Grants Pass Area Hiking Oregon Trip report

Eight Dollar Mountain and Illinois River Beaches – 05/04/2023

For our fourth day of hikes in the Grants Pass area we had chosen a series of short hikes along the Illinois River which would allow us to check off two more featured hikes (post). Going in we knew that our hikes wouldn’t exactly match Sullivan’s description in the featured hikes because of a closure of the Swinging Bridge which is part of the Fall Creek Trail. Repairs need to be made to fix a hole in the bridge so it is currently under a closure order until 10/31/23 (may be lifted sooner). Several of the hikes we had planned were also in the path of the 2018 Klondike Fire so we weren’t sure what condition the trails might be in.

Our first stop at the Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Area was not in the fire scar.

From the parking area we crossed 8 Dollar Road and hiked 0.1-miles to a small, two parking spot, ADA Trailhead where a 0.2-mile boardwalk led to a Fen with California darlingtonia.


Halls' violetsWedgeleaf violets

20230504_070151Showy phlox

20230504_070159Oregon rockcress


Many of the flowers were just getting started but there were a few darlingtonia blooming in the fen. This was our second stop this year that involved the Cobra lilies, having visited the Darlingtonia Wayside near Florence in April (post).
IMG_7430Camas and buttercups

IMG_7433Shooting star

IMG_7441Western azalea


IMG_7448The fen at the end of the boardwalk.

IMG_7449A darlingtonia blossom.

The trailhead where we parked also acts as the trailhead for the Jeffrey Pine Loop Trail, so after returning from the boardwalk we started down this trail.

Our plan for this trail was to follow it NW for 1.2-miles to the Little Falls Trail Loop. The Jeffery Pine Trail drops to the Illinois River then follows the route of a former flume to the Little Falls Loop Trail. We were a little apprehensive knowing that we’d be hiking along the Illinois River once again. Our only previous hike along the river was a bit of a nightmare (post). We had stumbled into some sort of tick convention and spent nearly the entire hike brushing the little blood suckers off our clothing. Add in a good amount of poison oak crowding the trail and let’s just say this wasn’t one of our best experiences. That being said the Illinois River itself is beautiful, so we were willing to give it another chance. The scenery was nice and there were a number of wildflowers along the trail as we headed down toward the river.
IMG_7457We stayed right at this junction just below the trailhead. There is a 0.5-mile loop option which we planned on skipping.

IMG_7462Death camas

IMG_7465Mariposa lily

IMG_7466Yellow leaf iris

IMG_7469Coast flat stem onion

IMG_7471Heather picked up a tick passing through the grass on the hillside.

We turned right at a sign for the Little Falls Trail Loop.


Silky balsamrootSilky balsamroot

The trail crossed an old roadbed at the half mile mark which gave us a chance to get down to the river without having to dodge poison oak.

The trail jogged away from the river at the road, presumably to reach the old flume. We started up the hill but the trail condition got a little rougher here and poison oak began crowding the trail to the point where we became uncomfortable. We had already had it brushing against our pant legs, but it was now tall enough that our hands were at risk and in order to avoid it we would need to move off trail into the brush on the opposite side. Having already seen a tick we didn’t really want to go through any vegetation.
IMG_7489The trail as we started up the hillside.

We quickly devised a Plan B which was to follow the old roadbed up to 8 Dollar Road (Forest Road 4201) and walk that road to the Little Falls Trailhead where we could attempt the 0.9-mile Little Falls Loop.
IMG_7492Checker lily

IMG_7493Silky balsamroot and buttercups

IMG_7495Paintbrush and silky balsamroot with the Illinois River below.

IMG_7497Eight Dollar Mountain from the roadbed.

IMG_7498We saw a lot of these getting ready to bloom but none actually blooming. Really curious as to what they are.

The roadbed bent back toward the trailhead where we’d parked and we wound up just a tenth of a mile away from our car but instead of just walking back to it and driving to the Little Falls Trailhead we turned left and road walked the mile.

As road walks go this one was fine, and we passed another bunch of darlingtonia along the way.
IMG_7504Western azalea


IMG_7507A closer look at a darlingtonia blossom.


At the trailhead we walked through the small campground to the signed Little Falls Trail Loop.

