Berry Creek Wilderness? (Southwest Oregon) 25-May-2020

On our first visit to Elk Creek, in 2017, we went down to see the partial remains of the Elk Creek Dam. After 20 years of struggle, those who didn’t want a dam here prevailed, construction stopped, and the partially built structure was eventually breached to allow fish passage. From the piles of gravel and huge metal parts left behind, we could see a tower of rock jutting above the ridge to the west. We’d eventually learn it was Berry Rock and made a note to try visiting it one day. Time passed…

Sometime later, while on the eternal quest for yet another “new” trail, I came across mention of a potential, but undeveloped, hiking trail from Buck Rock to Berry Rock. That lead me to a 2013 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wilderness Characteristics Inventory for Berry Creek.

The Berry Creek Wilderness would have surrounded Berry Rock

While Berry Creek never became a wilderness, learning that it was even considered for such did rekindle an interest in visiting Berry Rock. The shortest path would be from some newly carved logging roads to the northeast – but these are on private land and we prefer to avoid even the possibility of trespassing (unless we’re lost :/ ). But we could stay on public lands by going cross-country eastward along the ridge from the end of BLM Road 33-1-14. Only about 2.5 miles round-trip. I was game but The LovedOne demurred on this adventure, fearing the potential for loads of poison oak along the ridge – a plant to which she is very, very allergic. 😥

Tolmie’s Pussy-Ears (Oregon Mariposa Lily)

So I drove to the end of BLM Road 33-1-14, parked, and struck off along the ridge. While there was poison oak, there were no ticks. There was also very little brush under the canopy, so much of this exploration was just walking on an uneven surface while dodging fronds of poison oak. I was pleased to see that the forest up here hosts more than a few, huge old trees.

Along the ridge
An open forest floor with some big trees

Not far from the trailhead, I got nice view to the southeast of Berry Rock and some of its larger cousins,

View to the southeast: (1) Mount Ashland, (2) Berry Rock, (3) Mount McLoughlin, (4) Brown Mountain
Paintbrush

but then had to go up-and-down across four saddles before getting to where I could see Berry Rock again.

Berry Rock
Mount McLoughlin, Brown Mountain (between the trees), and Berry Rock

I was now close enough to see any that thought of scrambling to the top of the rock for big views was purely illusory – another Red Cone moment. Getting closer wasn’t going to make the rock any less tall or its sides any less overhung, so I turned around and headed back.

Western Starflower
Back to the trailhead

After-hike research indicated that if anyone has actually climbed to the top of Berry Rock, they’ve never posted anything about doing so. In the end, a short hike (3 miles round-trip; 800 feet of gain {all those ups and downs}) but a good exploration nonetheless and one that was more than enough to scratch the itch of visiting Berry Rock (let’s just hope that no other itches turn-up in a day or two o_O ). Too bad about that wilderness though…

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3 comments

  1. I found a brief mention of a 10-mile loop trail between Buck and Berry Rocks. Not sure where you’d fit in a loop but a simple trail between those two points seems doable – it was certainly easy enough to walk along the ridge as it is (poison oak excepted 😦 ).

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  2. Thanks for checking this out and posting. I was going to try it since I had heard there was a trail planned to be built along the ridge to Berry Rock. I think BLM wildlife people get permission to drive the timber company road and hike a half mile in to check on the birds that live near the rock. The rock sure is visible from Takelma Drive!

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