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Backpacking the Rogue River Trail in Oregon

This past spring I convinced a few of my friends to join me on an adventure along the Rogue River Trail in Southern Oregon. My parents relocated to Grants Pass recently, so it seemed like a great way to kill two birds with one stone. I’d get to see my parents and I’d get to see some epic scenery during the low season on the river.

Rogue River backpack

Hiking In

I created an invite on my Meetup group and soon had two willing participants excited about the adventure. Later on, I invited fellow Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador JanMcEwen since she lives only a few hours away from Grants Pass.

Our motley crew set out on Good Friday to do part of the trail. We had hoped to do the entire trail but since it was low season, the shuttles were not running yet. So, my father’s neighbor let us borrow his Suburban and my dad became our impromptu shuttle driver.

Rogue River

The Mighty Rogue River

We hit the Graves Creek Trailhead about 8:00 am and began our journey with a sheer drop off into the river to our left and plenty of pointy rocks on the trail in front of us. This is an area full of rich history including murder, mining and mysteries never solved, so you’ll find old mining equipment in the river, and there are several cabins from the old mining days along the way. There are even a few areas I’d call a little bit eerie when you follow along the trail log and learn of the mayhem that once occurred in those places.

Rogue River Cabin

Old Cabin

We took our first break at the Whiskey Creek cabin a couple of miles up the trail. This is a little bit off the trail and well worth the side trip. The cabin is in pretty good shape and there’s a few things still there from when it was last used.

We continued hiking along the trail, ooohing and ahhing to our hearts content. I had to remind myself to look behind me occasionally, because the views in front were just as amazing as the ones behind us. We walked along rocky outcrops with river views, crossing tiny streams every mile or so. The trail took us through madrone forests, evergreen forests, and passed through meadows reminiscent of the opening sequence of “Little House on the Prairie”.

Rogue River Trail

Postcard View

We had the most amazing break at a spot I would have been completely content camping at if there had been space. It was a beautiful meadow with tall grass, large oak trees and a stunning view of the river. I felt like I was in a postcard.

Since we were not doing the whole trail, we had come up with a compromise. We would camp for two nights, but day hike more of the trail so we could see as much as possible. Our original plan was to hike in about 13 miles, so we could do another 7 or 8 mile hike the following day, but still be close enough to get out the third day at the planned time my father was meeting us to bring us home.

We camped at Meadow Creek, 13.2 miles in. It was a pretty campsite with easy access to water, as well as plenty of campsites for the tents. Due to the insane amount of poison oak, I hung my hammock up top where the trees were more plentiful and the risk of exposure to poison oak was minimal.

Poison oak? Yes! I have never seen so much poison oak as I have on this trail. It was littered with the stuff, which made finding places to stop to rest or use the “facilities” a bit of a challenge. Thank goodness our campsite had an outhouse to use.

Once we all set up camp, we went around to check out each other’s setup. A few of us were trying out new gear on this trip. Jan was trying out her Gossamer Gear Air Beam mattress for the first time. Brooke had a new bivy set up. I was trying out a new hammock from Simply Light Designs sans bug netting. It’s always fun to geek out about gear and these ladies were the best!

Dinner was another bit of show and tell, as we compared notes on what we had for dinner. Jan had some amazing food, which she had dehydrated herself. I was doing the usual freezer bag meals I had made myself, while Leea and Brooke went the Mountain House route. It was a wee bit chilly at night, so we had a nice fire while we relaxed.

wildlife

Another Minimalist Shelter

The next day, we had a quick breakfast, and set off for Zane Grey’s Cabin, about 4 miles away. This part of the trail went through more forested stretches and moved inland away from the river until we descended to the piece of land where the cabin is. It’s a huge grassy field, which apparently you can land a small plane on! While the property around the cabin is private, we were able to find a spot near the water to have our lunch.

I was nursing a blister, so I chose to head back to camp for a nap and some quiet time. The rest of the crew continued another 2 miles along the trail to Quail Creek before turning back as well.

Bear

Chocolate Easter Bear

I had a great nap in my hammock, and we enjoyed another evening together, sharing stories around the campfire. Leea brought some Easter goodies for dessert and I went to bed pretty content from the day’s adventures.

The next morning, we packed up our gear, had a quick breakfast and headed out, trying to meet the 2:00 pm deadline we had set with my dad to meet us at the trailhead. Jan was heading back to Northern California the same day, and we were heading back to Portland, so we all had a long day ahead of us.

The trail was just as gorgeous going back. We stopped less often, but we still had time to take pictures of lizards, snakes, flowers, rock croppings and the river. We did take a nice extended stop at Whiskey River because we knew the remainder of the trail was going to be exposed, rocky and tough. Brooke aka “Blazer” led the way, with Jan aka “Beekeeper” and I “Chatterbox or Badger” making up the middle and Leea “Go Go Boots” bringing up the rear.

hike Rogue River Trail

Hiking Out

We made it back to the trailhead at Graves Creek with plenty of time to spare and took a celebratory photo, just as my parents arrived to whisk us away to their house so we could pack up and head home. This backpack trip led us thirsting to finish the trail in its entirety, so we will be adding this to our agenda for next year!

Trail Information: Rogue River National Recreation Trail

  • 40 miles one way
  • These are the best sites for information: Forest Service Trail Log and BLM Info
  • Sadly, I can’t recommend a shuttle service as none of them were operating or returned my phone calls.

This trip report was written by former Trail Ambassador Heather Knight

2 Responses to Backpacking the Rogue River Trail in Oregon

  1. Forrest October 30, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    The Rogue is one of my favorites. When we were living in Portland, it always made for a great early season trip, while the trails in the mountains were still covered in snow (yeah, a bit of a drive from pdx). Love the landscape and foliage of southwest Oregon — the Madrones and other year-round leafy trees always made it seem like summer, even in February or March.

  2. JimT October 31, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    I went to high school in Grants Pass and have been down the trail from Graves Creek to below Rainey Falls. I think there used to be a couple of old timers who lived in the cabin at Whiskey Creek. We watched one of them come across the river in a boat followed by a pet deer who was swimming dutifully along behind! I believe this event happened the summer of 1971.

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