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Crater Lake Area High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report

Union Creek Revisited – 09/20/2022

For the final hike of our Southern Oregon trip we had pegged the Union Creek Trail, the only featured hike that only I had done. Heather had been forced to skip this one after hurting herself at Abbott Butte in 2020 (post). Sullivan has been working on an update to his Southern Oregon book and it will be interesting to see if the Union Creek hike remains a featured hike. A 2015 storm downed many trees along the trail, the middle portion of which had not yet been cleared in 2020 when I’d attempted the hike. A quick look online led us to believe that two years later the conditions were the same so instead of attempting to reach Union Creek Falls from the Union Creek Resort we drove to the Upper Trailhead. To reach this trailhead we followed Highway 62 two miles east of its junction with Highway 230 turning right on Road 600 at a small Union Creek Trailhead sign. After 0.2 miles we veered left at another pointer for 0.1 miles to the parking area at roads end.
IMG_2300An OHV Trail continues on the old road bed from the parking area.

The Union Creek Trail is located at the SW corner of the parking area.
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The upper portion of the trail was in great shape and we quickly found ourselves at Union Creek Falls just 0.3 miles from the trailhead.
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We continued another 0.7 miles before encountering the first real obstacle and began to wonder if by some miracle someone had finally shown this trail a little love.
IMG_2316We had to get creative to see some of the many cool water features along the creek.

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IMG_2338The first mess on the trail.

The trail conditions deteriorated quickly over the next half mile before we completely lost the trail at a large downed tree. Overnight rain had left the vegetation wet and we didn’t see any point in trying to force our way through the brush in an attempt to relocate the tread so we turned around and headed back.
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IMG_2350This mess was just before the bigger tree that turned us back.

On the way back we hopped a side channel onto an island to find a pretty impressive feature that had been hidden from the trail.
IMG_2383Where I crossed the channel.

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To get a good view I had to carefully follow a narrow ledge to an overlook of a thundering hole where water plunged in from all sides.
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We returned to the car having come up a just over a quarter mile short of where I’d given up and turned around in 2020 resulting in a 3.7 mile hike with just over 400′ of elevation gain.

The dashed track is from 2022 with the solid line being 2020’s track.

It is a shame that this trail doesn’t seem to warrant any attention from the Forest Service. The creek is beautiful and the trail isn’t that long so there isn’t that much to clear. It also isn’t in a wilderness area so they could use chainsaws where needed. Ironically this sign is posted at the trailhead along with a box that was full of spiderwebs.
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It was just after 9:15am when we got back to the car and after changing we did what any sane people would do and drove back into Union Creek to Beckie’s Cafe for breakfast, a cinnamon roll, and a blackberry pie to go. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Union Creek

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Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trip report

Hershberger Mountain, Rabbit Ears, and Natural Bridge – 10/16/2020

We had a full itinerary scheduled for the second day of our Union Creek trip with three stops planned. We had originally planned on stopping first at the Rabbit Ears which are about 10 miles from Union Creek along Forest Road 6515. From Union Creek we drove north on Highway 62 to Highway 230 where we continued north on that highway for .9 miles before turning left and crossing the Rogue River on Forest Road 6510 (Hershberger Road). After 1.6 miles we forked right onto Forest Road 6520 and in another half mile turned left onto Forest Road 6515 (shown on Google Maps as Road 299). DO NOT rely on Google maps to get you to either Rabbit Ears or Hershberger Mountain. Not only is the road number incorrect but after approximately 4.5 miles it is misidentified on Google maps which shows the road making a hairpin turn to the left and shows no other existing roads. In reality this is a 4-way junction with FR 6515 continuing as a slight left. A total of 5.6 miles after turning onto this road we came to an actual hairpin curve to the left around a small meadow. To the right was a small parking area for the Rabbit Ears, but it was still a bit dark out to start hiking so we decided to change our plans and head up to Hershberger Mountain first. To reach Hershberger Mountain we needed to continue another mile on FR 6515 and turn right onto FR 580 for what Sullivan described as 1.8 steep, rough miles. We originally missed the part about the right turn after a mile and wound up passing FR 580 which was also marked as an OHV trail. After going more than 1.8 miles the wrong way we turned on our GPS unit to confirm our location then reread the book and found our error. We turned around and drove back missing FR 580 again thinking it was strictly an OHV trail and not an actual road but this time we quickly caught our mistake, turned around again and were finally back on track. A 2017 wildfire burned much of this area and along most of FR 580 which was in pretty bad shape with a number of large waterbars, some deep enough that the front bumper our our Subaru Outback scrapped the ground ever so slightly so passenger cars probably shouldn’t try it. When the 1.8 miles was up we came to a parking area on the left side of the road with some trails signs and a truck.
IMG_7144Sunrise from the parking area.

