The hike into the Chetco River from the Babyfoot Lake Trailhead is a long and somewhat arduous journey, but the payoff is worth it. Here you'll find what is considered one of the clearest rivers in Oregon, replete with waterfalls, swimming pools, and rocks to lounge on as you enjoy the Southern Oregon sun. Few kayakers make the trip down the river because it is such a long hike in, but those who do are rewarded with a beautiful and rugged river. For hikers, the trip in and out is an excellent way to explore a remote corner of Oregon that gets very little foot traffic.
Most of the hike winds through the area burned in the Biscuit Fire in 2002. That fire raged through much of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and burned nearly 500,000 acres. The result is an odd landscape of white skeleton trees with a deep green understory of new shrub growth. These shrubs encroach on much of the trail, so wearing shorts is not recommended. The area is home to the Kalmiopsis leachiana, a purple flower, and the Brewer's weeping spruce, both of which are endemic to the area.
The hike begins at the well-established Babyfoot Lake Trailhead, but be careful to follow the directions to find the trailhead, and then be sure to use a map as you hit the trail. The first part of the trail to Babyfoot Lake experiences heavier traffic, and beyond this point the trail is less populated and more difficult to follow. Certain junctions are not easy to see and may lead to long detours. There is little water along the way, so bring plenty and use a water purifier to replenish along the trail. At points the trail is loose and slow going, so make sure you have plenty of time if you plan to make it to the river and back. Campsites along the river should be ignored because of their impact on the fragile riparian zone; instead, opt to use the campsites above the river that are only a short distance from the water. You will also encounter more established backcountry camping options along the trail.