It was the driest of times; it was the moistest of times. Well, mostly moistest lately. So when the forecast shifted abruptly to “possibly clear” for the morrow’s morning and early afternoon, we felt compelled to sieze the moment. But what moment and where? After consulting the oracles (and Glenn & Carol’s website), it was decided that we should make our first visit to the 400 acre Cathedral Hills Park just southwest of Grants Pass, Oregon. Using the park’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) map, we sketched out a double lollipop with the Skycrest Loop to the north, the Outback Loop in the middle, and the Wild Rose Loop to the south.
We elected to start at the Espey Trailhead just off of Highway 238, since it featured a pit toilet amenity. There are 10 parking spaces for cars at this trailhead and all but one were taken when we got there at 0900 on a Superbowl Sunday morning! There had been sunbreaks as we drove to the trailhead but it was still a little cloudy as we started off northwest on the Outback Loop Trail. Unlike some of the places we hike in Southern Oregon, here the signage is excellent (and intact) and that, along with the BLM map, makes navigation really easy.
Despite the recent wet weather, all the trails we were on were mostly dry and only muddy in a few small areas. It’s too early for the wildflowers that this park is known for, so we just ambled along enjoying the excellent trails and the scenery. Things got even better once the clouds dissipated and the sun came out about an hour into the hike!
There were a fair number of large, old madrones along this trail,
and the bark of these trees, viewed up close, produces an amazing array of abstract designs and textures. Not having any wildflowers to distract us, we spent some time looking at madrone bark. Abstract expressionism for free! Unbeatable!
The Outback Loop Trail eventually turns northeast and climbs to a ridge top,
and from here we caught some views of Grants Pass to the north.
We came to the point where the Outback Trail doubles back on itself and here took the Timber Riders Trail for a short distance to the Skycrest Loop Trail. This took us around an unnamed peaklet through some Ponderosa pines,
and past a point where we could look west to Bolt Mountain, another short, fun hike in the Grants Pass area.
By now the sun was out, the clouds having retreated to a supporting role as atmospheric decoration, and it was feeling like a bluebird day on the trail. After completing the Skycrest Loop, we went back to the Outback Loop and followed its eastern side soutwest to the Hogsback Trail. A short but steep climb brought us to the top of a another peaklet, through an avenue of manzanitas,
past the junction with Walker Trail coming in from the Walker Trailhead, and then down to a junction with the “W” Trail.
We followed the “W” as it went southeast up toward the Wild Rose Loop,
and then went around that loop, with another view of Grants Pass,
before returning along the “W”,
to the Backside Loop Trail, which we followed back to the trailhead. Overall, a nice, easy hike (7.8 miles round-trip; 500 feet of elevation gain) on what turned-out to be a very nice day! This park is absolutely worth a return visit – likely on a weekday judging by how busy the parking lot was when we got back – once the wildflower season starts. An easy hike but one which we preferred to think of as “arduous” so as to justify a stop at Climate City Brewing in Grants Pass for restorative burgers and libations.