Sadly, as of May 2019, the trail from Crater Rim Viewpoint to Natural Bridge Viewpoint has yet to see any maintenance and remains difficult to find and follow due to fading tread, missing bridges, fallen trees, and encroaching brush. The section from Natural Bridge to River Bridge, which passes the popular Takelma Gorge, still provides relatively clear and easy hiking.
The Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) is a National Recreation Trail that roughly parallels the Main (or North) Fork of the Rogue River for about 47 miles from near its headwaters at Boundary Springs to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area outside of Prospect, Oregon. This trail can be thru-hiked but is more often hiked in sections, each of which is readily accessible from Highways 62 or 230. We hiked our first section of the #1034, the northern-most, in 2012 and sometime after that finishing the whole thing became a bit of an obsession. We should have seen this coming since I’m sufficiently compulsive to finish almost every project I start. This behavior has proved to be both a strength and a weakness, depending on how you look at it – but it does make for a lot of hiking, which is a universal good. So, here is a summary – in section order from north to south – of our five-year, ~49+ mile mission to hike where many have hiked before…
Crater Rim (Mazama) Viewpoint to Boundary Springs
We did this trail (USFS #1057) in 2012. Although not part of the Upper Rogue River Trail, the #1057 takes you (5 miles round-trip) to the headwaters of the Main (or North) Fork of the Rogue River – the river really does start by shooting right out of the ground. This is Hike #21 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon guide (3rd Edition). Unfortunately, in August 2015, the National Creek Complex Fire burned across the Boundary Springs area, taking out about half of the trees along the entire trail. The #1057 presumably reopened in August 2016 but it would be a good idea to check its actual status with the High Cascades Ranger District in Prospect, Oregon.
Crater Rim (Mazama) Viewpoint to Hamaker Campground
We hiked this 8.6 mile section in March 2015 (post). This is also Hike #41 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon guide (3rd Edition). At that time, we found this section to be in good condition – generally clear of ravel and blowdown and thus easy to find and follow. The August 2015 National Creek Complex Fire burned this entire section, but killed only about half of the trees. Trail crews cleared fallen logs in August 2016 between Hamaker Campground and No Name Falls but the area around Rough Rider Falls was still clogged with fallen trees as of September 2016. So, here again, it would be a good idea to check its actual status with the High Cascades Ranger District in Prospect, Oregon. Some folks profess to be OK with burned-over forests – natural cycle and all that – but we’re not. So with fire seasons expected to increase and intensify, we’re starting to feel (sadly) some pressure to hike trails before they’re gone.
Hamaker Campground to Foster Creek
I did this 8.9 mile section in September 2016, finding that the trail was in vastly better condition than expected (post). The highlights along this section include some rapids and a small waterfall, large pumice/ash cliffs, and the remarkably large Hamaker Meadow.
Foster Creek to Big Bend Trailhead
We hiked this 7.7 mile section in May 2016 (post). At that time, the trail was in terrible condition and the going slow and uncertain. This section was definitely worth doing, if for no other reason than the unique views of the ash/pumice bluffs that are cut through by the river. But it was more than a little discouraging to see a National Recreation Trail so poorly maintained.
Big Bend Trailhead to Natural Bridge Viewpoint
We also hiked this 7.0 mile section in March 2015 (post). At that time, we found this section to be in good condition – generally clear of ravel and blowdown and thus easy to find and follow. The Natural Bridge Campground and parking area doesn’t usually open until Memorial Day Weekend, so if you go earlier, you may have to park at Union Creek.
Natural Bridge Viewpoint to Woodruff Bridge Campground / Woodruff Bridge Campground to River Bridge Campground
In June 2016, we combined these two sections into one 8.1 mile hike (post). These are popular sections of the #1034, so the trail here is well-maintained and easy to follow. The Takelma Gorge, where the river makes an abrupt 90 degree turn, is a justifiably popular attraction in this section.
River Bridge Campground to North Fork Dam Recreation Area
We hiked this ~6.1 mile section (post) in September 2016. The trail, which was in good condition, briefly parallels the river, then climbs above it on to a bluff (you can always hear the river but can rarely see it), then goes away from the river to bypass private land, and finally rejoins the river (which is now restrained by a small diversion reservoir) at the North Fork Dam Recreation Area, which marks the end of the #1034. A 0.5 mile gravel access road, which connects this recreation area to Highway 62, is immediately south of the USFS ranger station outside Prospect, Oregon.
North Fork Dam Recreation Area to Lost Creek Lake
Although the Upper Rogue River Trail #1034 officially ends at the North Fork Dam, it is said (per Sullivan) to be possible to go from the end of the #1034 to Lost Creek Lake at the Peyton Bridge Trailhead About half this journey – from near the South Fork Confluence to Peyton Bridge, is on a trail that the Corps refers to as the “Rogue River Trail” – a name they also give to the two trails that go around the north and south shores of the lake. The Corps’ “Rogue River Trail” ends at Casey State Park below the dam impounding the lake and does not connect with the much more famous Rogue River Trail 45-miles further west. Confused? Anyway, we finally tackled the North Fork Dam to Lost Lake section in 2017 (post) and most of it proved to be little used and not very aesthetic. It’s certainly doable, but why you’d want to do it wasn’t at all clear to us.