Rogue Umpqua Scenic Byway – Travel High into the Cascade Mountains

Tour the southern Cascade Mountains on this beautiful drive.

Prospect, Oregon.

Snow and fog kept us from viewing the lake known as Crater Lake, one of the most popular tourist destinations in southern Oregon. We were not to be completely shut out from beautiful natural Oregon scenic beauty, however. The weather forecast was for rain showers, but we left Grants Pass early in the day for our trip to Crater Lake. By the time we got to the higher altitudes of the park, the rain had turned to snow and we were well in the clouds. We would end up deciding Crater Lake would have to wait for another trip.

Part of the route to the rim put us on the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway. We would not travel the entire 172 miles (275 km) of the route, but we did travel state routes 62 and 230 on the southern end of the byway. The journey features three areas, the upper section of the Rogue River, the high southern Cascades, and the northern section of the Umpqua River.

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The Rogue River

Fly fishing is a popular sport on this river. If you are into fly fishing, bring your gear along and spend some time on the river. If you travel the entire route, it will likely be an entire day’s journey, more if you decide to take many fishing or photography breaks.

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Rogue Gorge

Traveling State Route 62, the Crater Lake Highway, is a splendid way to spend even a cloudy, rainy day. Northeast of Prospect, you will find a parking area that allows for a travel break. Don’t miss that chance to get out, stretch your legs, and take a short walk to see one of the many waterfalls visible along the byway that is also known as the Highway of Waterfalls.

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Path to the Gorge viewpoint.

A short walk on the paved path will bring you some spectacular visual rewards. The 1580-foot (481 m) walkway is easily traversed, and informational plaques provide background on the gorge.

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The Living Stump

It’s almost unbelievable, at some point, a tree was cut down, but prior to its destruction, the roots of the tree intertwined with a nearby tree essentially grafting itself to the roots of the other tree. Even though the stump is all that remains of the tree, the base continues to draw nourishment from the graft and the tree, short as it is, remains alive.

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Gorge view.

Due to the high walls of the gorge, the river narrows as it passes through the chasm. After a short distance of high-speed water flow, the water falls into a wider section of the river and continues on its journey.

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Rogue River Trail.

For those interested in a longer hike, the Rogue Gorge Trail #1034A is a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) trail that begins at the Natural Bridge Viewpoint just down the river from the gorge. It meanders through the Siskyou National Forest, and you will pass by two campgrounds before you arrive at the Rogue Gorge viewpoint area.

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Rogue River.

Experienced hikers may decide to hike the 37-mile (60 km) Rogue River Trail. That trail is rated difficult, and there are even outfitters that can give the advanced hiker a multi-day hiking experience. For those who do the hike on their own, they expect a 4- to 5-day trek.

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Rogue Gorge.

Even on a cloudy, rainy Oregon day, the area is vibrant green and makes for spectacular photography. Multiple views of the river and the gorge can be found without taking either long hike. We opted to stay on the paved pathway and these images were all captured from the viewpoint walkway.

On your trip to Crater Lake, you can make a loop of sorts from the Pacific Coast through Roseburg, the start of the scenic byway, stop at Crater Lake, then continue on the byway southerly past Rogue Gorge on the way toward Grants Pass. I processed a larger gallery of images in 2K HD on my Flickr site. For more views of the gorge, check out my album here.

John Steiner


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