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Rogue Wolf Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Revision as of 21:07, 17 June 2018 by VanMarmot (Talk | contribs)

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: 27.9 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 (DO NOT 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.

{6.5} Trail joins with another old road (BLM Road 32-11-25.1)

{7.2} Arrive at gravel FR 230; go left on the road for several hundred feet to the Buck Point Trailhead and the unsigned start of the Panther Ridge Trail #1253

{8.0} Panther Creek Camp, stream that probably dries up sometime in the spring. If this stream is dry, go back to mile 7.3, then down the road which goes along Buck Creek which has water later in the season.

{8.9} Unsigned junction with the spur trail to Hanging Rock - mileage from here on assumes you visited the Rock

{9.2} Pass a poorly signed junction with a side trail (#1113 or #1253-A) coming in from the Hanging Rock Trailhead; continue straight-ahead (west)

{12.4} Sign and faint trail going north to Panther Camp Meadow

{14.5} Junction with the spur trail to Clay Hill Trailhead and then soon thereafter a well-signed junction with the Clay Hill Trail #1160A

{17.1} Thomas homestead is on a short use trail to the right. This is also your first source of reliable water since leaving the West Fork Mule Creek. There are two streams visible from trail.

{18.2} Junction with the Rogue River Trail #1160 near Clay Hill Creek - an excellent source of water

{19.0} Tate Creek - reliable water and one small backpacker campsite

{21.1} Brushy Bar campsites - large, level sites; bear boxes; pit toilets; creek water; river access possible

{21.3} Brushy Bar Guard Station; Devils Backbone Trail #1162 sign

{24.1} Paradise Bar & Lodge (cold sodas and beer available for sale)

{25.3} Blossom Bar - excellent campsites with easy river access; creek water

{27.1} Mule Creek Canyon

{29.2} Arrive back at Tucker Flat


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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