Oregon’s Rogue River flows some 215 miles from its headwaters at Boundary Springs within Crater Lake National Park to the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach, Oregon. Although not as large as the Columbia or the Willamette, it is nonetheless one of Oregon’s iconic rivers. It’s been in our hearts for years but only recently have we had the time to give it the attention it deserves. Between 2012 and 2016, we hiked (in sections) the entire Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) as it roughly parallels the river from near Boundary Springs to Prospect, Oregon. In 2015, we backpacked the famous Rogue River Trail (USFS #1160) from Grave Creek to Foster Bar (post) and also did a rafting day trip from Robertson Bridge to Grave Creek. In 2016, we bolstered the local economy again with a multi-day rafting trip on the Wild and Scenic Rogue from Grave Creek to Foster Bar (post). After attending a presentation earlier this year by Gabriel Howe of the Siskiyou Mountain Club on their 2015 restoration of the Wild Rogue Loop, we knew we had to hike it. With lingering snow keeping us from the High Cascades and parts of the Siskiyou Crest, now seemed like just the time to do this lower-altitude loop.
Oregon’s Rogue River flows, from its headwaters at Boundary Springs within Crater Lake National Park, generally westward for 215 miles to the Pacific Ocean near Gold Beach, Oregon. Hiking trails follow the river for approximately 100 miles. One of these, the Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034), roughly parallels the river for about 47 miles from near Boundary Springs to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area outside of Prospect, Oregon. It can be hiked in sections (USFS Guide). We hiked our first section, the northern-most, in 2012 and completed the southern-most section in 2016. Done and done, except for the possibility (per Sullivan) that there was a path from the North Fork Dam Recreation Area to the Peyton Bridge Trailhead at Lost Creek Lake. This would allow one to link the true Upper Rogue River Trail (#1034) with the “Rogue River Trail” that goes around the north and south shores of Lost Creek Lake and ends at Casey State Park. We conveniently ignored that “except” until the nagging malaise of incompleteness was too much to bear. So we dragged ourselves off the sofa and went out yesterday to finish the hike…
Whisky Creek Cabin is the oldest known still standing mining cabin in the remote lower Rogue River canyon. It sits just above the iconic Rogue River Trail (BLM, USFS, Our Trip) about 3.5 miles downstream of the put-in at Grave Creek. It makes a great goal for a moderate and educational dayhike in all but the summer months, when it can be brutally hot in the canyon. With the remnants of the Great Storm of 2017 (now referred to locally as the “Big Dump”) still stifling access to higher elevations, we figured, based on a previous hike there (post), that the Rogue River Trail, which is south-facing and at an elevation of only 600 feet, would allow us to do a snow-free out-and-back hike to the cabin. The drive over to the trailhead was on roads disconcertingly lined with a foot or more of snow but when we got to Grave Creek, we found it and the trail almost entirely clear of snow! The added bonus for hiking at this time of year was a chance to see the Rogue at high water – it had come down some since being in flood just two days ago but was still impressively high.
The Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) is a National Recreation Trail that closely follows the Rogue River for about 47 miles from its headwaters at Boundary Springs in the northwest corner of Crater Lake National Park to to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area outside Prospect, Oregon. The trail can be day hiked in sections between readily accessible trailheads. Today we did the ~8 mile section from Natural Bridge Campground, past Woodruff Bridge and the Takelma Gorge, to River Bridge Campground. Unlike other sections of this trail, the trail here was great – and the Takelma Gorge (which we hadn’t visited before) was an amazing sight!
Oregon’s Rogue River flows from its headwaters at Boundary Springs within Crater Lake National Park westward for 215 miles to where it enters the Pacific Ocean near Gold Beach, Oregon. One hundred twenty-four miles of the river have been designated as Wild and Scenic and hiking trails follow it for approximately 100 miles. The most well know and justifiably famous of these is the Rogue River Trail, a National Recreation Trail which runs for 40 miles from Grave Creek to Foster Bar. In 2015, we backpacked this trail over four days and three nights, with camps at Bunker Creek, West Mule Creek, and Brushy Bar Creek (post). This year, we did short dayhikes to Rainie Falls (post) and Whiskey Creek Cabin (post), having bypassed the cabin during our backpacking trip. After having walked the trail, we thought rafting the river would a complimentary (and less energetic) way to gain a different perspective on one of Southern Oregon’s most iconic features. We got our friends Wayne and Diane to join us and arranged for a 4-day raft camp/lodge package with Morrison’s Rogue Wilderness Adventures (based on our having used them previously to shuttle our car for the backpack and for a “family comes to visit” day of rafting on the recreational (Hog Creek to Grave Creek) section of the river). We were also enamoured of the beer-carrying capabilities of a raft versus our backs (since freeze dried beer has proven to be the ultimate oxymoron).
The Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) is a National Recreation Trail that closely follows the Rogue River for about 47 miles from its headwaters at Boundary Springs in the northwest corner of Crater Lake National Park to to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area outside Prospect, Oregon. The trail can be day hiked in sections between readily accessible trailheads. Today we did the short (~7 mile) Foster Creek to Big Bend section and allowed for slow going due to winter storm damage and limited trail maintenance. We parked one car at the Big Bend trailhead along Forest Road (FR) 6510 about one mile off Highway 230 and were planning to park the other car a mile up FR 6530, also off of Highway 230, and walk the short ways to the actual trailhead. But we found FR 6530 still closed due to fallen trees for as far along it as we could see. So we had to park on Highway 230, right at the trailhead. All those fallen trees on FR 6350 were an omen – one we blithely ignored. The sad condition of the sign at the trailhead was yet another omen – also ignored. To be fair, trail maintenance in this area doesn’t really get going until early June but we could tell from the start that this section of trail hadn’t seen much maintenance for quite a while.
The Illinois River Trail (#1161) suffered substantial damage north of Silver Creek during the winter of 2016-17. Expect slow, tricky travel. Also note that Pine Flat and the Florence Way Trail (USFS #1219A) are NOT part of the #1161. The Florence Way Trail is …overgrown, filled in with downed trees, arduous to pass, and quite difficult to find in many places – it should be avoided.
In 2015, we backpacked the justifiably famous Rogue River Trail from Grave Creek to Foster Bar and had a wonderful time doing so (Rogue River trip). As I was researching that trip, I kept coming across references to the Illinois River Trail (USFS #1161; but the sign at the trailhead says #1162) as a worthy adjunct to the Rogue trail. The western end of the Illinois River Trail was designated as a National Recreation Trail because of its outstanding scenic qualities and the Illinois River itself was added to the National Wild and Scenic River System in October 1984. It is lauded as one of the best hikes in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, one that gives you a unique glimpse into the wonders of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, a 179,655-acre wilderness filled with deep gorges and rocky ridges and home to many rare plant species. So I put #1161 on the list for a try at it once the better weather of Spring 2016 became a reality – which happened this week. While planning for a two day backpack of the #1161, I was struck by how little detailed information (in this age of Internet-driven information overload) there was on a complete east to west through hike of it.