No better place to wait out the end of the seemingly endless 2018 Midterm election cycle than on a hike. With The LovedOne temporarily liberated from the Palace of Cellulose (i.e., the library), we set out to hike one of the smaller trails we’d by-passed on our many trips to the Upper Rogue. Of course, pie at Beckie’s Cafe on our return was a major motivating factor. The Union Creek Trail (USFS #1035) runs from Highway 62 at the Union Creek Resort upstream along Union Creek – a minor tributary of the Rogue River – for about four miles to an upper trailhead just off of Highway 62. The selling points for this hike were the creek’s variedriparian habitats, the stands of immense old-growth Douglas-firs through which the trail passes, and Union Creek Falls near the upper trailhead. The Forest Service’s website, while extolling the beauty of the creek (they were right about that) was suspiciously silent with regards the trail’s condition. We would be left to discover conditions for ourselves. Much fun ensued…
The day was crisp, but clear and sunny, as we parked at the Union Creek Rest Area, dashed across Highway 62 like dithering squirrels, and made our way to the #1035’s start behind Cabin #21 (no relation to Area 51) at the Union Creek Resort.
The height of the Fall color had passed and most of it was now on the trail.
But there were plenty of huge, old-growth trees to keep us in awe.
A mile in, we came to a massive new bridge spanning the creek. This now allows for an Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) route around the resort. Up to here, the trail had been pretty good but it now began a slow deterioration due to an obvious lack of maintenance.
And there were still plenty of big, big old trees needing a hug.
But the farther upstream we went, the more the ferns encroached on the trail. We had to push or stomp our way through them, looking for the tread underneath. There were fallen trees of different sizes too. It wasn’t like trying to work through buckbrush but it was tedious, slow, and a bit tiring.
It’s too bad that the trail is in such poor shape because Union Creek is a really pretty little creek to walk along.
About 3 miles from the parking lot, after much fern-thrashing, we came to a signed junction with the Old-Growth Trail which, judging from how high up the signage and the blue blazers are, is a nordic trail. This is apparently an alternative way back to the resort, one that stays away from the creek. We kept it in mind for our return. We continued upstream on the #1035 and almost immediately ran into a confusing mass of downed trees of different sizes, followed by more ferns. Some navigation was necessary.
Finally, about 3.5 miles in, trail conditions improved markedly and we were soon zooming (relatively speaking) upstream on forest duff without having to fight any vegetation. We passed the Tammy Kay Johnson Memorial at a nice spot where Union Creek funnels through a breach in the basalt,
continued on past an unnamed falls where the creek makes a constricted and dramatic plunge of some eight feet between walls of basalt,
to Union Creek Falls, a 10-foot high cascade spanning the creek.
Upstream we found another constricted cascade and another memorial.
We ate a late lunch at the falls, all of that fern-bashing having taken more time than expected. Now we had a decision to make – go back along the #1035 and maybe the Old-Growth Trail or not? Fighting our way back along the #1035 didn’t appeal – and it was slow – and we couldn’t be sure the Old-Growth Trail would be any better. The day was waning and the pie was waiting, so we went on to the #1035’s upper trailhead [judging from the width of the trail here, this is how most people get to the falls] and hiked west along OHV Road #42 (you need the Prospect OHV Trail System map to know this leads back to the resort),
to its junction with OHV #31 & #35,
then followed OHV #31 over to the #1035 where it passes that big new bridge and then took the trail back to the cafe for the now long anticipated pie. 😀 ❤
Our loop ended-up being 8.8 miles, with only 700 feet of elevation gain and would have been delightfully easy had the trail been clear. The Union Creek Trail follows along a beautiful creek through an amazing forest of massive old-growth trees to a nice collection of cascades and falls. The only thing wrong with it is a lack of maintenance. The Forest Service supposedly has made it a priority for refurbishment and was planning to get to it this year. We suspect all of the wildfire activity this season absorbed most of their resources and budget. Here’s hoping they get to it in 2019!