Planning an Oregon backpacking trip for April / May is a challenge if one intends to stay dry … the original Rogue River Trail (BLM site or Guide) plan was to go M-F 4 nights, but the weather had material rain Monday and more rain Thursday & Friday – so the plan was modified to leave river Thursday. The trip started in Merlin, OR at Whitewater Cowboys to drop off car key – they shuttle car back from Grave Creek TH with poor overnight parking to their parking lot and then back at TH on your exit day – for a reasonable fee. This service was fabulous and removed one potential stressor completely – vandals. Guy at counter betted against me for rain during week – I understand well after being on the river banks – vegetation was terribly dry even after 2 days of good rain.
Day 1 – Grave Creek TH to Ditch Creek Campsite
Monday was sunny, rainy, cloudy, windy, and just a great day to start the hike. Twice rain forced me under trees to wait it out and a third required the tarp to stay dry.
Close to TH is a sign indicating ‘high water’ history and that mark is WAY up from water today.
Heading downriver from Grave TH, the first mile or so wraps around the cliffs to give an idea of what follows, and the river takes center stage.
At Ditch Creek 2 other parties had camped – a solo young women on her first solo thru hike and a couple who section hike PCT – i was the last one & asked if ok to join – the site furthest from the trail is primo! View of river and water 20 ft away. It rained good and hard Monday night – thanks to Gossamer’s Solo Tarp over my tent – I stayed pretty dry, but started the day with a wet tarp and tent.
Day 2 – Ditch Creek to first jet boat (near Brushy Bar) and then back to Tucker Flat Campground
Tuesday was the long day of the hike and the weather started out overcast and foggy … worst part was the trail-side vegetation was VERY wet as did my shoes, socks and pants to knees become. I left very early and had heard reports of and seen signs of bear in this area, so when a large noise erupted from trailside, I blew my whistle over and over ….
I made it thru the bear gauntlet unscathed and past Rogue River Ranch (a marvel) arriving at Tucker Flat Campground for a decision and opportunity to dry out tarp and tent. The decision was to go up the ridge on Mule Creek, or continue around the river. After looking at Mule Creek raging down the ridge, I went around the river (the ridge trail required 2x crossing Mule Creek without bridge – unsafe and avoided).
Getting around the river to this point near mile 30 created another crisis – jet boats and expeditions.
The last pic in lower right is a jet-boat created tide pool – water only gets there when jet boat wake goes over the rocks – a new ecosystem? Wherever these town-size expeditions set up, the bears are concentrated. I made it back to Tucker Flats with a picnic table to dry out my wet, wet, very wet socks from the grasses. The same couple that camped at Ditch Creek the night before shared my site, table and stove … trail friends.
Day 3 – Tucker Flat to Big Slide campsite
Wednesday was supposed to be the hot day, so left early back thru the bear gauntlet in pre-dawn light singing “Look at Miss Ohio” (YouTube) as loud as i could – no bears. Since I had been over this portion of river the other direction, I really looked at what I had missed. The day started foggy as well, but quickly ramped up to a gorgeous day and hot.
Over the 3 days with sun, the flowers were everywhere and the Madrone trees continually amazed me.
I arrived at Big Slide (campsite) around 2:30 after 19 mile day and just parked it to watch the birds, river and catch my breath before last day. Osprey were also plentiful and I was able to watch one chase a young bald eagle out of its nesting area. Kingfishers were around most waterfalls but after watching them they fish more than they catch. Did you find the lizard in the first pic?
This was the only solo campsite with a beautiful view of the river, but sadly no drinking water without a good walk.
Day 4 – Big Slide to Rainie Falls on south side river back to Grave Creek TH (car waiting there)
Thursday started bizarrely at 4:00 with snow flakes but the warmest morning yet … by 5:30 it was raining. Quickly packing up in the rain with Nikon in its waterproof bag for first time, the exit miles were quick. Then at the TH, turned around on other side of river and hiked to Rainie Falls. WOW … wasn’t as dangerous from far away. This is the 2nd mile for rafters 🙂
Day 4 pics from iPhone SE2
I sat down at the falls for a good hour in the rain watching kingfisher. When I returned to the TH, my car was there ready for me. I had to change, unpack in car as the rain was pelting down, but another rafting party was heading out ….
Summary: Rogue River Trail is one of those trails … listen to what people say about it, poison oak, bears, poorly maintained- dangerous trails, etc … But, do your own thing! I found it fabulous for an early May outing, other hikers gracious and friendly, and the scenery beyond my expectation. Given the heat, crowds and conditions, May would be my favored month to go, and I’d use a shuttle regardless if in / out or 1 way. I am very pleased that I went (even in the rain) and recommend the trail. I traveled around 60 miles on the river over 4 days and don’t regret a single mile. After hiking the river, I would only raft it with an expert who had traveled recently – it’s not for novice imho. The hike is also not for a novice, but definitely something to add to the ‘need to hike list’.