Two trails left the parking area, the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail and the Acker Divide Trail.
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We would be taking the Acker Divide Trail but first we wanted to visit the lookout on Hershberger Mountain so we continued up FR 580 toward the lookout.
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We could have driven the .8 miles up to a parking area just below the lookout but 1.8 miles of FR 580 had been enough. This stretch may actually have been in a little better shape but then again we were only walking on it and not trying to drive.
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The lookout tower is available on a first come first serve basis and with the truck at the parking area below we weren’t sure if someone was using it so we didn’t go in but we did explore the area around it.
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The views were great which was a nice change to our Labor Day trip to Rattlesnake Mountain where smoke ruled the views. (post)

IMG_7160Mt. Bailey, Howlock Mountain, and Mt. Thielsen

IMG_7162Arant Point, Union Peak, Goose Egg, Klamath Point, Lee Peak, Devils Peak, Pelican Butte, Lucifer Peak, Venus, Rabbit Ears, Mt. McLoughlin, and Mt. Shasta (among others).

IMG_7166Mt. McLoughlin and Mt. Shasta

IMG_7163Rabbit Ears

IMG_7169Sun over Crater Lake National Park

While up near the lookout I noticed a sign along the rocky ridge to Hershberger Mountain’s summit.
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I headed for the sign and then continued onto the summit on a user path.
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From the summit I could make out Rattlesnake Mountain (post) behind some burned snags.
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Weaver Mountain just to the left of the snags with Rattlesnake Mountain behind to the right and Fish Mountain the furthest right.

IMG_7195Survey marker at the summit.

IMG_7197The sign, lookout, Rabbit Ears, Mt. McLoughlin, and Mt. Shasta coming back from the summit.

As I was coming back the unbelievable happened. For the second day in a row a varied thrush held still long enough for me to get decent picture.
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I rejoined Heather near the lookout and we hiked back down to our car and after taking a few more sips of the coffee we’d left in it we started down the Acker Divide Trail.
IMG_7205Acker Divide Trail leaving FR 580.

The trail quickly entered the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.
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The trail dropped quickly losing nearly 300′ in the first .4 miles where the trail crossed a small stream at the edge of a meadow.
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The meadow was what we have come to picture when we think of this particular wilderness. Faint tread with a few cairns led us through the meadow and into a section of green trees.
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IMG_7216Another cairn to the right of the tree ahead.

Beyond the meadow the trail leveled out a bit and just over a mile and a half from the trailhead we passed a sign for the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail.
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I believe that the 2 mile section beyond this sign may be abandoned. On the map it leads to the edge of the wilderness near the junction of FR 6515 & FR 580 but according to the Forest Service and a sign we saw at a horse camp along FR 580 the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail follows FR 580 between that horse camp and the trailhead we were parked at. In any event we stuck to the Acker Divide Trail arriving at a meadow below Toad Lake in another .4 miles.
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IMG_7234A lonely flower along the Acker Divide Trail

IMG_7236Mushroom near the meadow.

IMG_7245Toad Meadow

Another .4 miles brought us within view of the Cripple Creek Shelter at the edge of the fire scar.
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We made our way to the shelter where we took a nice break and enjoyed the surroundings.
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IMG_7258Tis the time of year for Mushroom to replace flowers.

We returned the way we’d come keeping our eyes out for mushrooms and any lingering flowers that might yet be blooming.
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IMG_7271Candyflower

Our hike here came in at 6.8 miles and approximately 1200′ of elevation gain. After successfully navigating FR 580 again we stopped at the Rabbit Ears pullout and followed a path into the trees.
IMG_7274Pullout along FR 6515

IMG_7275Trail to Rabbit Ears

In a tenth of a mile the patch split and we chose to go right which brought us to the base of the rock formation.
IMG_7284The split

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The trail then turned uphill on some loose rock which made us happy that we’d chosen to go this direction because we felt going up it would be easier than coming down.
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IMG_7295We were surprised to find these phlox blossoms still looking good.

From the high point we had a pretty good view of Mt. McLoughlin and Mt. Shasta to the south.
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Continuing on the trail brought us a view of Fish Mountain to the north before the trail dropped back down into the trees to complete the loop.
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20201016_114550_HDRSmaller rock formation along the trail.

The half mile loop was really nice. Getting to see the Rabbit Ears up close was interesting and the added bonus of mountain views and surprise phlox was icing on the cake. We then drove back to Union Creek and parked at the lodge where we were staying since our next hike started just across the highway.
IMG_7329Beckie’s Cafe across Highway 62.

