25 Great Hikes in Southwest Oregon (February 2020)

To celebrate our 600th post on WordPress, we’re highlighting a select few of the many hikes we’ve enjoyed here in Southwest Oregon.

As we’ve perused lists of Oregon’s greatest hikes, we’ve come to notice that these lists are heavily skewed, with a few exceptions, toward hikes near Portland.  The Portland metro area’s greater population helps if a list is based on some kind of vote.  And proximity to its major airport helps get votes from those who drop in for a brief western adventure.  Even some of the classics, like the Wallowas in Eastern Oregon or the Three Sisters in Central Oregon, often don’t make these lists because they are too far away.  So a lot of “great” hikes get done near Portland – the state’s most populated town. And then the complaints roll in about how there’s no parking, the trails are too crowded, you need a permit or must pay a fee, it’s raining, etc.

Which brings us to Southwest Oregon.  It usually makes a “great” list only because of Crater Lake National Park (which is really not a hiker’s park) or because of Mount McLoughlin, a 9,495-foot extinct (hopefully) volcano you can see from Interstate 5.  This is unfortunate.  Because Southwest Oregon, located some 300 refreshing miles south of Portland (but served by a nice airport (MFR)), has lots of trails and scenery, including lakes and rivers, typically no crowds, and much better weather (usually) than Oregon’s biggest city.  We also have a few brewpubs to help ease the rigors of the trail.  And an REI.  So next time you’re considering a hiking adventure, and don’t want to have to use your selfie stick to clear a path through other hikers clogging the trail, consider venturing to Southwest Oregon. 🙂

The 25 summertime (June through October) dayhikes outlined below are listed in order of elevation gain (G) and round-trip (RT) hiking distance.  Their trailheads are all within a 90 minute (or less) passenger car drive of Medford, Oregon; mostly on paved roads. Unless noted otherwise, all are on established and maintained (periodically) trails.  Just be aware that signage can be sparse and trail conditions can change.  Many of these trails are accessible year-round but some may be closed early in the summer (May-June) due to a lingering snowpack or trailhead access road closures.  None of these dayhikes require a permit or a fee. Page references are to William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California, Fourth Edition (2017); an indispensable guide for hiking in Southwest Oregon.

If you just want to do some hiking without much driving, consider the 30+ miles of multi-use trail in 1,080 acre Jacksonville Forest Park. Trails on the north-facing slopes and at the bottom of the canyons provide for cool, shady routes that are much fun even during the hottest summer months.

For those wanting a longer outdoor experience, Southwest Oregon is also home to four classic backpacking routes: Rogue River Trail (39 miles), Illinois River Trail (27 miles), Wild Rogue Loop (30 miles) and Rogue Wolf Loop (28 miles).

THE 25 DAY HIKES

  • #1 TAKELMA GORGE
  • RT/G: 4.2/50 {out-and-back from Woodruff Bridge}
  • Pro: An amazing geological feature
  • Con: Can be busy on summer weekends
  • Option: Do a thru hike by arranging a shuttle between the Woodruff and River Bridge parking areas
  • Page: 104

  • #2 HOBART BLUFF
  • RT/G: 4.2/200 {from the Hobart Bluff Trailhead}
  • Pro: Great views of the Rogue Valley
  • Con: Can be busy on summer weekends
  • Option: Hike on the PCT from Highway 66
  • Page: 144 (also BLM)

  • #3 WHISKY CREEK CABIN
  • RT/G: 7.0/300 {from Grave Creek}
  • Pro: Along the Rogue River to an historic site; see Kitty Mac’s grave
  • Con: None
  • Option: Add Rainie Falls
  • Page: 210


  • #5 BLUE GROTTO
  • RT/G: 7.0/400 {out-and-back from Lost Creek Trailhead}
  • Pro: A waterfall washes over colorful rocks
  • Con: Flows only in the Spring
  • Option: Arrange a shuttle between Lewis Road and Lost Creek Trailheads
  • Page: 102


