Friday, October 16, 2020

Rogue Gorge - Upper Rogue River Trail Loop

The genesis of this hike began when younger brother Don prostrated himself at my feet, begging "O wise and wonderful Older Brother, I am but a mere gnat caught in the glittering web of your awesomeness, Please o please, can you take me on one of your hikes and render me worthy as I bask in the golden glow of your presence?" Now, if you run into Don out on the street somewhere and question him as to the veracity of my account, he may vehemently deny that such a conversation ever took place. But, my rejoinder is that my blog is part of the Internet and if it's on the Internet, then it must be true.

Just a beautiful day for a hike!

The Cascade Mountain Range in Oregon are a chain of tall peaks covered with countless acres of tall conifers. Being evergreens, the conifers tend to ignore that autumn foo-foo stuff of bright colors and all that nonsense. What's wrong with being tall and dark green, anyway? Nothing, but autumn can be so much fun when leaves of trees so inclined celebrate winter's impending arrival with a burst of leafy color. So what's a hiker to do in order to enjoy the autumn plumage? Why, you must go where the vine maples grow, and that's how younger brother Don and I found ourselves on the Rogue Gorge Trail once the proper amount of groveling had taken place.

The Rogue River churns in its namesake gorge

Don had never been to the Upper Rogue River so I was able to hike vicariously, seeing the hike anew through his eyes. Our hike began at the Rogue Gorge which is a geologic marvel in its own right. Here, the Rogue River flows through an ancient lava tube whose roof had collapsed millenia ago. The river is all white water as it angrily seethes at the bottom of the narrow gorge and the view thereof was a great way to begin the day's venture.

The river reflects

After gawking at the gorge, we set foot on the Rogue Gorge Trail which follows the river to touristy Natural Bridge. It didn't take long for this to become the quintessential autumn hike. The riverbanks were bathed in warm sunlight and the vine maples were in bright orange, red, and yellow form. Dogwood likewise went colorful but tended more toward a pinkish hue. The river was tranquil and serene here and the surrounding colorful foliage and trees painted watercolor reflections on the river's surface.

Colorful leaves were one of the stories of this hike

The next few miles were mostly a level walk underneath either a deep blue sky or vine maple leaves illuminated by the bright sun like so many millions of colored lights. Don also had a camera so he wasn't any more annoyed than usual with his wiser and more handsome big brother when much mutual photography ensued. 

Much photography ensued

The basic calm tenor of the river changed when the river used the readily available slot of yet another collapsed lave tube to funnel into, raging and frothing with angry white water as it did so. A picturesque footbridge crosses the river here and the bridge makes a convenient place to stop and take photographs of the scenic river constrained by unyielding black and gray lava.

The river divides around a large boulder

More geological and/or riverine delights awaited us at Natural Bridge after another mile and a half of riverside walking. Natural Bridge is where a lava tube did not collapse and the Rogue River enters the tube and disappears completely from sight like a child playing hide-and-seek, only to emerge about 75 yards downstream, ready to resume its long above-ground journey to the Pacific Ocean. Don was suitably impressed, gushing "Gee whillikers Totally Awesome Big Brother, this is amazing!" while I, as a jaded and faded Upper Rogue River veteran, stifled a yawn and replied. "What, that old thing?"

Just follow the Yellow Leaf Road!

Actually, the bridge part of Natural Bridge was the least visually interesting thing at this popular tourist spot. More fun was the river thundering in its narrow defile in a series of thundering cascades and roaring falls. Much photography (times two) ensued. And from there, we decided to return via the Upper Rogue River Trail for variety's sake.

Vine maple, putting on its usual autumn show

The Upper Rogue River Trail was initially a pleasantly level stroll along a fairly well-behaved river among some old-growth tree giants. Don stopped to gawk at a couple of them in suitably awestruck fashion. Nowhere near as tall, vine maples thrived in happy profusion and because they were on the mostly sunny side of the river, their leaves were as flamboyantly colorful as a Carnaval parade float in Río. 

Kindred spirit in Don, at least when it comes to photography

The return on the opposite side of the river did provide the only uphill stretch of this hike and my legs complained while Don and his much younger legs had no trouble at all. Continually beseeching him to wait for me, I may have even groveled a bit myself on the uphill slog. Once we crossed back over the river, the remainder of the walk was pleasantly level next to a soothingly calm and placid river as we hiked in easy brotherly companionship, if only for the reason Don had not yet read what I said about him in my blog. 

Watercolor painting

For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. Great fall colors, river photos and bantering about your brother. Is he still speaking to you after reading your blog?

    1. He gave it a like on Facebook but I have not heard a peep otherwise. That makes me think he didn't actually read it, which is probably a good thing!