Rogue River Trail West

Mule Creek Canyon

  • Easy (Marial to Paradise Lodge)
  • 6.6 miles round-trip
  • 200 feet elevation gain
  • Open April to December

  • Difficult (Marial to Illahe)
  • 15.6 miles one way
  • 950 feet elevation gain

At Inspiration Point, the trail through the Rogue River’s wilderness canyon has been blasted out of sheer basalt cliffs. Hundreds of feet below, kayaks and rafts drift through green-pooled chasms toward the roar of Blossom Bar’s whitewater. In other places the river trail ducks into forested side canyons with waterfalls. Sometimes the path emerges at grassy river bars with ancient ranch cabins and gnarled oaks. Hikers always share this wilderness gorge with the plentiful wildlife drawn by the river—kingfishers, black bears, deer, and eagles.

The eastern portion of the 40-mile Rogue River Trail is described in Rogue River Trail East. This western segment crosses the Wild Rogue Wilderness, with the river’s wildest rapids and narrowest canyons. It also passes commercial lodges where hikers can stop for a meal or a night—or catch a jet boat to Gold Beach. A few warnings: Avoid August, when the rocky, exposed slopes often shimmer with 100° F heat. Poison oak is common. Backpackers should bring a stove because campfires are only allowed in no-trace firepans. At night, hang food bags at least 10 feet high and 5 feet from a tree trunk to discourage black bears.

The river’s name comes from the Takelma and Tututni Indians, whom the early French trappers called coquins (rogues). When gold attracted white interlopers, the tribes retaliated in 1855 by massacring settlers. The Army pursued the Indians to this remote canyon, where the soldiers were besieged by a superior force of well-armed warriors. The Army’s trenches are still visible above the trail at Illahe’s Big Bend Pasture. Relief troops from the east turned back when Indians rolled rocks on them from the steep slopes above Solitude Bar. When soldiers from Gold Beach arrived, however, more than a thousand Indians were taken captive and forcibly moved 150 miles north to the Siletz Reservation.

Today hikers can sample the Rogue River Trail’s most dramatic scenery on an easy 3.3-mile walk from Marial to Paradise Lodge. To find the trailhead …

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon.