Low Point: 200'
High Point: 1100'
DirectionsThe Illahe trailhead (the western trailhead) is located on Rogue River Road, 31 miles from Gold Beach. After crossing the bridge, veer right on the well-signed route, and follow this road for four miles to the trailhead. This trailhead costs $5.00 a day.
The trailhead at Grave Creek (the eastern trailhead) is found by taking exit 76 from Interstate 5. Drive a half mile and take a right across from the gas station onto Front Street. This road will pass under a railroad bridge before turning left. Follow this road for 15 miles (continuing straight at a fairly prominent intersection just past the five mile mark), until reaching the Rogue River. Turn right before crossing the bridge, and immediately veer left to the boat ramp and trailhead.
One disadvantage to this one-way trail is arranging shuttles. During winter months, dropping off a car at one end takes especially long since the lesser-known roads are covered in snow. For our mid march trip, we dropped one vehicle off at the Illahe trailhead, and attempted to take road 23 to Galice. After 20 miles of driving this road, we soon ran into snow that was impassible. We ended up driving back to Illahe, and taking road 33 to Forest Service Road 3348 (this road also takes you to Marial and access to the midpoint of the trail), and followed the signs to Grave Creek. These are both small winding roads that took us several hours to traverse. During the winter both of these routes are most likely covered with snow. Shuttles can also be arranged through rafting companies, or finding local residents to shuttle you.
The eastern portion of the hike is quite spectacular. Tall, steep mountains rise on each side of the river, and the mix of dry, arid areas mixed with lush, green canyon oases creates an awesome start to the trip. The first campsite is at 3.5 miles just after crossing Whiskey Creek (all creek crossings have bridges, so you dont really have to worry about getting too wet unless you want to). Whiskey Creek is very clear, and the campsites adjacent to it are excellent. The next developed campsites are another 2.5 miles at Russian Creek.
At around 9.5 miles, the trail takes a turn north and soon thereafter travels around Horseshoe bend. By now, the vegetation is starting to turn to varieties that prefer the wetter conditions. Kelsey Creek, around 15.5 miles out provides an excellent camping site, complete with several picnic tables and great scenery. Ditch Creek, 2.8 miles past Kelsey Creek also has some very nice camping areas, and lots of meadow to explore.
Shortly after Ditch Creek, hikers can see the green lawns and buildings of the Winkle Bar near the river. Quail Creek, which is reached shortly after Winkle Bar is a beautiful creek. Unfortunately, arsenic has been found in it, so for those of you looking for water, this isnt the place to get it. The trail continues past Quail Creek, climbing quite a bit, and giving the hiker lots of views of the Rogue. The next available camping area is near the Rogue River Ranch and Marial (23 miles from Grave Creek). There is road access to this area of the hike, so dont expect solitude in this area.
The trail turns into a road at the Rogue River Ranch, crosses Mule Creek, and continues through the woods where it eventually becomes a trail again. Soon thereafter, the trail enters the Mule Creek Canyon area, where the trail has been cut into the cliffs that drop to the Rogue. Several nice creeks and campgrounds are crossed before reaching Paradise Lodge…which is pretty close to being paradise. When we arrived here, we were immediately offered drinks and just about anything else we needed. Reservations are needed for lodging, especially during the summer months (1-800-525-2161). After Paradise Lodge, the trail climbs high above the river. Watch for river otters in the area, and expect to see the occasional powerboat gliding up the river to Paradise Lodge. After following the river around a sharp bend, the trail enters Brushy Bar, which has a couple campsites and a ranger cabin.
The trail past Brushy Bar enters into a forest of tall fir trees, and then onto open, rocky plains alongside the river before crossing Tate Creek. Be sure to take a look at Tate Creek falls, which is located just below the bridge crossing. Several different camping areas are provided just past Tate Creek, all of which are very nice, and Clay Hill Lodge is located just past these sites. For reservations, call the same number as above.
The final six miles are very nice. Several waterfalls are viewable from the trail, but the trail also gives the hiker some work in this area as it climbs up and down the valley walls. The final half-mile travels through open fields and an orchard before delivering hikers to their cars.