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Difference between revisions of "Rogue Wolf Loop Hike"

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Line 18: Line 18:
* Trail Log:  
* Trail Log:  
* Hike Type: Loop
* Hike Type: Loop
{{Distance|27.9 miles}}
{{Distance|27.8 miles}}
{{Elevation gain|4,400 feet}}
{{Elevation gain|4,400 feet}}
* High Point: 6,800 feet
* High Point: 6,800 feet

Revision as of 21:30, 17 June 2018

Giant log across the Middle Fork (B. Hope)
Solace Meadow (B. Hope)
Devils Peak and Cliff Lake in late afternoon (B. Hope)
Alta Lake in early morning (B. Hope)
  • Start point: Middle Fork TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Middle Fork Trailhead
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 27.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 4,400 feet
  • High Point: 6,800 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: mid-June to early July and September are best; can be too hot in mid-summer
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

This newly restored loop circles the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Rogue River through the Seven Lakes Basin on the Middle Fork Trail #978, the Halifax Trail #1088, the McKie Camp Trail #1089 south of Solace Meadow, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Cliff Lake Trail #983, the Seven Lakes Trail #981, and the Alta Lake Trail #979. In the summer of 2016, Siskiyou Mountain Club crews, with a lot of help from the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, the Fremont-Winema National Forest, the High Desert Trail Riders - Back Country Horseman, the Pacific Crest Trail Association, and REI, removed about 5,000 logs from portions of these existing trails that had become impassable after acute wildfire damage and from years of defered maintenance. They called this collection of existing and newly restored trails the Rogue Wolf Loop.

The loop starts with a stretch along the glacially-carved canyon of the Middle Fork of the Rogue River, then climbs to Solace Meadow near the Cascade Crest, before going south on the PCT into the Seven Lakes Basin. There are options here to visit or camp Cliff Lake or Grass and Middle Lakes before continuing on to the Alta Lake Trail. That trail is followed down Gopher Ridge, past beautiful Alta Lake (and some excellent campsites), to the upper end of the Middle Fork Trail, which is then followed back to the trialhead to complete the loop.

More work needs to be done on some of the trails in this loop (in addition to ongoing maintenance) so, at the moment, there's some navigating and bushwhacking required. Yet the trails are, overall, impressively good condition. The passages through the burned areas created in 2008 and 2017 are both strangely compelling and cautionary. This can be done as an overnight backpack but might be even better as a two-nighter (trailhead to Solace Meadow > Seven Lakes Basin > trailhead). The only constraint is that reliable water sources are scarce between Solace Meadow and the Seven Lakes Basin. This might not be the loop for the beginning backpacker, but it could be one for those with a few trail miles on their boots who want to see parts of the Sky Lakes Wilderness few have seen in the last 10 years!

This loop can be done either clockwise or counter-clockwise but it's much easier to go clock-wise and descend the Middle Fork Trail on the way out rather than ascend it on the way in. The mileage log below assumes you're going clockwise starting from the Middle Fork Trailhead. Going this direction - particularly during periods of high water - allows you to see if the crossing of the Middle Fork on the Halifax Trail is possible before you're too far into the loop. You either have to wade the Middle Fork (PLEASE DON'T TRY THIS AT HIGH WATER) or find a convenient log (there's a huge, walkable tree across the entire creek as of early summer 2018). Trail miles from the Middle Fork Trailhead are shown below in { }.

{0.0} Middle Fork Trailhead - start of the Middle Fork Trail #978

{3.5} Junction with the Halifax Trail #1088, turn left (east) here

{3.6} Cross the Middle Fork either by wading (NOT AT HIGH WATER or finding a convenient log. The trail continues on the far bank approximately 100 feet downstream, across from a brightly colored cliff face.

{6.7} Reach the spring at the head of Solace Meadows. This area was burned in the 2017 Blanket Creek Fire but the spring is still running, the meadow is still green, and there are good tent sites on the flat area around where the old cabin stood (it was lost to fire in 2017). You should get water here in anticipation of a long stretch of dry trail ahead.

{6.8} The Halifax Trail #1088 junctions with the McKie Camp Trail #1089, but the 2017 fire had badly damaged the start of the southbound (rehabilitated) portion of the McKie Camp Trail (the northbound portion has not been restored). But the southbound McKie crosses the slope above the old cabin site, so just go east upslope until you intersect the faint tread that remains. The further south you go, the easier it is to follow the McKie Camp Trail.

{9.8} Reach a signed junction with the PCT just west of Maude Mountain. Go south on the PCT.

{12.0} Pass a signed junction for the Middle Fork Basin Trail, which leads to Ranger Spring, one of the only reliable (perennial) water sources between here and the Seven Lakes Basin. Visiting the spring will add 1.6 miles to your trip.

{12.1} Pass a signed junction with the Sevenmile Marsh Trail #3703 which goes about 2 miles to the Sevenmile Marsh Trailhead on the east side of the wilderness.

{14.3} Cross Honeymoon Creek, a possible source of water and campsite along this stretch of the PCT.

{14.9} Reach signed junction with the northern end of the Seven Lakes Trail #981. You have the option here of continuing on the PCT (up to the left) or following the #981 right and down to Grass and Middle Lakes (popular weekend destinations).

{15.7} If you elect to stay on the PCT, you'll reach a signed junction with the Cliff Lake Trail #983. Turn right (south) here.

{16.0} A junction with the southern end of the Seven Lakes Trail #981. Continue on the #981 past Cliff Lake (some excellent campsites here).

{16.4} South Lake (some excellent campsites here).

{17.4} Signed junction with the Alta Lake Trail #979. Turn right (north) here and follow the trail past Alta Lake (good campsites on Violet Hill) and on down Gopher Ridge.

(19.0} Pass Boulder Pond (may be complelely dry by late summer).

{19.9} Pass a signed junction with the King Spruce Trail #980.

{20.4} Reach a signed junction with the upper (southern) end of the Middle Fork Trail #978. Turn right (east) and descend this trail. You will lose almost 2,000 vertical feet in a long series of switchbacks, interspersed with few, very few, level spots. The first half of the journey down is on excellent trail, while the lower half is on rocky but otherwise good trail.

{21.8} Reach the canyon bottom and start descending along (but not near) the Middle Fork. Some navigation will be required to follow the #978 from here back to its junction with the Halifax Trail. The trail may first be obscured by low-growing vegetation and sometimes crossed by trees felled by winter, then there will be a delightfully open stretch under the forest canopy, and then the trail becomes vague again as it enters the area of the 2008 fire. Navigate through this section largely by looking for the cut ends of logs that marked where trail work had been performed.

{24.4} Arrive back at the junction with the Halifax Trail.

{27.8} Arrive back at the Middle Fork Trailhead.


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • 100 Hikes / Travel Guide: Southern Oregon & Northern California by William L. Sullivan (Fourth Edition (2017), Hikes #132, #133, #134)

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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.

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