At a 4-way junction we turned right briefly following the flume before turning downhill toward the river.

Serpentine arnicaSerpentine arnica


California gromwellCalifornia gromwell

IMG_7524Wedgeleaf violet

IMG_7527Spotted towhee


IMG_7532Paintbrush and violets


IMG_7538Narrowleaf blue-eyed Mary

IMG_7541Deltoid balsamroot

IMG_7542Illinois River

IMG_7547Field chickweed

IMG_7548Spreading phlox

We took use paths down to the rocks near Little Falls to explore along the river a bit.

IMG_7551Mallard drakes




After exploring the rocks we continued on the loop trail.
IMG_7573Pool above the falls.

IMG_7570Wildflowers above the trail.



IMG_7581Interesting colors on this iris.

Pine violetPine violets

The trail eventually veered uphill away from the river to complete the loop.

After completing the loop we returned to FR 4201 and walked back to our car at the Eight Dollar Mountain Trailhead and headed for our next stop, the Kerby Flat Trailhead.


The view from the trailhead was great and wound up being the best part of our attempted hike here.
IMG_7601Pearsoll Peak and Gold Basin Butte in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

The trail begins at the railed viewpoint and heads downhill.


IMG_7610The Illinois River below.



At first the trail followed what may have been a fire road and was nice and wide but as it began to follow a ridge downhill it quickly became crowded by poison oak.

We managed to find a way around the first bad section but then we were stymied. With no desire to come in contact with poison oak we turned back after just a third of a mile and headed back to the car.
IMG_7623This section was great.


This stop was supposed to have been a 4.3-mile lollipop loop visiting both Kerby and Star Flats, but it wound up being a 0.6-mile out-and-back. The good news was we had three other stops that were part of Sullivan’s featured Illinois River Beaches hike. The second stop was for Snailback Beach, just a 1.1-mile drive from the Kerby Flat Trailhead. We parked in a small pullout on the left side of the road at a small signboard.

Here a half mile trail follows an old roadbed down to Snailback Beach. This hike started encouragingly as the wide roadbed helped keep the poison oak to the sides.

IMG_7630Female black-headed grosbeak


IMG_7634Paintbrush next to some yet-to-bloom lupine.

IMG_7635The Illinois River below.

Our optimism about reaching the beach here took a hit when we arrived at Snailback Creek. The creek was flowing pretty good and would have required fording in calf deep water to continue. Normally that wouldn’t stop us, but it also looked like the trail on the far side was in need of maintenance which made us question if we would be able to reach the beach even if we did ford the creek. At the time the chance of reaching the beach wasn’t worth the assuredly wet feet that would result from the ford, so we once again turned back after just a third of a mile.

IMG_7639Snailback Creek

We hiked back up to the car and drove another 1.6-miles west on Illinois River Road to the signed Horn Bend Trailhead.
IMG_7643The “trail” is immediately to the left of the sign here. You can make out some of it further back through the bushes.

This trail supposedly follows the road for 0.4-miles before turning downhill on a cat road that leads to the beach. The 2018 fire (this area also burned in 2002) damage was most evident on what was left of this trail. Heather decided not to even bother opting to wait at the car while I attempted to make the 0.7-mile hike down to the river.
IMG_7644After crashing through the initial brush the trail cleared for a moment.

IMG_7645The clear trail didn’t last long.

IMG_7648Fawn lilies

IMG_7650The road sign in the distance was easier to see than the trail here.

Poison oak and downed trees forced me off the tread and after just 0.2-miles I’d lost any sign of it.

I’d also picked up one tick as I wandered through the brush so enough was enough and I found a break in the poison oak where I could hop onto the road and followed the shoulder back to Heather and the car.

We had one stop left from the featured hike description, the Swinging Bridge which we knew was closed. While the bridge was closed Forest Road 087 was not and it led down to the river past the bridge so we had decided to road walk down and at least see the bridge. From the Horn Bend Trailhead we drove another 4.2-miles and parked at a pullout at Road 087.

We hiked down the gravel road a half mile, passing the Fall Creek Trailhead along the way, to the bridge.

IMG_7658Dogwood blossoms

IMG_7660The Fall Creek Trailhead to the left.

