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.
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 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.