Rattlesnake Mountain (Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness) 27-Oct-2015

Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Even though it’s written up in two prominent guidebooks (Hike #40 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd Edition) and Hike #30 in Bernstein & Urness’ Hiking Southern Oregon (2014)), this is one of those quirky little hikes that wouldn’t necessarily be on your “must do list.” But it exploits a weakness (more like a failing) in the wilderness designation system that lets a forest road (Forest Road (FR) 870) penetrate deeply into the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness, which gives you access to big views with minimal hiking effort. So it seemed like a interesting short hike we could do before an approaching weather front reached us.

Some driving on reasonably decent gravel roads brought us to Happy Campsite (a pit toilet and two picnic tables) near the end of FR 870. We parked there and walked back down the road about 300 feet to a junction with the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail (USFS #1470), a trail of varying quality that runs north-south along the length of the wilderness.

Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon
One of the few signs still (almost) intact

That trail took us down into one of the meadows that line the Fish Creek Valley, from where we got our first clear look at Rattlesnake Mountain – the trail to the summit goes up the left ridge. The day started out sunny but would soon cloud over ahead of our first snow storm of the season.

Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon
Rattlesnake Mountain

Trails through meadows in this area have a tendency to disappear into the vegetation, so some navigation is performed by following large cairns.

Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon
Following large cairns through the meadow

About 0.7 miles north on the #1470, we came to its unsigned junction with the Whitehorse Meadows Trail (USFS #1477), which took us uphill to Windy Gap on the southern shoulder of Rattlesnake Mountain and to a junction with the Rattlesnake Mountain Way Trail (USFS #1497). Curiously, the Forest Service map did not show the #1497 reaching Windy Gap.

Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon
One of the few signs remaining

We turned right (north) and followed the #1497 up through forest and meadow,

Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon
Up the #1497

to Rattlesnake’s summit. A 30-foot pole L-4 tower fire lookout was built here in 1933.  It had the dubious distinction of being destroyed in the 1962 Columbus Day hurricane.

Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon
The summit of Rattlesnake

By now high clouds had come in and reduced the sky to a milky, photo-killing overcast. A cold wind had also started but there were still some views to be had.

Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon
Fish Creek Valley below Fish Mountain
Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon
Mount Scott (S), Llao Rock (L), The Watchman (W), and Mount Garfield (G) around Crater Lake to the east
Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon
Mount Garfield (G), Crater Peak (C), and Union Peak (U) to the south
Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon
Hershberger Lookout (H) and Standoff Point (S)
Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon
Mount McLoughlin (M) peeks over Fish Mountain

After a cold, hence brief, lunch on the summit, we headed back down the #1477.

Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon
Descending, with Mount Thielsen in the distance

Once back at Windy Gap, we continued on an un-numbered tie trail to the Castle Creek Trail (USFS #1576) and followed it downhill to Happy Camp.

Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon
Down the Castle Creek Trail

When we’d first parked at Happy Camp, we couldn’t find any sign for the Castle Creek Trail and just started off hoping it would arrive back at the trailhead as described in the guidebooks. As we were approaching the trailhead on our return, we found the shotgun-blasted pieces of the sign in the bushes and re-assembled it as best we could. While we don’t have problems with responsible gun owners or hunters, we do have one with the intellectually, socially, and morally deficient douchebags who use the few signs the Forest Service puts up as targets! Arrragh!!! 👿 👿

Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon
The re-assembled sign

A short, but fun, hike (6 miles round-trip; 1,750 feet of elevation gain) to a nice viewpoint and one that could be combined with another short hike (like Abbott Butte) to make a full day of hiking in this area. We’d suggest doing either on a clear, sunny day for BIG views!

Rattlesnake Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon
Our short trip to Rattlesnake Mountain

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