IMG_7661The car bridge across the Illinois River to McCaleb Ranch. Technically we could have continued down to that bridge and crossed on it then turned left onto the Fall Creek Trail for a half mile to Illinois River Falls, but the closure order posted at the Fall Creek Trailhead was unclear. It stated that it was illegal to be “on a trail” not just on the suspension bridge itself. The Forest Service webpage seems to indicate that it is only the bridge that is closed until repaired. Either way we were just happy to see the bridge as that was the turnaround in Sullivan’s description.


IMG_7666Assuming these are some of the needed repairs.


We climbed back up to our car and started back toward Highway 199. At some point earlier between trailheads I had come up with an idea to try an alternate way to reach Star and Kerby Flats. Sullivan’s map showed a roadbed off of Illinois River Road 0.7-miles east of the Kerby Flat Trailhead that led past Star Flat to a ford of Deer Creek. I remembered seeing the road on the way to the Kerby Flat Trailhead so we decided to try parking on the shoulder and seeing if the road was a better option. When we arrived there was another vehicle parked there which gave us some hope.
IMG_7673The start of the road which the map lists as Forest Road 011.

As we started down this dirt road we passed the group from the other vehicle on their way back. They were locals who apparently hike this road regularly. They had been to the ford and said that the flowers were good and they also mentioned that there was a car in Deer Creek at the ford. They said it hadn’t been there the week before but that there had been a different car there in the past that had finally washed away. Now a new one had taken its place. We thanked them for the information and continued downhill.


IMG_7679Oregon rockcress and buttercups


IMG_7683Balsamroot and Oregon rockcress

IMG_7684Alpine? pennycress. There was a lot of this along the road, the first we’d seen of it this trip.

IMG_7689Star Flat. It was obvious from the tire marks which extended into the vegetation in places that yahoos like to come here and tear things up (sigh).


IMG_7693There was a fence around the bog at Star Flat which hosts more California darlingtonia.




IMG_7710Deer Creek

IMG_7714Showy phlox and paintbrush

Just over a mile on the road we passed the rocky trail that we would have taken back up to the Kerby Flat Trailhead had we made it down from there.

IMG_7719Checker lily

Just before the ford we passed an old car with kids toys on it. Not pictured is the tower of Coors Light cans that was just off to the left.

Just as advertised there was indeed a car abandoned in the ford.

We assume it was a stolen vehicle (or someone was really drunk/high). From the amount of garbage and fire pits in the area it was clear that people drive down here to party and do stupid stuff. Truly unfortunate because the beach at the confluence of Deer Creek and the Illinois River could have been really nice but the general feeling all the trash gave off made it uncomfortable.


We continued past the beach following the trail toward Kerby Flat.

IMG_7725Hairy pink


IMG_7737Plectritis along the trail.

IMG_7740Illinois River

After 0.2-miles the trail ahead appeared to begin to get overgrown and we’d had enough of that for the day so we declared victory and turned around.

We returned the way we’d come half expecting to encounter some ne’er-do-wells heading down to party. Thankfully that didn’t happen although we did come across a suspicious group of butterflies.

IMG_7759Star flower

IMG_7762Shooting stars along the creek leading to the bog in Star Flat.

IMG_7763Fawn lily

It started to sprinkle as we neared the car which was the opposite of how the weather had been all week. Monday through Wednesday it had been cloudy in the morning and cleared up in the afternoon but today the clouds moved in later.

We were back to the car a little before 2pm but it had felt like a much longer day. We’d managed to get 10.2-miles of hiking and road walking in over the course of our six stops. The cumulative elevation gain was just over 1300′ so it was a pretty solid day of hiking even though none of the stops went as originally planned. Sometimes you just have to get creative, and we seem to be getting more and more practice at that.

