The Rogue River Trail is a beautiful and well-maintained route that runs the entire length of the Wild and Scenic stretch of the Rogue. The typical starting point is the Grave Creek boat launch, and the ending point is a small trailhead between Illahe Lodge and the Foster Bar boat launch (typical take-out point for the four-day float trip). Though the trail follows the river downstream, there are plenty of ups and downs that add a good bit of vertical climb to the trail.
There are a handful of lodges along the Wild and Scenic stretch of the Rogue, and most hikers choose to complete the four-day walk by staying the three nights at different lodges downstream. Lodges typically provide hikers with a dinner, breakfast, and lunch for the next day, so hikers can go relatively light. The primary “hiking season” on the Rogue is in the spring from late April through early June. After that, the lodges typically fill up with guest or commercial float trips down the Rogue. Lodge contact information is listed in the order of river flow:
Black Bar Lodge (RM 41.9) – 541.479.6507
Marial Lodge (RM 53.7) – 541.474.2057
Paradise Lodge (RM 57.4) – 541.842.2822
Clay Hill Lodge (RM 62.5) – 503.859.3772
Illahe Lodge (RM 66.9) – 541.247.6111
It is also possible to backpack the river and camp in many of the scenic riverside campgrounds. Hikers can easily hike the canyon upstream from Foster Bar to Grave Creek, which is a great way to follow up a spring raft trip down the Rogue.
This trip was actually done as a backpack upstream in the reverse direction of typical hiking traffic. It is written up, however, as a four-day trip from Grave Creek to Foster Bar in order to represent how most people will follow the trail. Mileages given are based on the popular Rogue River Guidebook, as this is one of the most comprehensive resources available to hikers and floaters.
For more comprehensive information about floating the Rogue River check out this Adventure Overview.
The river trail downstream from Kelsey Creek crosses many open sections of forest that offer nice views of the canyon. The first 0.4 miles leads to the Kelsey Geology Camp. If it is unoccupied, explore the water-worn geology and numerous potholes along the river's edge. There are several spots to jump in and float past the island of Dothan bedrock downstream. Continue to the open meadows at Ditch Creek (another 0.8 miles) and scour the hillside for remnants of homestead cabins. The view looking up Kelsey Canyon from this section of trail is spectacular. The trail climbs through a beautiful, moss-covered oak forest with lush green grass underfoot before descending to the flats behind Winkle Bar. Wander across the airstrip to Zane Grey’s Cabin.
The trail is fairly nondescript between Winkle Bar and Quail Creek. There is a beautiful pool, however, beneath the footbridge at Quail Creek. Leave your pack on the trail and scramble down for a refreshing dip in the cool water.
Leaving Quail Creek, the trail climbs nearly 300 feet in the first quarter mile, offering nice upstream views almost immediately. It drops back toward Missouri Bar before leveling out at roughly 200 feet above the river. A handful of openings look down onto Island Rapids, Maggies Riffle, and China Bar Rapids en route to Mule Creek. In May, large blooming plants line this portion of the trail. After 3.4 miles the trail joins the Marial Road and passes the Rogue River Ranch. Stop and enjoy this historic BLM museum before continuing the final 1.2 miles to Marial Lodge for the night. If time allows, take the side trip up Mule Creek Canyon to the pack bridge and the remains of the stamp mill just upstream.
Leave Marial Lodge and follow the road past evidence of the Red River Mining Company's massive hydraulic operations. The trail will leave the woods and move closer to the river at Mule Creek Canyon. The views are great along the trail, and it is possible at several places to scramble down to the river’s edge and look into Mule Creek Canyon and onto Coffeepot Rapid. There are a few small pocket campsites among the bedrock on the edge of Mule Creek Canyon. Be sure to make the short hike downstream to the dramatic Inspiration Point that looks across the river onto Stair Creek Falls.
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Reference: Content excerpted from The Rogue River – A Comprehensive Guide from Prospect to Gold Beach. by Idaho River Publications.
Our mission is to inspire adventure with beautiful, comprehensive and waterproof map-based guidebooks. Owner, publisher, and photographer Matt Leidecker, grew up exploring and guiding on the rivers in central Idaho. His award winning Middle Fork of the Salmon River – A Comprehensive Guide is the standard by which other river guidebooks are measured. Printed on virtually indestructible YUPO paper, IRP guides are truly unique all-in-one resources for adventure. Each book is loaded with full-color maps, stunning photographs, and information on the history, geology, and wildflowers. Visit Idaho River Publications to explore our guidebooks to the Rogue River in Oregon and the mountains of Central Idaho.