Hiking trails follow Southern Oregon’s Rogue River for approximately 100 of the 215 miles it runs between its source at Boundary Springs (near Crater Lake National Park) and the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach, Oregon. Some of these trails are much hiked, others are almost unknown. We’d hiked all of them except for the Lower Rogue River Trail (USFS #1168) which follows the river for 12 miles from Agness, Oregon to near Gold Beach. The coast was experiencing perfect Fall hiking weather this week and the #1168 had recently been almost completely rehabilitated (by the Forest Service, with help from the Wild Rivers Coast Mountain Biking Association). So we worked out a plan to have The LovedOne drop me at the eastern trailhead in Agness and pick me up at the new western trailhead on Forest Road (FR) 3533 near Gold Beach. In the interim, she’d enjoy the beach at Gold Beach.
The eastern trailhead is on the unpaved part of Cougar Lane in Agness. Coming in on County Road 375, we made a right turn between the new Post Office and the old Agness Store (sadly now closed), crossed the landing strip, and went to near the end of pavement on Cougar Lane. The LovedOne dropped me off there and I walked the short distance down to the start of the trail. The #1168 had been almost completely rehabilitated this year – fallen trees cleared, tread refreshed, some re-routes around private land. Some of the bridges need a little work – and the one at Slide Creek is gone – but, overall, the #1168 was a joy to hike. The only thing it doesn’t do – unlike the more famous Rogue River Trail upstream – is get very close to the river very often. Which is understandable since, back in the day when this trail was the only access to the coast, it had to be above the Spring floods – when the Rogue (before it was dammed upstream) could rise as much as 60 feet.
From the start, the trail went up and around some private property before crossing a small bridge near Smith Hole. These bridges, most with the name of their creek on them, were charming features of this hike.
A little over a mile from the trailhead, near Smith Riffle, the trail made it’s closest approach to the river. I may have been the only person hiking today but there were several people fishing from boats on the river.
The majority of this hike is under a forest canopy composed of tall examples of several tree species, including some 500-year old Douglas firs and huge madrones. The understory is usually thick with ferns and other shade-loving species. The earthy, rich, sweet fragrance generated by all this vegetation is intoxicating.
About 1.5 miles in, I crossed Blue Jay Creek, was diverted around yet more private property, crossed Smithers Creek, and then Morris Rodgers Creek on a classic Waddell “A” truss bridge.
Past Morris Rodgers Creek, the trail climbs to a high point where I could see both up- and downriver. This isn’t the highest point on the trail but it is the one with the best view. It would make a great destination for an out-and-back hike from Agness.
The trail past the high point clings to the side of the cliff, some 200 feet above the river. It must have been gripping to lead a string of pack animals through here back in the day.
Once safely past the cliff, I crossed Painted Rock Creek,
and then Stonehouse Creek, which has a massive boulder at the east end of its bridge.
After Stonehouse Creek, I crossed bridges over Florence and Sundown Creeks, contoured along well above the river,
noted some of the considerable work that had been done to clear the trail,
crossed Bridge Creek (the bridge sign says Ran Creek),
and then traversed the only piece of open prairie I’d see all day.
Shortly after this, I connected with a piece of old road that took me past the south end of Adams Prairie (site of an old Curry County homestead and school), around some more private land, and on through cathedrals of trees, old-growth, and huge oaks.
I crossed Tom East Creek,
and then Auberry Creek (whose waterfall was marred by someone’s private water tank and piping), saw a an impressively large lizard,
then crossed Dog Creek and then Slide Creek (the only one whose bridge was completely gone). Just past Slide Creek, the trail makes a sharp, unsigned turn to the right (north) and climbs steeply to pass above some more private land. After that, I caught one last glimpse of the river,
by-passed the old trailhead on FR 3533-340 and continued on through some Fall color,
to reach The LovedOne waiting for me at the new trailhead at the end of FR 3533. A solid hike (12.8 miles; 1,900 feet of elevation gain), with several up and down parts and long stretches of contouring under the canopy. A wonderful hike and a great way to end our six year saga of hiking the Trails of the Rogue River!