IMG_7332The lodge, store, and gift shop at Union Creek Resort.

We crossed the highway to the seasonally closed ice cream shop and followed a path on its right side to the Rogue Gorge Viewpoint parking area.
IMG_7331The Ice Cream shop and to it’s right the sign for the trail to the Rogue Gorge Viewpoint.

IMG_7337Interpretive signs at the parking area.

A .2 mile paved loop offers a short but spectacular option for a quick tourist stop with several viewpoints of the Rogue Gorge. We did the loop counter-clockwise heading first to viewpoint 4.
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IMG_7344Viewpoint 4

IMG_7352Rogue River at viewpoint 4.

IMG_7358Viewpoint 3

IMG_7359View upriver from viewpoint 3.

IMG_7361Downriver from viewpoint 3.

IMG_7369Interpretative sign at the viewpoint.

IMG_7370The lava tubes.

IMG_7373Viewpoint 2

IMG_7380Viewpoint 1 above the end of the Rogue Gorge.

From viewpoint 1 the paved path crossed a footbridge before arriving at the interpretative sign boards at the parking area. The Rogue Gorge Trail, which we took, continued as a dirt trail descending to the riverbank and continuing downstream.
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For the next 1.2 miles the Rogue Gorge Trail followed the river closely as it passed a number of cabins and a portion of the Union Creek Campground. This section of the Rogue River flowed quietly past a wonderful display of Fall colors.
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IMG_7425Union Creek Campground

At the end of the 1.2 mile stretch we arrived at Union Creek (the actual creek) and crossed it on a footbridge.
IMG_7428The orange sign and flagging was for a 50k being run the following day.

IMG_7429Union Creek

Beyond the footbridge was a 1.7 mile stretch of trail passing more of the campground and some other cabins before arriving at a footbridge spanning the Rogue River.
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As we neared the bridge the river became wilder as it passed over and through more lava flows.
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IMG_7472A Clark’s nutcracker

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IMG_7488The footbridge to the upper left.

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The footbridge offered an opportunity for a 2.2 mile loop using the Upper Rogue River Trail and passing Natural Bridge. For now we stuck to the Rogue Gorge Trail and continued past the footbridge.
IMG_7496Rogue River on the other side of the footbridge.

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About a mile from the footbridge we came to a sign at what looked like a fork in the trail.
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We took the right hand fork sticking to the river bank where a gentleman was walking his dog. The trail petered out on some rocks along the river.
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It was easy enough to walk over the rocks though so we continued on not realizing that we were very close to Natural Bridge which in the past had been the way across the river but has been closed and replaced by another footbridge.
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We turned inland on an old road bed still not realizing we were off course until it petered out and we discovered we were on the wrong side of a fence.
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When we saw the fence we realized that we should have forked left at that sign so we made our way to the correct side of the fence and quickly picked up a paved path coming from the Natural Bridge Day Use Area.
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The paved path brought us to the Upper Rogue River Trail which we took to the footbridge across the river.
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The Rogue Gorge had been spectacular but Natural Bridge added the element of oddity to the mix as the river disappeared under the lava rock only to reappear a short distance later.
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IMG_7565The inlet

Beyond Natural Bridge the Upper Rogue River Trail decided to gain some elevation as it climbed steeply gaining 300′ before dropping back down to the other footbridge. The climb did provide a brief glimpse of Llao Rock along the rim of Crater Lake.
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We turned off the Upper Rogue River Trail to cross the footbridge and return to the Rogue Gorge Trail.
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We turned left on the Rogue Gorge Trail and followed it back to Union Creek. Instead of crossing the creek this time we turned right onto the Union Creek Trail.
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The Union Creek Trail followed the creek closely for .7 miles through the Union Creek Campground. The trail actually passed through some campsites but this section of the campground was closed for the season so all of the sites were empty.
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The trail crossed Union Creek on a footbridge near the campground entrance.
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On the far side of the bridge was a parking area near the Union Creek Amphitheatre where they were setting up for the 50k.
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Just up the road from the parking area here a short path led to another parking are near Beckie’s Cafe where we simply walked up to the take out window and ordered dinner and a piece of pie.
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The pie was as good as I had hoped it would be having read about it from Boots on the Trail. After dinner we walked across the highway and into our room at the Union Creek Resort Lodge. It had been another day of nice hikes in this area. We were growing more and more impressed with the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness (despite the lack of trail maintenance). There was something about that wilderness that just felt peaceful. We went to bed looking forward to another visit to it the following day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Hershberger Mountain and Natural Bridge