Welcome to Paria's “Hike of the Week” series. Each week, we highlight one of the best trails from around the world. For us, reading about a great backpacking trip motivates us to want to see it ourselves. We hope this series inspires you to do the same!
This week's focus is on the Rogue River National Recreation Trail in Oregon.
Featured Photo: Rogue River by The Bureau of Land Management
Why This Hike?
Located in southern Oregon, this trail runs through part of the Wild Rogue Wilderness. While it is a National Recreation Trail, it receives fewer visitors than other PNW hiking destinations. Abundant wildlife, solitude, and serene riverside campsites await.
- Length: 40 miles
- Type: Point-to-point
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation gain: 4,500 feet
- Best time to visit: April-October
- The trail is well-maintained and fairly easy to follow.
- You'll cross many streams along the way. This means plenty of opportunities to filter water.
- Highlights include: Old-growth forests, wildflower meadows, waterfalls, and, of course, the Rogue River (which is a popular rafting destination).
- There are tons of established campsites and lodges along the way. If one campsite is too crowded, the next one is a short distance away!
- Pit toilets and bear containers can be found at some of the campsites.
- The trail is full of history. Walk the same path that local Native Americans, settlers, and miners took hundreds of years ago. The macabre might be interested in some of the area's dark history too.
Before you pack your bags, keep the following in mind:
- Hazards include rattlesnakes, bears, ticks, and poison oak.
- The trail is open year-round, but can get very hot in the summer.
- You will need to spot a car or arrange a shuttle service.
- There are some narrow areas with steep drop-offs. Watch your footing!
- It's wise to check for fire bans before you head out.
- Some campsites have river access which means you may have to share with rafters.
How Do I Get There?
Rogue Valley International is the closest airport. It is a short 1-hour drive to the trailhead. So, in theory, you could hop off the plane, drive there, and get started all in the same day. Assuming you have an early flight and feel up to it.
From the airport, head west and turn right onto Biddle Road. At a little over 1 ½ mile, you'll turn right to merge onto I-5 North. Continue for a little over 28 miles. Take exit 61 toward Merlin Road. Turn left and continue 3 ½ miles. Continue onto Galice Road for 19 miles. Turn left onto BLM Road 34-8-1. Take the left fork and continue 0.2 miles. The road ends in the parking area.
Map of Recommended Route
The following map outlines our recommended route. Click the "Load Interactive Map" button to load the correct map. Once loaded, you can navigate along the route and view recommended camp sites.
For even more detailed mapping, including being able to print a copy for yourself, click the "Open in CalTopo" button at the top of the map once it's loaded into view.
- Day 1 - Grave Creek Trailhead to Big Meadow (13.2 miles)
- Day 2 - Big Meadow to Blossom Bar (13.2 miles)
- Day 3 - Blossom Bar to Foster Bar boat ramp parking area (14.2 miles)
Day 1 - Grave Creek Trailhead to Big Meadow
While most of the trail is moderate, expect some inclines on your first day. The views of the river are sporadic today. The trail mostly travels high above the Rogue. Enjoy the madrone and myrtle groves.
You'll find a high water marker not too far in. This shows where the Rogue River rose 55ft above its normal summer level in a 1964 flood. Speaking of water, there is a nice swimming hole less than a mile into the trail. Near that, Rainie Falls can be found. It offers a great view of one of the largest rapids on the river. Next up is Whiskey Creek. It's a nice place to stop and take some pictures.
The Big Meadow campsite is listed as Meadow Creek on the Forest Service map. (A link can be found below in the “Resources” section.) You'll love this wide-open area, especially if you have a large group.
Day 2 - Big Meadow to Blossom Bar
The trail is a bit exposed at times on your second day. While it offers great views, you might look forward to the shade of the woods again.
If you researched the area's history ahead of time, you might want to stop at the Zane Grey cabin. It's a short detour. There is also the Rogue River Ranch, which is now a museum. After that, the trail turns into a dirt road for a while. Then you'll cross the Mule Creek bridge. There is an excellent lookout of the canyon near the guard station. Reach Marial Lodge shortly after for a late lunch or early dinner.
The next highlight after that is the cascades of Stair Creek Falls. Be sure to snap some photos of this stunning display. You may hear the rapids near Blossom Bar. Keep in mind this campsite has river access, so you may have some company from boaters.
Day 3 - Blossom Bar to Foster Bar Boat Ramp Parking Area
The trail takes you in and out of the dark forest on day 3. Savor the stark contrast from the rocky, exposed trail next to the river. You'll pass even more lodges, including a huge meadow/landing strip near Paradise Bar Lodge. More waterfalls dot the way today. Tate Creek Falls is a nice little one. Stop and enjoy a break at Flora Dell Creek Falls. The trail ends rather unceremoniously with some old signage. Walk about a mile down the road to reach the parking area at Foster Bar.
What Will I Need?
Average highs for peak months range between 64 and 88°F. Average lows are 40 to 53°F. To save on pack weight, a lightweight, trekking pole tent works well. For bedding, a versatile down quilt will keep you warm. As always, don't forget your sleeping pad to get off the cold ground!
A backpacking quilt is extremely versatile! It can go from an open blanket to a closed up, mummy-style sleeping bag. This versatility makes them them ideal for 3-season use.
Of course, don't forget your trekking poles if your tent requires them. You could look for down branches to use as tent poles. But, that would require poking around in the massive amount of poison oak along this trail.
Don't forget your bear canister! Again, many of the campsites have bear-proof containers for your food and toiletries. Bring one in case you stay where there isn't one provided. There are lots of bears in the area!
If there's anything else you need to complete your pack, visit our full line of high-quality, affordable backpacking gear.
Shop Backpacking Tents
Shop Ultralight Tarps
Shop Backpacking Quilts
Shop Down Sleeping Bags
Shop Insulated Sleeping Pads
Shop Backpacking Pillow
Shop Folding Trekking Poles
Shop Titanium Cookware
Shop Tent and Tarp Accessories
Finally, to make sure you don't forget something at home, use our Ultimate Backpacker's Packing List. It even includes a convenient printable checklist!
Do I Need a Permit?
No permits are required for the Rogue River Trail.
For some of the best scenery southern Oregon has to offer, you can't beat the Rogue River National Recreation Trail. Have you completed this trail or any nearby? Tell us about it in the comments below!
If you're looking for more hike ideas, read our "Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips in Washington State" roundup post. Also, the following Hike of the Week articles cover other amazing trails in the western states.
For even more amazing backpacking trips, visit The Trailhead, our interactive hike map. It contains a curated list of dozens of hikes, each with a detailed write-up like this one.
Finally, check out our comprehensive list of backpacking articles that cover just about everything there is to know about backpacking. If you're just starting out, our Backpacking 101 section covers all the basics. If you already have a few trips under your belt, you can find more advanced topics covered in our Expert Articles.