Over 570 miles of trails crisscross the 1-million-acre Umpqua National Forest, with elevations that range 1,000–9,000 feet. There are hikes to please families and mountain climbers alike. Wildlife and wildflowers, mountain lakes and mountain peaks, old-growth forest and alpine meadows are some of the attractions visitors see along the way.
North Umpqua Trail
If you’re camping along the North Umpqua River, many pleasant day hikes are possible on the North Umpqua Trail. Beginning near the town of Glide, this thoroughfare parallels the North Umpqua River for most of its 79 miles. Divided into 11 segments from over 3 miles to just under 16 miles in length, the trail leads high into the Cascades and connects with the Pacific Crest Trail as well as many campgrounds.
Route 138 affords many access points to the trail. Check with the Umpqua National Forest Ranger Station, Diamond Lake Ranger District (HC 60, P.O. Box 101, Idleyld Park, OR 97447, 541/498-2531) for a map and brochure to plan your expedition along this beautiful walkway.
One segment of the North Umpqua Trail is the 1-mile Panther Trail. This gentle hike begins near Steamboat at the parking lot of the former ranger station. Many wildflowers are seen late April–early June on the way up to the old fish hatchery. One flower to look for is the bright-red snow plant, Sarcodes sanguinea, which grows beneath Douglas firs and sugar pine trees.
Also called the carmine snow flower or snow lily, the snow plant is classified as a saprophyte, a plant that contains no chlorophyll and derives nourishment from decayed materials. Growing 8–24 inches in height, the plant’s red flowers are crowded at the crown of the stem.
Mount Bailey Trail
A five-mile hike that ranges from easy to moderate is found on the south slope of 8,363-foot Mount Bailey. Bring plenty of water and good sturdy hiking shoes because the last 0.5 miles of the ascent is steep, with many sharp rocks. To get to the trailhead, take Route 138 to the north entrance of Diamond Lake. Turn onto Forest Service Road 4795 and follow it 5 miles to the junction of Forest Service Road 4795-300. Proceed down 4795-300 for 1 mile until you see the trail marker.
Diamond Lake Loop
The easy two-mile Diamond Lake Loop takes hikers through a mix of lodgepole pine and true fir to Lake Creek, Diamond Lake’s only outlet. There are many views of Mount Bailey along the way, as well as some private coves ideal for a swim on hot days. But while the grade is easy, keep in mind that the elevation is nearly 1 mile high and pace yourself accordingly. To get to the loop, take Forest Service Road 4795 off Route 138 on the north entrance to Diamond Lake and look for the trailhead sign on the west side of the road.
Mount Thielsen Trail
For those who like to climb mountains for reasons other than just because they are there, the Mount Thielsen Trail offers a million-dollar view from the top of the mountain. This four-mile moderate-to-difficult trail winds to the top of Mount Thielsen’s spire-pointed 9,182-foot-high volcanic peak.
Bring along water and quick-energy snacks; hiking boots are also recommended due to the sharp volcanic rocks that could easily damage ordinary shoes. Extra care should be taken getting up and down the last 200 feet, since the rocks weaken from ice and erosion during the winter and are prone to crumble underfoot.
If you make it to the top, be sure to enter your name in the climbing register found there. Then take a look at the view, which stretches from Mount Shasta to Mount Hood, and forget all the silly preoccupations that plague us mortals. You’ll find the trailhead on the east side of Route 138 one mile north of the junction of Route 230.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel