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Rogue River Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The trail follows along the Rogue River. Frequently the trail is a couple hundred feet above the river with great views down below of the river. (Jerry Adams)
There are places where the trail is fairly narrow with a steep drop on one side. (Jerry Adams)
Typical hiker campsite, this one at the end of the bridge over Bunker Creek. (Jerry Adams)

Contents

Hike Description

This is a premier hike in Southern Oregon. The trail goes along the Rogue River, sometimes near the river and other times going a couple hundred feet above with great views down of the river. There is a 40 mile wild section with only one road access about in the middle.

You can do the full 40 mile hike, or you could just go from either end, as far as you wanted, and then back to where you began. To do the 40 miles, you can drive 2 cars to Illahe, then backtrack one car to where you left the Rogue, turn left, and go the last 7.5 miles to Grave Creek. This route can be snowed in during the winter and early spring. Alternately, as you get near the trailhead, there are businesses and residences that have signs out front saying "shuttle".

Several shuttle services mentioned on portlandhikers.org:


The trail is fairly good, though there are places where it is somewhat narrow with a steep drop on one side. There are places where it's somewhat rocky so you have to watch your step to avoid hurting your ankle. The trail crosses many streams, some with bridges, some you have to hop rocks to cross. In the winter expect to encounter logs across the trail and slides that block the trail and are difficult to cross.

The Rogue River is better known for boating by floaters and motor boats. There are many challenging rapids and many nice camping spots. A lottery system is used to limit the number of people, so it's fairly crowded during the season. November to April there aren't so many boaters. If you're into running rivers, this should definitely be on your list.

Hikers are allowed to use the boater campsites, without having to reserve them, but you might not want to if it's crowded with boaters. There are many hiker camps, away from the river, but most of them are small with few flat level areas to sleep on. In the winter, there are so few backpackers you can have your choice of campsites.

The river is also excellent fish habitat, both boaters and hikers.

The climate here is much drier and warmer than Portland. Since the trail stays below 900 feet elevation, it could be very nice here, even when it's snowy in The Gorge and on Mount Hood. Along the river the vegetation is fairly sparse with Madrona trees. On the ridges above, there are pine and fir trees. A frequent weather pattern is clear near the river, with fog on the ridges above that burns off in the afternoon. The trees get much of their water from fog.

Sometimes there's snow here, and when the snow is melting and/or there are heavy rains, the river can flood making the trail impassable. About 1/2 mile from the Grave Creek Trailhead is a sign above the trail showing the river level in a recent flood. Check out the weather reports for Grants Pass or Gold Beach to get an idea of the weather here.

Watch for ticks, partcicularly in the summer. There are more ticks on the western half, where there is grass along the trail where the ticks quest, waiting to hop a ride on you. Wear long pants and gaiters would be good. Use insect repellent such as DEET. After hiking carefully inspect to see if any ticks are on you and remove them. You can get Lyme disease from a tick bite, typically there is a target shaped circular red rash and flu like symptoms, go see a doctor, antibiotics can treat it.

There are bears, especially on the western 10 miles of the trail. Hang your food at least ten feet above ground and five feet away from trees. Use the provided bear-proof enclosures (electric fences, boxes, or cables/pullies) at the western end at Camp Tacoma, Tate Creek, Half Moon Bar, and Burns Creek. According to a BLM person, bears aren't as bad as they used to be because of prevention efforts.

Watch out for poison oak, especially as you go further west. Watch out for rattlesnakes.

Detailed Description

The trail starts at the parking area below the north end of the bridge across the Rogue at Grave Creek. Beware the parking area occasionally gets flooded. During the boating season, stay out of the way of boaters launching boats. ou might better park above next to the bridge and walk down.

At mile 1.7 from the trailhead is a trail down to Rainie Falls. There is a large area near the river where you could camp. There's also a pit outhouse. To get a good view of the falls, you have to go on the trail on the south side of the river from Grave Creek.

At mile 3.2 is Whiskey Creek. Just before is a campsite with an outhouse. This is probably the busiest campsite. If you want more privacy, go across Whiskey Creek and in the next 0.1 mile are several nice spots between the trail and the river.

Right after the bridge is a 0.1 mile trail up to an historic cabin. There are several buildings, but no camping or outhouse. There is a dirt road you can walk up about 1/2 mile to a gravel road you can drive to and park at.

Up to here, expect to see a lot of day hikers. The crowds really thin out beyond here.

At mile 3.7 is Big Slide Camp, where there is a large area the could accomodate many people. There is a nice view of the river and there's a cabin on the other side. There's also an outhouse. No drinking water here, you'll have to get it from Whiskey Creek or a small creek 0.4 miles to the West.

Beyond here, there are hiker campsites every couple miles or so. These tend to be small, right next to the trail, with no good flat level place to camp. You can also get to the boater campsites, but sometimes the trail is way above so you have to take a use trail down to them.

Some better campsites are:

Bronco Creek is at mile 6.8. Drinking water and 0.1 mile West of the creek is an okay place to camp a bit down from the main trail.

Bunker Creek is at mile 8.9. Drinking water and a hiker camp just at the West end of the bridge. A better spot is a bit east of the bridge below the trail.

At about mile 12 are Horseshoe Bend and Lower Horseshoe, boater campsites. There are faint use trails down to them from the main trail, but it's about 200 feet down and quite steep.

At mile 13 is Meadow Creek. Drinking water, several campsites, and an outhouse.

I haven't been beyond here to Brushy Bar.

Zane Grey's Cabin is at mile 17.3. Zane Grey lived there. It is now open to visitors.

At 23 miles is the Rogue River Ranch, BLM owned, museum open May through October, water, bathroom, emergency radio. There is road access to here down a difficult gravel road. There is also Marial Lodge. Tucker Flat car campground is also here, it's not too busy because of the difficult road access.

Mule Creek Canyon is at mile 24. This is one of the more difficult sections of the Rogue with narrow channel and a lot of turbulence.

Check out Paradise Lodge at mile 27.4 from Grave Creek. You can get a shower, food, and a beer. It's only accessible by boat, trail, or airplane. They're only open in the summer, but you might find someone there year-round.

At mile 30.2 is Brushy Bar Guard Station and campsite. The guard station is manned during the summer. There is a porch area you can use in the winter when it's not manned. There's a large camp area, outhouse, bear-proof units, and a drinking water stream at about mile 30.5.

The last major campsite is Camp Tacoma at mile 32.7. There are a lot of boaters here during the season in nice sandy campsites right next to the river. You might prefer smaller campsites at Flora Dell Creek (hiker only) at mile 35 or Hick's Creek at mile 35.7. These are harder to find.

The eastern trailhead is Big Bend at mile 39.5. Nearby is the Foster Bar boat ramp, the most popular boat take-out point. There's a year-round campground here with a resident caretaker. If you parked your car overnight, you might want to park it at the boat ramp area rather than the Big Bend trailhead, and walk an extra half mile, because with a resident caretaker it's safer.

For current info call:

  • Rogue River Eastern half - Grants Pass BLM 541-471-6500
  • Rogue River Western half - Gold Beach USFS 541-247-3600

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Guidebooks that cover this hike

More Links

Check out the float guide. It has 60 pages of information about boating and also more general info applicable to hikers.

Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.