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Hiking Oregon’s Rogue River Trail

If there is such a thing as magic, it is surely found on southern Oregon’s spectacular Rogue River hiking trial. Hikers from all over the world come to experience this protected trail…and yet you will rarely see another hiking group on the trail…true magic. This moderately difficult trail hike is unique because over the course of the four-day experience, you can stay each night in riverside wilderness lodges. Rooms are double occupancy; with hot showers and real beds. Superb family-style dining is the hallmark of each of the lodges.

Contracting through a designated Rogue River outfitter offers an alternative view of the wild & scenic Rogue River Canyon; guided trekking on the Rogue River trail. You get the best of both worlds: trekking through one of the nation’s finest river canyons and the comfort of wilderness lodges each night. The outfitter packs your heavy gear in a river raft, provides a wonderful riverside lunch each day and a trail guide to ensure the group’s safety. All you need is your daypack, camera, and water bottle.

The Rogue Canyon trail offers an excellent scenic experience as the trial meanders through “enchanted forests,” open meadows of wildflowers, and dramatic viewpoints along rocky crags. Black bear, osprey, bald eagle and deer are to be seen throughout the canyon. The wild & scenic section of the Rogue was one of the first river canyons brought under protection of the national wild & scenic rivers act. So, today, there are limits on the numbers of guests who can travel through the canyon each day thus protecting this Oregon natural treasure.

The trail is well maintained and in good condition during the spring and early summer months. Elevation of the trail is below 1,000 feet. Grades are generally mild. On the first and last day of the 4-day hike you will find steeper areas with a number of switchbacks. During the middle of the hike, much of the trail is level or nearly level. A small portion of the trail is cut into rock cliffs with exposed drop-offs. The trail follows the river, sometimes near the river, other times higher up the canyon. The average distance covered each day is 10 miles with the second day being the longest hike at about 15 miles. The daily distance is a moderate walk for a person in good physical condition, provides reasonable time during the day for viewing the surroundings, photographing the incredible scenery, and enjoying a leisurely riverside lunch.

Your historic hiking trip begins at Grave Creek…the start of the wild and scenic section of the famous Rogue River. The first five miles of the trail are quite rocky…so wear appropriate hiking boots. You will finish the first day at Black Bar Lodge…almost a 10-mile day hike.

The second day you will see magnificent views of the river’s rapids and come upon several historic sites. Near the end of this day’s 15- mile hike, you will find the beautiful Rogue River Ranch. Visitors are welcome to stroll the Ranch’s well-maintained grounds and look inside its museum (note, in the summer of 2007 the Ranch was closed but it is expected to open again in 2008). Just a little over a mile from the Ranch is Marial Lodge where you will rest and relax for the evening.

The third day gives you more spectacular views of the river…with a famous look at Mule Creek Canyon and the gorgeous Stair Creek Falls. Experience it all on this day with a cool walk through the “enchanted forest,” and even try out the Tate Creek slide. You’ll walk about 8.5 miles on this day and end your journey at Clay Hill Lodge surrounded by beautiful views of the Tacoma “still waters.”

Your fourth hiking day is short but includes the steepest part of the trial with many switchbacks. Wear long pants to ward off the poison oak that is prevalent along the trial’s edge. You’ll reach your takeout point by early afternoon (Foster Bar) and, if you are traveling with a Rogue River outfitter, you will enjoy a 2.5 hour scenic drive back to your waiting vehicle at the Galice Resort.

Tips: If you do not own trail boots, it is a good idea to note the following specifications: buy your boots long before the trip. Wear them as much as possible to break them in. Good ankle support is important. A handy trick for insuring foot comfort is carrying a spare set of socks in your daypack. Clothing should be loose fitting and allow for full movement.

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