Eight Dollar Mountain and Little Falls
Our stops along Illinois River Road

Back in Grants Pass we picked up dinner from the Tacos Don Goyo food truck on K Street (excellent food) and started packing up for our drive home the next day. We decided not to try and replace the Rogue River hike that we didn’t do on Wednesday (post) opting instead to get home to Merry and Pippin. This was the first time we’d been away from them since adopting the kittens in October and we missed the little guys. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Eight Dollar Mountain and Illinois River Beaches

Hiking McKenzie River Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

McKenzie River Trail (Blue Pool TH south to NF-610) – 11/21/2020

A combination of a day off, a favorable forecast and a need to drive to Bend to pick up some Christmas items provided the perfect excuse to check out a section of the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail. This would be our third hike on this 26.4 mile long trail, all on different sections (Tamolitch Pool and Clear Lake).

We started our hike at the popular Tamolitch Blue Pool Trailhead where we had also started our hike to the Blue Pool.

This time though we headed south (left) on the McKenzie River Trail away from the Blue Pool and the crowds that would surely be arriving later in the day (we were the 2nd car at the TH on this morning).

The Sun wasn’t quite up yet, and it was still under 30 degrees, as we set off on the trail.

The trail climbed a forested hillside and crossed a forest road above Trail Bridge Reservoir (2 miles from the TH).

IMG_8455Forest road crossing.

The trail then descended to Forest Road 730 and a crossing of Smith River which feeds into the reservoir.





Another brief climb followed before dropping down to the Trail Bridge Dam.





IMG_8495The top of Three Fingered Jack is visible in the distance.

We continued on the trail which now began to follow the McKenzie River more closely.

IMG_8499Fall means mushrooms.




There were a couple of opportunities to get down to the river bank which we took advantage of and just over a mile and a half from the dam we stopped to admire Olallie Creek joining the river.


IMG_8533Anderson Creek joining the McKenzie.



IMG_8541Olallie Creek across from the trail.

A half mile beyond Olallie Creek the river split leaving a large forested island briefly in its center.

Beyond the island the trail passed some rocky cliffs where icicles dripped before dropping to a crossing of Deer Creek at the 5.5 mile mark of our hike.


IMG_8572Turning up Deer Creek to reach the footbridge.




Shortly after crossing the creek the trail arrived at Deer Creek Road (NF 782) where there is parking for the trail and Deer Creek (aka Bigelow) Hot Springs. We knew the hot springs were somewhere along our route but we didn’t know for sure where until we got home after the hike. There was no sign for the small hot spring that sits along the river bank but we did see an obvious trail heading south down to the river here. Not knowing that the hot springs were down there we visited the bridge over the McKenzie and then continued on the McKenzie River Trail.
IMG_8586Up river from Deer Creek Road.

IMG_8588Deer Creek Hot Springs would be somewhere along the right hand side of the river.

The trail briefly climbed above the river before switchbacking down and arriving at Frissel Creek just over a mile from Deer Creek Road.

IMG_8592We had to go around this bridge due to frost and it being at an angle.



IMG_8606Footbridge over Frissel Creek.


We had planned to turn around between 10 and 10:30 at either the hot springs or Forest Road 610 which the trail briefly follows. Since we didn’t realize we’d passed the hot springs we wound up making FR 610 the turnaround which was approximately three quarters of a mile beyond Frissel Creek. We arrived at the road just after 10:30.
IMG_8610Sun over the McKenzie River

IMG_8616FR 610

We turned around at the road and headed back keeping our eyes open for any sign of the hot springs and any other things we missed on the first pass. We still didn’t realize that the hot springs were where they were but we did spot a lot more mushrooms and the tops of the Middle and North Sister on the way back.


IMG_8624We missed this sign for slough creek the first time by.



IMG_8633Missed this survey marker too.

IMG_8631We also completely missed this sign at Deer Creek.

IMG_8638Still cold









IMG_8679Without the use of the zoom on the camera they are hard to make out but the tops of the North and Middle Sister are visible over the hills.

The Garmin showed 14.6 miles for this out and back (Google maps had indicated it would be 13.4 miles) and there was between 800 and 1000′ of cumulative elevation gain. What climbs there were weren’t ever steep and didn’t last long. We encountered a half dozen other trail users but when we arrived back at the trailhead it was full and cars were stretched all they way down the road with people heading for the Blue Pool. It has become one of “those” hikes and is getting loved to death. After changing we drove to Bend for a quick visit with Heather’s parents and then headed back over the pass to Salem. Happy Trails!

Flickr: McKenzie River Trail