Hiking Southern Oregon: 25 Hikes (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 day hikes 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 paper guide for hiking in Southwest Oregon.

Website references are to REI’s Hiking Project, a curated site with full details about each hike, along with downloadable GPS tracks.

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
  • Website: Upper Rogue River Trail






  • #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
  • Website: PCT past Mount Ashland




  • #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
  • Website: PCT past Big Red












  • #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)
  • Website: Kerby Peak Trail


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).


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.
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10 thoughts on “Hiking Southern Oregon: 25 Hikes (February 2020)

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

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  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.

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