  • #7 MT. ASHLAND MEADOWS
  • RT/G: 6.8/600 {on PCT between Forest Road 20 and Grouse Gap}
  • Pro: Profuse wildflower displays in mid to late summer
  • Con: Can be busy on weekends
  • Option: Join the PCT near Mt. Ashland Campground
  • Page: 148

  • #8 GRIZZLY PEAK
  • RT/G: 5.4/750 {from BLM trailhead}
  • Pro: Big views of the Bear Creek and Rogue River Valleys
  • Con: Can be very busy on summer weekends; limited parking
  • Option: None
  • Page: 156



  • #11 BIG RED MOUNTAIN
  • RT/G: 6.0/900 {from Forest Road 20 at Siskiyou Gap}
  • Pro: Easy travel on the PCT to views of Mt. Shasta from the Siskiyou Crest
  • Con: None
  • Option: Visit an old mine just below the PCT
  • Page: 160


  • #13 PILOT ROCK
  • RT/G: 2.8/1,000
  • Pro: Amazing views
  • Con: Must be comfortable on low Class 3 rock
  • Option: Add Rhyolite Ridge for views of Mt. Shasta
  • Page: 146



  • #16 BLUE LAKE BASIN
  • RT/G: 11.0/1,300 {out-and-back to Judge Waldo Tree}
  • Pro: Deep blue lakes; Judge Waldo Tree
  • Con: Mosquitoes!
  • Option: Go north to visit Red Lake
  • Page: 124

  • #17 ABBOTT BUTTE
  • RT/G: 6.8/1,500
  • Pro: Classic lookout tower; big views
  • Con: 10+ miles of good gravel road to trailhead
  • Option: Navigate farther to Elephant Head Pond
  • Page: 109 (also USFS)


  • #19 COLLINGS MOUNTAIN
  • RT/G: 10.3/1,700 {return via the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail}
  • Pro: Some views; world famous Bigfoot Trap
  • Cons: Bigfoot 😉
  • Options: Arrange a shuttle between the north and south trailheads.
  • Page 169

  • #20 SQUAW PEAK LOOKOUT
  • RT/G: 10.8/1,700
  • Pro: Historic lookout; expansive views
  • Con: Last 2 miles to trailhead can be a little rough
  • Option: Lookout can be rented
  • Page: Use Little Grayback Trail and forest roads to reach lookout

  • #21 WAGNER BUTTE
  • RT/G: 10.4/2,200
  • Pro: Varied ecosystems; expansive view from old lookout site
  • Con: Can be busy on summer weekends
  • Option: Can also be reached via the Split Rock Trail
  • Page: 158

  • #22 STEIN BUTTE
  • RT/G: 9.4/2,400
  • Pro: Good views of the Red Buttes; historic lookout site
  • Con: Watch for mountain bikes and motorcycles
  • Option: Use the New London Trail to make a loop

  • #23 KERBY PEAK
  • RT/G: 7.0/2,600
  • Pro: Sturdy hike to big views
  • Con: Sturdy hike; can be hot in summer
  • Option: None
  • Page: 258 (also BLM)

  • #24 DEVILS PEAK
  • RT/G: 10.6/3,100 {out-and-back from Seven Lakes Trailhead}
  • Pro: Views from the Sky Lakes Wilderness’ northern high point
  • Con: Some mosquitoes
  • Option: Add 4 miles by returning via Cliff Lake
  • Page: 120


Please remember to pursue any of these hikes guided solely by your own knowledge, judgment, and common sense, given the conditions facing you at the time.

HOME

10 comments

  1. Congrats on your 600th post! This one gives me lots of ideas for upcoming hikes.

    Like

  2. Thanks! #25 was a truly serendipitous shot. There were two other hikers on the mountain that day. I had gotten to the summit ahead of them and was lining up a shot when one of them suddenly popped into view on the summit. Click! And the rest is history.

    Like

Comments are closed.