Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail ~ Southwest Oregon (October 2020)

The #1470 from Yellow Jacket Camp to the Rocky Rim Trail #1572 was restored by the Siskiyou Mountain Club during July and August, 2021.

The Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail (#1470) runs, as its name suggests, for some 30 miles between Huckleberry Gap and Three Lakes along the divide between the Umpqua and Rogue River watersheds.  The Forest Service describes it as the primary route through the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. We’ve spent the last five years hiking almost all of it in sections. By doing so, we got to experience the #1470 directly and also ponder the future of our trails that aren’t social media darlings. So here are some thoughts about the #1470 as a whole, with particular emphasis on where the Service’s sometimes overly hopeful descriptions of it depart from its reality. But let’s be clear here: this is a personal reminiscence, not a guidebook and should not be relied on as such. Just saying…

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Buckneck Mountain (Rogue-Umpqua Divide) 05-Oct-2020

The Forest Service bills the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail #1470 as the primary route through the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. Two week’s ago we hiked the section from Forest Road (FR) 37 toward Three Lakes, the trail’s northern end. Despite this section of the trail having been ceded to motorcycles, that hike went well. That left just one major section (there are a few minor one’s we’ll likely never hike) left – the one past Buckneck Mountain between Fish Creek Camp on FR 870 and FR 37. We set out to do that today, ahead of real rain forecast to arrive (ha!) later this week.

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Rim Rock (Umpqua National Forest) 27-Sep-2020

The Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail (#1470) runs, as its name suggests, for some 30 miles between Huckleberry Gap and Three Lakes along the divide between the Umpqua and Rogue River watersheds.  I have a love/sadness relationship with this trail.  Sections of it are in good condition with big views, while others are viewless brush-choked slogs that haven’t seen maintenance in years and years.  We’ve spent the last five years hiking it in sections.  Today’s effort was to explore the section north from Forest Road (FR) 37 to Three Lakes.  The LovedOne was joining me on this ramble and I worried that we’d experience one of those brushy slogs she detests.  But no worries.  This section of the #1470 is outside the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness and the Umpqua National Forest has opened it to motorcycles.  So, in short, thanks to use by responsible motorcyclists, this section of the #1470 proved to be brush-free and easy to follow, with only deep ruts in a few places.  It had obviously been ridden recently but we encountered no motorcycles during today’s visit.

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Yellow Jacket Camp (Rogue-Umpqua Divide) 06-Jul-2020

The #1470 from Yellow Jacket Camp to the Rocky Rim Trail #1572 was restored by the Siskiyou Mountain Club during July and August of 2021.

I have a conflicted relationship with the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail #1470 which runs the length of Southern Oregon’s Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. On one hand, the Forest Service’s website styles this trail as the “primary route” though this wilderness, but only a few sections of it appear to have seen any maintenance for a long, long time. On the other hand, it provides access to views, old lookout sites, meadows with wildflowers, and otherwise inaccessible parts of this wilderness. But, like that famous “box of chocolates”, you’re never quite sure what to expect – easy movement on good trail or an arduous slog on dim, overgrown tread over, under, and around fallen trees of varying sizes.

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Anderson Camp (Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness) 01-Jun-2018

Anderson Camp Trail Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

The Forest Service styles the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail (USFS #1470) as the primary route through the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.  This may be true in concept but, in practice, they seem to have given little, if any, attention to its maintenance.  We have been exploring it in sections for the last few years and have found tread ranging from good (from its southern trailhead to Abbott Butte Lookout) to non-existent (between Falcon Butte and Abbott Butte).  It would be the obvious thru-hike for this wilderness if one could trust the tread (and also find water sources).  But our explorations continue, this time between Anderson Mountain and Hershberger Mountain, with a visit to Anderson Camp, Anderson Prairie, and the site of the Anderson Mountain fire lookout.

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Highrock Mountain (Rogue-Umpqua Divide) 23-Aug-2016

In 2015, I did two dayhikes in Oregon’s Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness (details): an out-and-back on the Rogue-Umpqua Divide (USFS #1470) and Rocky Rim (USFS #1572) Trails (post) and a loop hike around Fish Lake (post) on the Rocky Rim, Rogue-Umpqua Divide, and Fish Lake (USFS #1570) trails.  Highrock Mountain (6,195 feet / 1,888 m) is a prominent feature visible from various points on all of these trails.  While not the highest point in this wilderness (that honor belongs to Fish Mountain, at 6,789 feet (2,069 m), about 4 miles to the northeast), it stands out from other peaks in the area because of its hulking rockiness and nearly treeless summit.

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Golden Stairs Trail (Rogue-Umpqua Divide) 22-Jun-2016

Golden Stairs Rogue-Umpqua Oregon

This trail is described in a few hiking guides for Southern Oregon, but those descriptions are more than a little out of date with its current state.  Of course, I didn’t know that at the start, so this hike became a bit of an adventure rather than just a walk in the woods.  There are no actual stairs, so it’s not clear whether “Golden Stairs” refers to the trail’s steepness, to the yellowish rock on some of the rock formations it passes, or to an alleged gold mine (there being no genuine gold mines in the Cascades) owned in ages past by the Abbott Brothers (who named a great number of places in this area).

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Rattlesnake Mountain (Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness) 27-Oct-2015

Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Even though it’s written up in two prominent guidebooks (Hike #40 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd Edition) and Hike #30 in Bernstein & Urness’ Hiking Southern Oregon (2014)), this is one of those quirky little hikes that wouldn’t necessarily be on your “must do list.” But it exploits a weakness (more like a failing) in the wilderness designation system that lets a forest road (Forest Road (FR) 870) penetrate deeply into the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness, which gives you access to big views with minimal hiking effort. So it seemed like a interesting short hike we could do before an approaching weather front reached us.

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Rocky Rim Trail (Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness) 24-Sep-2015

Hershberger Lookout Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

The Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness is a sliver of land that runs roughly north to south just west of Crater Lake National Park on the west side of the divide (the divide’s east side is national forest land beset with Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) trails). Like a lot of the smaller and less well know wilderness areas, some spots (Abbott Butte, Fish Lake) are very popular while the rest only rarely feel the hiker’s boot. We began exploring this wilderness earlier this year with hikes along Muir Creek in the north and to Abbott Butte in the south. Unfortunately, the National Creek Complex fire poured heavy smoke into this area and, for a time, closed Highway 230 and access to all the eastern trailheads. With the fire now contained (but still burning within that containment), the highway again open, and the smoke mostly cleared, now seemed like a good time to visit the Hershberger Mountain Lookout and some of the trails north of there. These are Hikes #9 and #30 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd Edition). Update: This area was burned by the 2017 TL Pup 316 Fire (one of the High Cascade Complex Fires).

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