can get a few more clear days for hiking! There’s also more Happy Trails activity in the Spring/Summer so maybe we’ll run in to you on one of those.

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