Upper and Lower Table Rocks

Lower Table Rock

  • Easy (Upper Table Rock)
  • 2.8 miles round-trip
  • 720 feet elevation gain
  • Open all year

  • Moderate (Lower Table Rock)
  • 5.2 miles round-trip
  • 780 feet elevation gain

Once a sanctuary for Takelma Indians, today these cliff-edged mesas near Medford are a haven for hikers and endangered wildflowers. Views from the cliffs extend across the Rogue River to the Siskiyous and the Cascades. Visit in spring to catch the best flower displays and to avoid summer’s merciless heat. Dogs, horses, fires, and flower picking are banned on both Table Rocks trails. Stay on designated paths.

The 125-foot-thick andesite rims capping these U-shaped mesas are remnants of a lava flow that poured down the Rogue River Valley 7 million years ago from a vent near Lost Creek Lake. Since then, erosion has worn away the softer surrounding rock, leaving the hard andesite perched 800 feet above the plain.

An 1850 gold strike at Jacksonville attracted so many miners and settlers to the Rogue Valley that the local Takelma Indians launched attacks to reclaim their homeland. When the U.S. Army retaliated in 1853, the tribe retreated to Upper Table Rock, a natural fortress that long defied capture. To this day, the mesas remain sacred to the Takelmas.

When real estate speculators proposed a subdivision inside Lower Table Rock’s bowl in 1979, The Nature Conservancy raised $500,000 to save it. The Bureau of Land Management has since formed a partnership with this public-spirited non-profit group, building trails and designating additional land. In 2009 The Nature Conservancy bought the last private land on the two mesas for $3.9 million.

Today each mesa has its own trail. …

Of the two trails, the path up Upper Table Rock is shorter and slightly easier. To find it from Interstate 5, take ...

For the best view of all, however, hike …

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