Grants Pass Area Hiking Oregon Trip report

Dollar Mountain, Limpy Creek, and Waters Creek – 05/03/2023

When I’d first planned our vacation to Grants Pass the plan had included seven of Sullivan’s featured hikes, six of which we needed to check off our to-do list, and one to tie up loose ends (post). One of those planned hikes had been Babyfoot Lake but with a trailhead elevation of 4340′ that hike had been postponed due to this years above average snowpack. Before leaving I had checked all our hikes including using a couple of snow-depth maps. At the time they showed 10-20 inches of snow at Babyfoot Lake but nothing for any of our other planned hikes including along the driving route to Marial which was our planned destination for day three. I had been concerned because the BLM roads to the Lower Rogue River-Mule Creek Trailhead spends a fair amount of time between 3400 and 3800′ in elevation before dropping to the trailhead at an elevation under 500′. There was no snow showing up online and neither the BLM nor Forest Service websites mentioned impassable roads. Sullivan lists this hike as open April to December but that is “normal” and this year’s snowpack is not that.

We started Wednesday morning by attempting the roughly 70-mile, nearly 2:30 hour drive. We managed to get within 17 miles of the trailhead before encountering large snow drifts still covering the roads, primarily on the North facing slopes. With no way to reach the trailhead (we couldn’t have even hiked the trail from Grave Creek due to a washout at trail mile 21) we pivoted to plan B. Plan B was to do some or all of the hikes that we’d planned for Friday before driving home. So after a little over 4 hours of driving we wound up at the Dollar Mountain Trailhead less than 2 miles from where we’d started at our cabin.

This was an odd little hike as the trail had no signage apart from the trailhead sign and it basically went straight uphill. There were some narrower trails off what appeared to be the main trail which may have been gentler switchbacks, but they just as easily could have been use trails leading to the surrounding neighborhoods or to nowhere in particular. We opted to go straight up on the wider rutted path.
IMG_7141Larkspur along the trail.

IMG_7143A pollinator in a Tolmie’s mariposa lily.

IMG_7152Shooting star

IMG_7156Grants Pass below Dollar Mountain.


IMG_7164Hooker’s Indian pink

IMG_7168Silver crown

IMG_7171Naked broomrape


IMG_7176Too cloudy for a good view.


IMG_7183Scarlet fritillary

Sullivan had it as 1.2 miles from the trailhead to the summit but going straight up got us to the cell towers on top in exactly 1 mile (regardless of the route the climb is over 750′ of elevation gain).

IMG_7187View from the summit.

The view from the summit isn’t as good as those just below. From the summit we had the choice of heading back the way we’d come or following a rough roadbed down and around to Crescent Street 0.2 miles NW of the trailhead. We opted for the loop option and headed down the road.
IMG_7191We stuck to the road ignoring any side paths like this one since we had no idea where they might lead.

IMG_7197There were dozens of California groundcones along the roadbed.

IMG_7201California groundcones

IMG_7203Approaching Crescent Street.

It was a mile and a half from the summit to Crescent Street which we followed back to the car. From there we made the 16-mile drive to the Limpy Botanical Interpretive Loop Trailhead

Here we planned to do a mile long loop. We started clockwise from the trailhead signboard following Sullivan’s directions to stay left at all junctions.


Dwarf ceanothusDwarf ceanothus



IMG_7229Camas and shooting stars

IMG_7232Siskiyou fritillary


We got into a little trouble when we came to what we thought was another trail junction with a path leading to the right to a bench.

Since the directions we were following said to stay left at all junctions we stayed left following an increasingly rocky path uphill. We wound up just below a roadbed when the “trail” completely petered out. We headed back down to the trail with the bench and tried that one which turned out to be the correct route. This path led us across a pair of boardwalks then to a scenic little waterfall.
IMG_7240Passing the bench.


IMG_7250Fairy slippers

IMG_7252Boardwalk #1

IMG_7256Second boardwalk


IMG_7267Waterfall on Limpy Creek.

Beyond the falls the trail crossed Limpy Creek then began to descend to another nice little creek.

IMG_7279Limpy Creek

IMG_7285Arriving at the second creek.

IMG_7286Unnamed creek


The path turned along the unnamed creek and recrossed Limpy Creek before arriving back at the trailhead.
IMG_7304Final crossing of Limpy Creek.

With our wrong turn we managed to turn the 1-mile loop into a 1.3-mile hike and nearly doubled the 120′ of elevation gain that it should have been. From Limpy Creek we headed for our final stop of the day at the nearby Waters Creek Interpretive Trailhead. (The trailheads are just over 2.5 miles apart as the crow flies but the drive between them is close to 15 miles.)

This was another interpretive trail offering two loops, a 1-mile barrier free option or a nearly 3-mile longer, hiker only, loop. Both loops begin by following Waters Creek for a tenth of a mile then crossing it and passing by a grassy meadow.


IMG_7315Waters Creek

IMG_7319A phacelia


At the end of the meadow when the trail enters the forest it splits. We stayed left at all junctions again on this loop.
IMG_7327The start/end of the loops with the bridge being our return route.

IMG_7330Staying left.

IMG_7332This was the barrier free loop splitting off and heading back across an unnamed creek.

IMG_7334Sign announcing the hiker only extended loop.


IMG_7341The first vanilla leaf we’ve seen blooming this year.

20230503_134825There were a bunch of fawn lilies blooming along this trail.

IMG_7352One of several little footbridges across side streams.


IMG_7360Bench where the trail turned to head back on the opposite side of the unnamed creek.

IMG_7361The view from the bench.

The trail climbed above the creek on the way back before descending via switchback to rejoin the barrier free loop.

IMG_7369The barrier free trail below in the trees.

IMG_7372Back on the barrier free trail.

IMG_7375Biscuitroot and larkspur

IMG_7379Giant white wakerobin

IMG_7387The Sun was starting to shine a bit as we passed back by the meadow which brought out some butterflies and lots of lizards.




Our three hikes of the day added up to 7 miles and 1480′ of elevation gain. (2.8mi & 830′, 1.3mi & 250′, and 2.96mi & 400′ respectively.)

Dollar Mountain Track
Limpy and Waters Tracks

Despite the rocky start it had turned out to be a pleasant enough day and we were still back to our cabin around 3pm which gave us time to clean up and head to the Bohemian Bar & Bistro for an excellent dinner. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Dollar Mountain, Limpy Botanical Loop, and Waters Creek

Grants Pass Area Hiking Medford/Ashland Area Oregon Trip report

Cathedral Hills and Sterling Mine Ditch Tunnel – 05/02/2023

The second day of our Grants Pass vacation had the highest chance of rain showers with a forecast of 40% chance. We had a pair of hikes planned for the day. The first was a tour of the Cathedral Hills trails system just South of Grants Pass.

We made the roughly 10-minute drive from our cabin in Grants Pass to the Espey Trailhead arriving just before 7am.

We had seen one of the two wildflower species that were on our bucket list for this trip the day before. Red larkspur and been blooming in good numbers along the Rogue River Trail (post) and today we were hoping to check of the other, Indian Warrior.
IMG_6763The area is home to a good number of wildflowers that bloom throughout Spring and Summer.

Sullivan’s featured hike here is one of four short hikes that make up hike #83 – Grants Pass Nature Trails (“100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Norther California” edition 4.2). He describes the 3.4-mile Outback Loop. We were hoping to add more of the trails to our hike and decided on modifying the featured hike by adding on the Skycrest Loop and Ponderosa Pine Trail.

As was the case on our hike the day before we spotted our bucket list flower at the trailhead.
IMG_6764There are a couple of the red Indian warrior behind and to the right of the trail marker.

IMG_6776Indian warrior lousewort

We started the Outback Loop in a counter-clockwise direction climbing 1.1-miles to a junction at a saddle. The Indian warrior was blooming in mass along with many other wildflowers.
IMG_6773Scarlet fritillary along with poison oak. There was a lot of poison oak in the area but the trails were wide enough to keep users away from it.

20230502_072354A blue-eyed Mary

20230502_072112Shooting star

IMG_6781Indian warrior



IMG_6800Cryptantha, shooting stars, and plectritis



IMG_6818Pacific houndstongue

IMG_6828A picnic table at the junction with the Hogback Trail.

IMG_6829Most of the junctions had markers.


IMG_6835Giant white wakerobin

IMG_6840Blue dicks behind more poison oak.


IMG_6847Tolmie’s mariposa lily

At the saddle we turned right onto the Timber Riders Trail then veered right after approximately a tenth of a mile following pointers for the Skycrest Loop.


IMG_6853Henderson’s fawn lily

IMG_6855Pointer for the Skycrest Loop.

We hiked the Skycrest Loop counterclockwise. There were a few different flowers along the loop.
IMG_6857The start of the loop.


20230502_075637Skullcap (possibly Danny’s)

IMG_6867Hooker’s Indian pink

IMG_6875A cloudy view from the Skycrest Loop.


IMG_6881Indian warrior beneath white-leaf manzanita.

IMG_6884Last of the gold stars.

IMG_6888A few yellow Indian warriors.

20230502_082830California groundcone

When we got back to the saddle and junction with the Outback Loop we got confused and wound up sticking to the Timber Riders Trail which was the furthest to the right.
IMG_6900Even though it didn’t look familiar we both thought we’d come from the trail to the left earlier when in fact that was the continuation of the Outback Loop.

We followed the Timber Riders Trail for 0.9-miles thinking we were on the Outback Loop then we came to a junction with said loop and realized our mistake (after looking at the map). It had started raining at some point along this stretch and as a bonus a thunderstorm was heading our way.

IMG_6904Rain clouds in the sky.


IMG_6911Trail marker along the Outback Loop.

We turned right back onto the Outback Loop and picked up our pace a bit. We did decide to stick with the plan of detouring onto the Ponderosa Pine Trail in hopes of seeing a 117′ tall knobcone pine that is registered as the largest in the U.S. We turned right onto the Ponderosa Pine Trail but a combination of heavy rain, increasingly close lightning, and no signage for the tree caused us to miss it entirely.
IMG_6914Turning onto the Ponderosa Pine Trail


IMG_6921Ponderosa Pine Trail

IMG_6922Back onto the Outback Loop.

Once we’d turned right onto the Outback Loop it was just over three quarters of a mile back to the Espey Trailhead. We were pretty well drenched by this point (we hadn’t put our rain gear on, just our pack covers) and hustled our way back to the car.
IMG_6925Quite a bit more water on the trail as we finished up.

In the end our hike here came to 5.4 miles with about 450′ of cumulative elevation gain.

We decided to retreat back to our cabin and wait out the weather. We put our wet clothes in the dryer and relaxed for a bit until things began to clear up. A little after 11:30 that happened, and we headed back out with dry clothing and shoes. For our second hike of the day we were tying up a bit of a loose end on a featured hike that we’d already checked off as done, the Sterling Ditch Tunnel. In June 2017 we had done an 11.8-mile loop starting from the Deming Gulch Trailhead. (post) We had counted that toward the featured hike, but it was actually part of the “Other Options” for the entry. In most cases the other options include part of the main hike and so we count those but, in this case, none of that previous loop was part of the 4.8-mile loop that is featured.

The featured loop Sullivan describes begins at the Tunnel Ridge Trailhead, passes by the Sterling Mine Ditch Tunnel, and ends with a 0.6-mile road walk between the Bear Gulch and Tunnel Ridge Trailheads. When road walks are involved, Sullivan tends to end the hike with them, but we prefer to start with the less exciting road walk so we opted to start at the Bear Gulch Trailhead instead. (There is less parking available at Bear Gulch so on busier days parking here might not be an option.)

The road walk was pleasant as road walks go and we soon found ourselves at the Tunnel Ridge Trailhead.
IMG_6928View from the Bear Gulch Trailhead of Little Applegate Road.


IMG_6933The Little Applegate River


The trail climbed gradually for a mile gaining a little over 500′ to a junction on a saddle.

IMG_6976Scarlet fritillary

IMG_6982Houdnstongue and a pacific waterleaf (white flower under a big leaf to the left of the houndstongue).


IMG_6997A snowy Wagner Butte (post).

Wagner ButteBased on the trees it looked like the thunderstorm provided some fresh snow at higher elevations.

IMG_7007Couldn’t really get a good picture but this might be a bushtit.

IMG_7009There were a couple of nice benches along the trails here.

IMG_7011Some of the view from the bench.





IMG_7021There is a hummingbird in the center on a branch.

IMG_7024At the saddle a faint trail continued straight ahead toward the Little Applegate Trailhead. It didn’t appear to get much use.

IMG_7025Trail sign at the junction.

We followed the pointer for Bear Gulch and quickly found ourselves at the tunnel. Built in 1877 the tunnel is part of a 26-mile long ditch used to divert water from the Little Applegate River to the Sterling Gold Mine.


20230502_133619I had to get a closer look.

IMG_7031I didn’t go all the way through so as not to disturb this napping bat.

From the tunnel the trail follows the ditch and sometimes uses it as it traverses the hillside toward Bear Gulch.

IMG_7035Fiddleneck along the trail.

IMG_7038Another bench

IMG_7043Emerging from the ditch.

IMG_7045Scarlet fritillaries lining the trail.




IMG_7072Tolmie’s mariposa lily

IMG_7074An impressively large madrone.

20230502_141427Henderson’s fawn lilies

IMG_7094More fresh snow on a ridge.

IMG_7099An upside-down warbler (upper right of the tree).

IMG_7102Shooting stars

We turned left at a sign for the Bear Gulch Trailhead and followed this path a mile downhill back to our car. This trail seemed a bit steeper than the one leading up from the Tunnel Ridge Trailhead so whichever you start at it seems best to do the loop counterclockwise.

IMG_7107Woolly-pod milkvetch

IMG_7108A fritillary, just not sure which one.

IMG_7117It was nice to start seeing some butterflies out and about.

IMG_7120Another butterfly. It blends pretty well with the leaves.


IMG_7124White-breasted nuthatch

IMG_7126There was a decent amount of water running through parts of Bear Gulch as we neared the trailhead.

This loop came in just under five miles with 550′ of cumulative elevation gain giving us a total of 10.3 miles and 1000′ for the day.

After the morning drenching and surprise thunderstorm the day turned out really nice with partly sunny skies and some of the warmest temperatures that we’d have all week. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cathedral Hills and Sterling Ditch Tunnel

Grants Pass Area Hiking Oregon Trip report

Rogue River Trail from Grave Creek – 05/01/2023

For our first week of vacation this year we planned a trip to Grants Pass to continue working toward our goal of finishing all 100 featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” edition 4.2. (post)

On the way down to Grants Pass we kicked off our week of hikes with a portion of the Rogue River Trail starting at the Grave Creek Boat Ramp.

Sullivan includes three hike options for his Rogue River East featured hike: a 4.2-mile out-and-back to Rainie Falls on the southern side of the Rogue, a 7-mile out-and-back to the Whiskey Creek Cabin on the Rogue River Trail, and a 23.2-mile one way option on the Rogue River Trail to Marial. The Rainie Falls hike was out due to the trail being damaged in the 2022 Rum Creek fire and the longer option wasn’t viable either for various reasons including a slide that currently has the trail closed roughly a mile upstream from Marial. That left the Whiskey Creek Cabin as our goal with an option to extend the hike if we felt like it.

Going into the trip there were two types of wildflowers that we hadn’t yet seen in bloom that we were hoping to find. One was red larkspur which I’d learned grew along the Rogue River Trail. As it turned out this was an easy one. When we climbed from the boat ramp to a set of signboards along the trail we immediately spotted some of the red larkspur blooming below the signs.

IMG_6427Red larkspur with blue dicks in the background.

Wildflowers are running a few weeks behind this year but they were putting on a good display as we set off on the trail.


IMG_6438Red larkspur, madia, blue dicks, and tomcat clover along the trail.

IMG_6441Blue dicks

IMG_6447Tolmie’s mariposa lily and some madia.

IMG_6450Larkspur and a red larkspur




IMG_6471Serpentine phacelia

IMG_6476Naked broomrape

20230501_084500Camas with monkeyflower and plectritis



20230501_084659A darker red larkspur

IMG_6514Some of the damage to the trail to Rainie Falls on the opposite side of the river.


IMG_6519Common whipplea

IMG_6521Silver crown

IMG_6530The wet rock here was sneaky slick.

20230501_090822We spotted a couple of pink larkspur.

IMG_6542Common mergansers

20230501_090733Common cryptantha



Del Norte irisDel Norte iris

IMG_6571Coastal manroot

IMG_6576Canada geese

All of that was over the first mile plus. At the 1.2-mile mark we came to a sign marking the high water mark from a 1964 flood and just beyond were the remnants of the former Sanderson Bridge which was destroyed in a 1927 flood.

IMG_6578Looking back upriver from the high water sign.

IMG_6581Sanderson Bridge site

We continued on continuing to watch for additional wildlife and types of flowers.
IMG_6588Golden-crowned sparrow

IMG_6592Scarlet fritillary

Just over half a mile from the bridge site we came to a fork and a pointer for Rainie Falls. While we were aware that there was little to no view of the falls down this path we followed it down a tenth of a mile to the river.

IMG_6608White campion

IMG_6609The only water we could make out on the far side of the river.

While there was no view of Rainie Falls we did spot a few colorful birds along the bank.
IMG_6619Bullock’s oriole

DSCN3272Yellow warbler

Yellow warblerYellow warbler

IMG_6620Sandy beach along the Rogue River.

After watching the birds for a bit we hiked back up to the Rogue River Trail and continued on reaching China Gulch in another half mile.
IMG_6626Shooting star


IMG_6632California groundcone

IMG_6640Small-flowered woodland-star

IMG_6641Approaching China Gulch


From China Gulch it was approximately 1.2-miles to Whiskey Creek and the side trail to the cabin.




IMG_6656This manzanita was particularly striking in person.

Hairy pinkHairy pink


IMG_6678Rafts at Whiskey Camp.

IMG_6681Whiskey Creek

IMG_6683Footbridge over Whiskey Creek


IMG_6687Sign at the spur trail to the cabin.

We turned up the spur trail and followed it uphill for 500′ to the cabin.






The initial cabin was built sometime around 1880 and improved/expanded over time to include a solar heated shower and insulated pantry. The cabin was lived in until the Bureau of Land Management purchased the deed in 1973.

After exploring the cabin and surrounding structures we decided to continue on the Rogue River Trail a bit further. We were trying to avoid getting to our accommodations in Grants Pass before check-in at 3pm so we decided to continue for another 15 to 20 minutes before heading back. We wound up hiking an additional 0.4-miles to Big Slide Camp.

IMG_6706Del Norte irises

IMG_6710Big Slide Camp to the left.

IMG_6711Outhouse at Big Slide Camp.

DSCN3306Common mergansers

DSCN3308Snow on a ridge above the Rogue River Valley. (This was a sign of issues for us later in the week.)

We lingered a bit at the camp before heading back. As always, we kept our eyes open for anything we might have missed on our first pass.
IMG_6717Redwood sorrel along Whiskey Creek.



IMG_6737Passing the high water mark.

IMG_6761Arriving back at the trailhead.

Our hike here ended up being 8.7-miles with 450′ of cumulative elevation gain.

Aside from the rafters at Whiskey Creek Camp the only other people we saw were a pair of backpackers on their way out and a group of 15 on their way in. While we didn’t see any rattlesnakes (it was nice and cool out) we did pick up a couple of ticks along the way which we brushed off when spotted. Poison oak was present but easily avoidable.

We arrived at the Riverside Cabins in Grants Pass a little after 3pm. The six rentals were recently constructed and ours wound up being an excellent base of operations for the rest of the week.



It was a good start to our vacation, and we were looking forward to more great hikes in the days to come. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Rogue River East