This is another one of those less glamourous, but interesting, hikes to be found in the back of Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (Hike #173 on Page 262 of the 4th Edition). The climb from the lower trailhead to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) London Peak Scenic Overlook, though steep, is also short, so we paired it with a long-delayed visit to the historic Wolf Creek Inn located in the hamlet of Wolf Creek at the base of the peak.
The Inn is the oldest continuously operated hotel in the Pacific Northwest and, as an important stop on the 16-day (!) stagecoach journey from San Francisco to Portland, housed practically every important person found in the Northwest during Oregon’s early history. In the 1930s, the inn became a refuge for actors seeking an escape from demanding Hollywood studios. Clark Gable was a good friend of the innkeeper and stopped by several times while fishing the nearby Rogue River. Other visitors included Carole Lombard and Orson Wells. The peak is named after the American author Jack London who completed his novel Valley of the Moon (1913) while staying at the Inn.
There are two ways to access the scenic overlook: from an upper trailhead via a short, barrier-free trail or from the lower trailhead in Wolf Creek Park ($5 day use parking fee) via a longer, steeper trail (3.4 miles round-trip; 1,500 feet of elevation gain). We started from the park and found the trail directly across Wolf Creek from the pit toilets in the picnic area. We had to wade the creek as there’s no bridge. On the other side, we found the trail going past a disc golf target (an elevated metal basket) and then starting up the slope. About 500 feet up the slope, we came to two hand-made signs that point toward a spring and the trail to the summit. We went right and up from here. From here on, the trail was easy to follow (but obviously not used a lot), as it went up and up through many switchbacks. We did our best to avoid the low-growing poison oak along parts of the trail and had to remove (and summarily execute) only one minimally attached tick.
From the overlook we got a 180º view of the mountains to the north and northeast, of Interstate-5, and of the community of Wolf Creek (including the Inn) nearly 2,000 feet below. We also found a spot where we could look west toward Malone Peak, Sugar Loaf, and Hungry Hill, and envision Wolf Creek flowing toward its confluence with Grave Creek and, ultimately, the Rogue River. After that, we headed back for a simple but tasty lunch at the inn.
It’s still there and not in bad shape considering it doesn’t look like it gets much use. There’s no signage at the bottom as to where it starts (we had to ask the camp host) and then you have to wade the creek, both challenges which might put off the casual hiker. Putting in a nearly level accessible trail to the same goal (the overlook) also probably undercut interest in the lower trail. For us it was a good pre-lunch workout – sufficient to allow for cheeseburgers!
London Peak, oh the memories! We hiked that trail when we first started hiking and didn’t know how long the trail was or how steep. We about died! Was curious if the trail was still around and not maintained still. Glad to see that you too made and from the sounds of it, it was not too tough..