Rogue River Trail from Foster Bar 5/8-5/11

This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.
Post Reply
Posts: 8
Joined: March 22nd, 2023, 10:33 am

Rogue River Trail from Foster Bar 5/8-5/11

Post by cmbaker91 » May 19th, 2023, 2:16 pm

Went down to the Rogue River trail for the first time and started at the Foster Bar boat launch, hiked to Paradise Lodge and back in 3 nights. Didn't see a soul on the trail till coming out on our last day and hardly a soul on the river - only one raft at a campsite and a few NFS rangers (oh and Jerry's Jet Boats, but I don't really count that).

Decided to start at Foster Bar because I was told by BLM that overnight parking at Graves Creek TH is not allowed and that if I dared park along the road, I'd almost certainly get vandalized. I also talked with NFS ranger Steve DiCicco for the western end of the river/trail and he recommended overnight parking at Foster Bar because there's an overnight host who lives there. I know some folks here told me they haven't had any issues with overnight parking at or near Graves Creek TH, but I didn't want to risk it.

Ranger Steve was another reason I decided to start on the western end. He talked with me on the phone for nearly 30 minutes and provided tons of insight into recent trail maintenance his team has done, current conditions on the trail and river, weather, etc. He also followed up out phone call with many resources and guides about the trail, including an excellent river map that I ended up using extensively even though its intended for rafters. He was a fantastic steward of the river and trail!

We also got pretty lucky with the relative solitude. I talked with Ranger Steve this past weekend after our trip, and he said there were 130 people and 60 rafts on the NFS section of the wilderness and that campsites were almost totally full.

Anyways, a trip report...

Day One - Foster Bar boat launch to Flora Dell
Hit the road in Portland early and made it to Foster Bar parking lot by 12:45 and started off just before 1:30. Getting to the western end from Portland takes a deceptively long time. You get off I-5 just south of Roseburg, and Google Maps says you have 79 miles left to drive but it'll take 2 hours and 57 minutes. That can't be possible. Oh but it is! The roads quickly turn into backcountry curvy highways and then suddenly gravel forest road up and over Agness Pass.
Started to rain while getting our gear on, so we put on our jackets and pants, but by the time we were ready to go, it'd stopped. That was the only rain we experienced all trip. Clouds broke and skies cleared to a perfect bluebird afternoon.

Hiked up the road and over the the TH, then made our way across Big Bend meadow and past Illahe Lodge. Right from the get go, loads of poison oak. Above the trail, below the trail, and much of it creeping onto the trail. Many sections of the hike were like running the poison oak gauntlet.
Perhaps the most fitting photo of the poison oak situation: the Rogue River trail sign next to huge bushes of poison oak
Soon encountered many yellow and red-veined flowers, then white and purple-veined relatives of the yellow flowers. I'm no flower person, so I have no idea what they're called. Encountered several other types of wildflowers, including a reddish orange and yellow one that was beautiful. Also encountered a couple of newts next to the trail by a creek crossing.
Got to Flora Dell campsite around 4:30, saw the bear box and decided to stop there for the night. There aren't many other options in the vicinity anyways. Plus, it's a lovely site to explore on the river - the multiple falls, the rock formations, and the many little pools filed with tadpoles and rough skinned newts. The newts were abundant - I'd never seen so many!
Day Two - Flora Dell to Lower Half Moon Bar via Paradise Lodge
Started off the day with a little early morning fly fishing at Flora Dell campsite (with no success). Set off from the campsite by 9:30 and traversed the grassy and oaky slopes for the next few miles. Saw multiple new species of wildflower we hadn’t seen the day before in the mostly wooded approach to Flora Dell campsite. Red and green succulents gripped drier rocks along the trail.
We then passed the large Tacoma campsite area along the river, which is where we saw the one and only raft the whole time on the trail (and it was ashore). We then crossed the rockier terrain along the shore in the curve in the river and stopped at Lower Solitude for lunch.
Then the trail left the water’s edge and pushed deeper into the forest as it approaches Brushy Bar. We stopped by the guard station there, which was totally vacant, save a few skinks sunbathing on a few rocks. We later learned they don’t staff the cabin until May 15, so we missed the NFS staff there by just a few days.
We decided not to follow the Devil’s Backbone trail, given the, well, more than unnerving name of the trail - and the elevation gain and loss evident on the map, and we opted to follow the trail around the large curve through Huggins Canyon. We couldn’t have been happier we did this, as this section of the river was probably our favorite. We loved being high above the narrow - yet often very quiet - rocky river canyon.
We had intended to make it to North Gleason campsite that by that evening, with a stop at Paradise Lodge on the way for a cold beer, to try to make it to Inspiration Point the next morning. When we got to Paradise, the lodge was closed and we were pretty knackered. We realized that going on to North Gleason and shooting for Inspiration Point the next morning would make day 3 a pretty long one for us slightly out of shape backpackers (from North Gleason to Inspiration point back to Flora Dell).
After a boots off snack break on the deck, we decided to head back to one of the Half Moon Bar campsites and settled on the lower one (had the most accessible outhouse). That evening we saw a NFS ranger boat with 5-6 rangers onboard cruise by. This is where we saw the only tick the whole tick. The ground was also covered in what I believe to be form of pennyroyal - a basil-esque slightly minty scented plant.

Day Three - Lower Half Moon Bay to Flora Dell
Pretty much the reverse of the day before, again seeing no one on the trail. We really seemed to notice the poison oak EVERYWHERE on this day. That evening at Flora Dell, saw what I believe to be a large Western pond turtle relaxing on a rock. The birds were also quite active along the river there. A drake and hen pair (couldn’t tell exactly their species - I thought duck but their heads were almost loon-shaped and their bodies longer than many ducks) were quite active that evening.
Day Four - Flora Dell to Foster Bar Boat Ramp
A relatively uneventful short day back to the car, spent mostly dodging poison oak on the trail. This was the first and only time we encountered other people on the trail, one group of 3 backpackers and a couple pairs of day hikers near the trailhead. Stopped at the Cougar Lane Lodge for lunch before the long trek back to Portland.
Last edited by cmbaker91 on May 22nd, 2023, 10:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Posts: 6004
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: The Dalles, OR

Re: Rogue River Trail from Foster Bar 5/8-5/11

Post by drm » May 21st, 2023, 7:00 am

I have been thinking of doing an out-and-back from the west, really just for variety, since I already did that from the east. The other reasons you give only emphasize that.

But the one time I did it one-way with the shuttle, I don't think I drove home over Agness Pass. I think I drove up the coast to the next paved road.

Post Reply