Jacksonville Forest Park I (Oregon) 16-Feb-2018

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon

The City of Jacksonville, Oregon styles itself The Hiking Capital of Southern Oregon. To bolster this claim, the City maintains the Woodlands Trails, a web of pleasant hiking, biking, and equestrian trails on 320 acres on the west edge of town, southeast of Highway 238. It also maintains an extensive network of more rugged hiking and biking trails in 1,100-acre Forest Park, northwest of town on the west side of Highway 238. Although we have been avid users of the Woodlands Trails since we moved here, the trails in Forest Park had thus far escaped the gentle caress of our boots.  Today we addressed this oversight (and the sloth accumulated during our recent week in South Florida) by tromping out a loop hike on trails around Norling Gulch. The few online maps we could find for these trails were often incomplete or inaccurate or both. The most complete and accurate (current) map proved to be the one obtainable at the park’s parking lot kiosks (and, presumably, from the City).

We had managed to find enough online mappage to get us to parking lot P-5 and the start of the Twin Peaks Trail. It was 29ºF when we got out of the truck, so yet another brave smile was needed before we started up the trail.

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
A cold, but brave, smile at the start of the Twin Peaks Trail

Trails in Southern Oregon often combine (to save on trail-building costs) re-purposed old logging or mining roads linked with newly constructed trails – think the Lone Pilot Trail in the Soda Mountains Wilderness – and Forest Park is no exception. Thus the Twin Peaks Trail is an old road,

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
Climbing the Twin Peaks Trail

that took us up,

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
Climbing toward sunshine the Twin Peaks Trail

to the Cascade Crest Shelter,

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
The Cascade Crest Shelter and viewpoint on the Twin Peaks Trail

where we could look out over the Upper Bear Creek Valley. The day started out cold but clear and sunny and we hoped that sunshine would stick with us all day (it did, but a milky overcast was moving in as we finished the loop).

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
The Upper Bear Creek Valley and Tombstone Mountain from the Cascade Crest Shelter

We continued on the Twin Peaks Trail to Twin Peaks Saddle,

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
Twin Peaks Saddle

checked out Lower Twin Peak (Point 2939), then, having missed the unsigned start of the much easier bike trail, climbed an insanely steep old skid road,

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
Climbing Upper Twin the hard way

to the Twin Peaks Overlook, for a bigger view out over the Upper Bear Creek Valley.

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
Mount McLoughlin from the Twin Peaks Overlook
Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
Roxy Ann Peak is in front of Mount McLoughlin; Tombstone Peak is on the far right

From Upper Twin, we took the switched-back bike trail down to the saddle and contoured west on the Atsahu Trail, a very pleasant combination of old road and new trail that works its way along the south side of Norling Gulch.

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
Along the Atsahu Trail
Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
Along the Atsahu Trail
Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
Along the Atsahu Trail
Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
In places the Atsahu Trail is an old road

Just before the junction of the Atsahu and Shade Creek Trails, we passed the gated closure of the Norling Mine’s adit (this mine also featured an open (now gated) vertical shaft – technically a surface-breach stope or “glory hole” – that is at least 100 feet deep). This mine seems to have been most active between 1905 and about 1920; development of the mine in 1905-07 is reported to have produced 120 tons of ore worth $6,400 (big money back in the day). Alas, it didn’t last.  But the “good wagon road” built in the early 1900s to service the mine did last to morph into today’s Shade Creek Trail.

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
Gated adit of the Norling Mine
Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
From “Medford, Oregon as a Mining Center” (1912)

We continued on the Atsahu Trail up past Point 3455,

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
Along the Atsahu Trail past Point 3455

to its junction with the Jackson Ridge Trail. Signage along these trails is pretty good (excellent compared to many National Forest trails) but the map brochure we got at the parking lot kiosk helped take a lot of the guesswork out of our loop hike.

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
Cartographic introspection at the Atsahu~Jackson Ridge junction

We turned here and headed east on the Jackson Ridge Trail,

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
Along the Jackson Ridge Trail

then took the trail option that leads to the Jackson Ridge Shelter, for a view west toward Baldy and Timber Mountains and salvage logging of a burn on the slopes of Timber.

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
Jackson Ridge Shelter
Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
Salvage logging on Timber Mountain

We then continued on down the Jackson Ridge Trail, through galleries of spindly madrones,

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
Madrones along the Jackson Ridge Trail

past a view of Lower and Upper Twin Peaks,

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
The Twin Peaks from the Jackson Ridge Trail

to our truck at lot P-5. A really great introduction (5.9 mile loop; 1,600 feet of elevation gain) to Forest Park’s trails! Judging from the map brochure, there are lots more loop hike opportunities in the park, along with more viewpoints and features (like waterfalls and a grotto) to see. We’ll be back…

Jacksonville Forest Park Oregon
The track of our loop hike in Forest Park

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5 thoughts on “Jacksonville Forest Park I (Oregon) 16-Feb-2018

  1. Glad to see you finally got to the overlooked Forest Trails. We too hike the Woodland Trails the most, but enjoy the various overlooks and scenery that the Forest Trails produce for a change of pace. You should try the Canyon Falls Trail after rains or before summer – not a long hike, but the all the little waterfalls along the trail are something to see and enjoy.

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    1. I guess we overlooked the Forest Park trails for so long because we thought they were mainly mountain bike trails and we couldn’t find a decent map online (but the ones you get at the parking lots are great). Now we’ll be going back to explore more of these trails. Thanks for the Canyon Falls suggestion!

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    1. During high summer (July, August) it’s a little too hot (for us at least) to hike in Forest Park. But on any sunny day the rest of the year, it’s a very nice place to hike. We’re lucky to have such a great low-altitude hiking resource not too far from our house!

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    2. Great tips, many hikes here in our part of Northern California are too hot in mid summer as well. You are blessed indeed! Thanks for an awesome post!

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