Imagine a day of hiking in one of the countries most lush, beautiful, and remote canyons. Stepping over sparkling creeks at the base of their waterfalls, looking upward to Bald Eagles as they hunt for prey, and passing through historic mining camps as you follow the trail. At the end of the day, imagine yourself arriving at a cozy room at a remote wilderness lodge – complete with a warm bed, hot showers, and a delicious home cooked meal. Welcome to the Rogue River hiking experience, the trip of a lifetime.
The journey begins where the road ends, a quick 30-minute drive from Grants Pass. Forty miles of well-travelled, easy-to-moderate trail leads away from the parking lot and into the ‘Wild and Scenic’ corridor of the Rogue River Canyon. The moment you hit the trail, you say goodbye to cell-phones, roads, and the stress of the daily grind. You wander into a place so unique, the United States congress decided to protect it with the Wild and Scenic act in 1973.
In this pristine wilderness canyon, it is not uncommon to find yourself surrounded by ferns and lush vegetation one minute and expansive old oak and cedar groves the next. Creeks flow under bridges almost every quarter mile, giving ample opportunity to sit in the shade and watch a waterfall. As you continue on the trail, the river always runs to your left, sometimes meandering through ponds filled with turtles and geese, and sometimes rushing down exciting rapids and through deep basalt canyons. Bald and golden eagles, osprey, merganser ducks, river otter, and black bear are common sights.
Perhaps one of the most unique features of this trail is its rich history. It was originally used for over a thousand years by the regions native tribes, but as the gold rush came to Oregon the trail became a means to support small mining camps. The trail was blasted for easier access with mule trains bringing supplies to the miners, which gave it the open and easily navigable character it has to this day.
The mining operations in the canyon were only moderately successful, but when it came time to move on, many a miner couldn’t bare to leave. As a result, several homesteads popped up throughout the canyon. Originally used as farms and housing for the miners, the homesteads soon found a new purpose. A man named Glen Wooldrich became the first man to offer guided fishing trips through the canyon – and needed a place to stay. Some of the homesteads soon found their place offering a place to rest for the newly arriving anglers.
Today several of these lodges remain operational on the banks of the river, and provide for the best part of this adventure yet – a hot meal and a comfy bed. The lodges are independently owned and operated (reservations MUST be made ahead of time) and are spaced about every 10 miles or so down the trail. You receive your own room or cabin at each, but food is served family style in the main lodges, providing a great opportunity for a glass of wine and good conversation. These lodges are rich in history, and set the Rogue apart from other backpacking adventures by offering comfort in the heart of rugged wilderness.
When describing the options of this trail it is important to mention that it is available as a self-guided trip, but one unique feature of the Rogue River trail is the opportunity to have your gear shuttled by raft if needed. Several outfitters in the area offer their expertise to carry your equipment and food on rafts as you hike the trail during the day. This unique option leaves you hiking light and stress-free.
World-class beauty, nature, adventure, and history await everyday in this beautiful canyon. The best part is it is right here in our own backyard! The Rogue River canyon is a gem of Southern Oregon, and I hope you get the opportunity to come share it with me and the rest of the Rogue family. Until then, Happy trails!
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