ashland.news
July 14, 2024

KS Wild Side: Southern Oregon hiking season has arrived

KS Wild hikes
A flowing creek in the Red Buttes Wilderness, an area notable for its big trees. Michael Dotson
June 15, 2024

Now’s the time to get out and see big trees, flowing waters and blooming wildflowers

By Michael Dotson

Warm weather has arrived in Southern Oregon, and that means recreation is here. June is a great month to get out onto local public lands and trails, and there are plenty of hiking options for folks to enjoy with a quick drive out of the Rogue Valley.

A summer swimming hole along the Upper Rogue River Trail. Haleigh Martin photo

From mountain wildflowers to epic swimming holes to giant trees, there is plenty to soak in on trails across the region. The staff at the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center encourages you to check out our hike offerings this summer (on our website at kswild.org/events) and join us on the trail. For those wanting to embark on their own adventure, I’m excited to share a few of my favorite hikes that represent some of the best nature this region has to offer. 

For big trees

If you’re a fan of big trees and old forests, I highly recommend picking up Michael Kauffmann’s book “Conifer Country.” It features several dozen hikes throughout southwest Oregon and northwest California’s conifer forests, including hikes in the Red Buttes Wilderness.

The Klamath Siskiyou is a region known for its plant diversity. One of my favorite hikes to see big trees is the Butte Fork trail in the Red Buttes Wilderness. Located about 10 miles south of Applegate Lake in the far northern extremes of California, you can easily access this hike at the Shoofly Trailhead in the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest. Over a span of 8 to 9 miles (one way), you ascend the trail gradually from the banks of the Butte Fork of the Applegate River and end up at Azalea Lake. Along the way, you can spy a diverse array of old-growth trees — from lower-elevation sugar pines to mid-elevation ponderosa pines and Douglas firs. As you near Azalea Lake and marvel at big lodgepole pines, Cedar Basin features some gigantic cedars lining a series of meadows. 

This underwater mushroom (Psathyrella aquatica) is said to be found in the upper Rogue River and nowhere else in the world! Little is known about the species and its underwater survival, but it surely is fascinating. Haleigh Martin photo
For flowing waters 

One of my favorite river hikes is quite popular in the summer, especially on weekends, but the views and cool water are a delight on a hot day. In the vicinity of Union Creek, the Upper Rogue River Trail has numerous access points across a 43-mile stretch of trail. There are several out-and-backs and small loops that can be done, and the trail follows along the river, where you’ll find plenty of swimming holes to enjoy. The water flows clear and cold year-round up here, so don’t be shocked to see water temps in the low-60s even on the hottest days of the summer. Along the way, hikers are treated to unique water features, such as Rogue River Natural Bridge, where water churns and turns through a series of old lava tubes. In late summer, keep a close eye on underwater sand bars near the Woodruff Bridge area. Here, you might find an underwater mushroom, which is said to be the only one of its kind in the world!

 

For mountain wildflowers

One of my favorite wildflower hikes is along a beautiful stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), several miles west of Mount Ashland. Big Red Mountain is a large serpentine outcrop on the Siskiyou Crest, and this 7-mile loop is best for wildflowers in early to mid-July. in some years, the bear grass bloom is quite abundant and makes this one of my favorite wildflower hikes anywhere. If you’re interested in seeing this stretch of the Siskiyou Crest and the PCT, I’ll be leading a hike on Saturday, July 6, and you can sign up on KS Wild’s website

Bear grass abloom on Big Red Mountain, an ideal place for a wildflower hike, on the Siskiyou Crest. Michael Dotson photo

No matter where you find yourself hiking, or enjoying public lands this summer, please remember to practice Leave No Trace principles. Take plenty of pictures and leave only footprints. 

KS Wild Side appears every month and features a staff member from KS Wild, a regional conservation organization based in Ashland. Michael Dotson works as the executive director for KS Wild. For more information go to kswild.org.

Picture of Jim

Jim


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The Siskiyou Crest Coalition is hosting a fundraiser Saturday afternoon, July 13, at a private conserved property on the slopes of Mount Ashland owned by Mark Newberger. A butterfly species list is being compiled for the property, which will be the subject of an upcoming article in the North American Butterfly Association magazine and will be a nominee for NABA butterfly garden of the year. 
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