The Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness is a sliver of land that runs roughly north to south just west of Crater Lake National Park on the west side of the divide (the divide’s east side is national forest land beset with Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) trails). Like a lot of the smaller and less well know wilderness areas, some spots (Abbott Butte, Fish Lake) are very popular while the rest only rarely feel the hiker’s boot. We began exploring this wilderness earlier this year with hikes along Muir Creek in the north and to Abbott Butte in the south. Unfortunately, the National Creek Complex fire poured heavy smoke into this area and, for a time, closed Highway 230 and access to all the eastern trailheads. With the fire now contained (but still burning within that containment), the highway again open, and the smoke mostly cleared, now seemed like a good time to visit the Hershberger Mountain Lookout and some of the trails north of there. These are Hikes #9 and #30 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd Edition). Update: This area was burned by the 2017 TL Pup 316 Fire (one of the High Cascade Complex Fires).
The last 8 miles or so – particularly the last mile – of the access road is rough, rocky, and high centered – slow and serious work for any low-slung sedan – which probably accounts for the pristine condition of the lookout. I parked where the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail (USFS #1470) intersects the road and walked up the last bit of road to the lookout.
Despite the early morning cloud deck, I had some views.
It looks like the National Creek Fire will linger until we get some rain (it did). 😦 After taking in these views, I walked back down the road to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail – one which runs generally along the divide between Huckleberry Gap to the south and Three Lakes to the north. From what little of it I’ve been able to hike so far, the tread quality of the #1470 ranges from very good to nearly non-existant – so doing the whole trail as a backpack could be an adventure.
After a short hike on the #1470 through Fall color,
I came to its junction with the Rocky Rim Trail (USFS #1572), the full length of which does not appear on most maps of this area. Turning north on the #1572,
I soon crossed one of the meadows that characterize this wilderness,
and got a great view of Highrock Mountain to the west. By now the morning clouds had dissipated and the usual full bluebird day was fully on.
About 2.5 miles from where I’d left the truck, I made my way around the east side of Standoff Point (6,042 feet), along some truly spectacular basalt/ash cliffs, following a line of weakness below a solid band of basalt (which reminded me just a little of the traverse to Mount Whittier near Mount Saint Helens).
I then passed through a brief stretch of cool, north-facing forest,
before emerging to views from narrow, open Rocky Ridge.
After lunch atop Point 6075 (from here the #1572 trail starts its descent to the Beaver Swamp Trailhead), I re-traced my steps along the #1572, catching a little more Fall color along the way.
On the drive out, I caught a glimpse of the gigantic volcanic plugs that form the Rabbit Ears.
A moderate (10 miles round-trip; 1,000 feet of elevation gain) but very interesting hike, what with the pillars at Standoff Point and the views from Rocky Ridge. And, of course, the charmingly well-preserved lookout. The downside is the challenging road access – which likely helps protect the lookout on one hand but lessens enthusiasm for a short trail like the #1572 on the other. It’s possible to do this as a loop from Beaver Swamp Trailhead (Sullivan’s Hike #9) – something we’ll have to look into on a future hike. 😀