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
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).