Many choice hikes are found along the 50-mile stretch of the Rogue River Trail from Lost Creek Lake to the river’s source at Boundary Springs, just inside Crater Lake National Park. Lofty waterfalls, deep gushing gorges, and a natural bridge are all easily accessible. Those interested in more than just a short walk from the parking lot to the viewpoint can design hikes of 2–18 miles with or without an overnight stay. Travelers with two cars can arrange shuttles to avoid having to double back.
Mill Creek Falls
One of the more scenic recreation spots, Mill Creek Falls, is owned by Boise Cascade, a timber conglomerate. Boise Cascade has constructed a botanical nature trail system through its land to a series of three waterfalls in an impressive rock-choked section of the Rogue River called the Avenue of the Giant Boulders.
The largest of the three waterfalls is Mill Creek Falls, which plunges 173 feet down into the river. Signs along the highway and Mill Creek Drive (formerly the old Crater Lake Highway), a scenic loop out of the community of Prospect, direct visitors to the trailhead. A large map further details the trail routes. The trail is short but steep; wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet and that have good traction, as you may have to scramble over some of the boulders and wade through some small ponds along the way.
A particularly wild section of the river is found at Takelma Gorge. Located 1 mile from River Bridge Campground on the upper Rogue River, the trail offers vistas of sharp foaming bends in the river with logs jammed at crazy angles on the rocks, along with ferns growing in the mist of the waterfalls. Although the river’s course is rugged, the grade on the trail is gentle.
Even if you’re in a hurry, you should take 15 minutes to get out of your car and stretch your legs at the Natural Bridge. Located 0.25 miles from Natural Bridge Campground, 1 mile west of Union Creek on Route 62, here the Rogue River drops into a lava tube and disappears from sight, only to emerge a little way downstream. A short paved path takes you to an artificial bridge that fords this unique section of the river. Several placards along the way explain the formation of the Natural Bridge and other points of interest.
Rogue River Gorge
Just outside of Union Creek on Route 62 is the spectacular Rogue River Gorge. At this narrowest point on the river, the action of the water has carved out a deep chasm in the rock. A short trail with several well-placed overlooks follows the rim of the gorge. Green mossy walls, logjams, and a frothy torrent of water are all clearly visible from the trail. Informative placards discuss curiosities like the living stump and the potholes carved in the lava rock by pebbles and the action of the water.
National Creek Falls
Another short hike for hurried motorists is National Creek Falls. An easy 0.5-mile walk down a trail bordered by magnificent Douglas firs leads to this tumultuous cascade. To get here, take Route 230 to Forest Service Road 6530. Follow the road until you reach the trailhead, marked by a sign.
A two-mile hike down a cool and shady trail takes you to the source of the mighty Rogue River—Boundary Springs. Situated just inside Crater Lake National Park, it’s a great place for a picnic. About 1 mile down the path from the trailhead, hang a left at the fork to get to Boundary Springs. Once at the springs, you’ll discover small cataracts rising out of the jumbled volcanic rock that’s densely covered with moss and other vegetation. Despite the temptation to get a closer look, the vegetation here is extremely fragile, so refrain from walking on the moss. To get here, take Route 230 north from Route 62 to the crater rim viewpoint, where parking can be found on the left-hand side of the road.
To enjoy the golden hues of larches and aspens in the fall, take Route 62 from Medford and turn east onto Route 140. En route, you might stop at Fish Lake or Lake of the Woods resorts. From here you can take scenic Westside Road to Fort Klamath; Crater Lake lies a scant six miles from here.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel