Rogue River National Forest Overview
|Rogue River National Forest (courtesy, USDA Forest Service/Lee Webb)|
The Rogue River National Forest sprawls across southwestern Oregon. The forest contains approximately 400 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
On the west, the forest includes the headwaters of the Applegate River, within the ancient and complex geology of the Siskiyou Mountains. This is a country of narrow canyons and high, steep ridges. The variety of environments includes open oak woodlands, dense conifer forests, and barren, rocky ridge-tops.
To the east, the forest contains the upper reaches of the Rogue River, located along the slopes of the younger, volcanic Cascade Range. Although the southern Cascades tend to have fairly gentle relief, several deep canyons, such as the Middle Fork of the Rogue and the South Fork of Little Butte Creek, are located in this part of the forest. The area's extensive forest of Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, and other conifers is enlivened by occasional meadows, lakes, and meandering streams. This part of the forest also contains Huckleberry Mountain, the ancestral berry-gathering ground of the Klamath Indians.
Bike the High Lakes Trail
Wind in and out of the lava fields that lie between Fish Lake and Lake of the Woods. This is a smooth, easy trail through a surreal moonscape. Out and back is 19 miles, but there's a link to Brown Mountain Trail and Fish Lake Trail. Tying these loops together makes for a 22-mile ride. The trail is dotted with interpretive displays describing the area's geology and natural history. On clear days, you can see Mount McLoughlin from the trail.
Raft the Rogue
The Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River begins at Graves Creek Boat Launch, but there are plenty of convenient launching points farther upriver. Immediately after the Graves Creek put-in, a riffle leads to Graves Creek Falls; from that point be prepared for a steady stream of rapids. This section is Class III, perfect for intermediate/advanced whitewater rafters and kayakers. The 34-mile stretch of river ends at Foster Bar. Along the route, look for Tate Creek Slide, a natural chute along a rock wall that drops into a secluded pool. There are plenty of campsites along the way, many equipped with pulley systems for hanging food—plenty of black bears spend time in the area.
Climb Mount McLoughlin
The southernmost alpine volcanic cone in the Oregon Cascades rises to 9,495 feet. From the top, you'll see towering Mount Shasta, which lies just across the border in northern California. The mountain's conical shape is dented by a large sunken bowl on the northeast side. The climb approaching the east ridge of the mountain rises above the large glaciated bowl located on McLoughlin's northeastern face. The view of McLoughlin from the 6,000-foot level of the trailhead will get any climber's heart racing. The 3,900-foot climb covers almost five miles, and if easier summer climbing isn't thrilling enough, come in the winter and try some ice climbing. You'll need full gear—winter conditions on McLoughlin, as with any of the northwest Cascade volcanic summits, can change and deteriorate very quickly.
Hike Brown Mountain Trail
Secluded Brown Mountain trail is a delightful eight-mile hike along the southern flanks of Brown Mountain. Passing through a shaded, old-growth forest, the trail offers opportunities for morel mushroom hunting in the late spring; shade-loving wildflowers such as orchids and trilliums that blanket the forest floor in early summer; good huckleberry picking in late summer; and brilliant fall colors. Willows abound at swampy Little Butte Creek. Water sources are untested and should be considered unsafe to drink. While the trail skirts the massive lava flows of Brown Mountain, the mountain is mostly hidden from view by the forest.
Fish the Rogue
The Rogue River is famous for its salmon and steelhead fishing. If you plan to fish the upper Rogue, be prepared for the wildness of this section of the river—hooking up with a guide or outfitter can really help you out. If it's trout you're after, the North Fork has nearly 50 miles of scenic river running through timbered slopes and offers anglers the chance to fish for wild rainbow, cutthroat, brown, and brook trout. Most fish will be medium-size—if you're looking for a bigger brown trout, seek out a deep pool. The North Fork's feeder streams also have good fishing, especially Union Creek.
Drive the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway
From Ashland, Medford, or Roseburg, embark on a 172-mile scenic route that takes you to the edge of the indigo-blue waters of Crater Lake, past Diamond Lake, along the wild Umpqua and Rogue Rivers, and to waterfalls, parks, and campgrounds. Save a day to follow the National Byway signs along this beautiful southern Oregon drive.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication