Updated: Dec 13, 2020
The Klamath-Siskyou (KS) ecoregion is one of the most biodiverse conifer ecosystems within the world. The KS is one of the wild regions in the lower 48. With over 30 different conifer species and an abundance of wild and scenic rivers, it's easy to see why this is Sasquatch country.
Adventure Rating: Epic
Trip Length: 256 mi, 4 - 7 days
Season: June to November (check with the Forest Service regarding snow levels on Mt Ashland).
Technical Rating: Nearly all green, with a few very mild blue sections.
Typical Terrain: A mixture of mostly graded dirt forest roads and some pavement to connect the off-road sections (approx 70% dirt / 30% pavement). There are a few old trails with ruts from erosion that may also be tight for wider vehicles like Sprinter Vans.
Recommended Vehicle: Truck or SUV with 4x4 and all terrain tires.
Adventure Vans: Sprinter 4x4s should be able to manage the entire route. However, there are a few lesser traveled trails with encroaching trees and brush (from the top and sides), which may make passage tight or even difficult.
Alternative Routes: n/a
The Klamath-Siskyou (KS) ecoregion covers 11 million acres across the Coastal Mountain Ranges of Far Northern California and Southern Oregon, and is considered a global center for biodiversity and one of the wildest places in the contiguous United States. It has one of the largest and most diverse concentrations of conifers in the world, with 36 different species of conifer having been identified in the region. Outside of Alaska, the Klamath-Siskyou has the largest number of designated Wild and Scenic Rivers, with the Rogue River (north) and the Klamath River (south) being the dominant rivers in the area. While lightly traveled, outdoor recreation such as fishing, river rafting, hiking, and mountain biking are all popular in the KS, especially along the Rogue River and Mt Ashland corridors.
Part of the reason for the KS's biodiversity, is due to the fact that its a transition zone for several major biotas, namely the Great Basin, Oregon Coast Range, Cascades, the Sierra Nevada, California's Central Valley, and the Coastal Province of Northern California. Along the coast, the temperate rainforest see as much as 120 inches of rain per annum, while the mountains along the eastern front may see as little as 20 inches in a season. Emerald forests of Douglas fir and other species of conifer dominate the higher elevation and western fronts, while a mixture of conifer, oak, and savanna can be found at lower elevations and further inland. The route begins in the quaint college town of Ashland, famous for its outdoor Shakespeare Festival. From town, the route immediately begins to ascend Mt Ashland, a local favorite for snow sports during winter, and mountain biking in the summer. As you make your way to the crest of the ridge, the massive cinder cone of Mt Shasta (which is actually 4 cinder cones) comes into view. The southern section of the route is comprised primarily of dirt roads that follow various ridge tops and ridge lines. This section of the route stops at two fire lookouts (which can be reserved for lodging) along the way, providing excellent views of the Siskyou Crest. Pay close attention to the flora and geology, and notice how the diversity and species of plants changes as you move from one ecological zone to another. These changes are even more prevalent as you look west where the lower elevation mountains are draped in green forests, while to the east, the mountainsides are noticeably drier and less forested, which is indicative of the eastern region's drier climate. The southern section makes several ascents and descents in the ridge lines and mountains surrounding Applegate lake, until finally climbing over Whiskey Peak and dropping into the Applegate River Valley, which also happens to be home to one the Applegate Valley AVA (a great place to stop if you're into wine). Passing numerous hamlets and countryside villages, this portion of the route sees more pavement than the mountain section before it. Applegate Valley was also once home to the Applegate Mining District, with over 7,000 mines, and 600 of which are still active. Some of Oregon's largest gold nuggets were extracted from the area's mines. Heading north, the dominant river of the northern Klamath-Siskyou rears its mighty head-- the Rogue River, world famous for its white water rafting. The lower Rogue just outside of Grant's Pass features some of the rivers most sought after rapids. The Rogue is also popular among anglers, especially those fishing for stealhead, Chinook and Coho salmon. Here, the route mostly follows the banks of the Rogue River, only departing for a short off road jaunt on the slopes above the Rogue before meeting back with the pavement as it parallels the Rogue. As the Rogue cuts westward, the route continues its march north towards Winston. The majority of land in this section is managed by BLM, and hopefully to your delight, you'll be enjoying much more dirt on the final third of the route. The mountains in the northern section are much lower in elevation, rarely surpassing 3,500'. Eventually the route drops into the Cow Creek main drainage, and then explores tributary drainages, like Doe Creek. The route meets its terminus along the banks of the South Umpqua River.
Dispersed camping is permitted throughout public lands managed by the National Forest and BLM, unless signage indicates otherwise. We strongly encourage off road travelers to take advantage of dispersed camping opportunities, but please be mindful of forest and BLM boundaries.
DP1 - Ashland
DP2 - Mt Ashland
DP3 - Meridian Overlook
DP4 - Dutchman Lookout
DP5 - Squaw Peak Lookout
DP6 - McKee Covered Bridge
DP7 - Applegate River
DP8 - Gin Lin Mining Trail
DP9 - Whiskey Peak
DP10 - English Lavender Farm
DP11 - Applegate Valley AVA
DP12 - Applegate Mining District
DP13 - Applegate River
DP14 - Robertson Bridge
DP15 - Rogue River
DP16 - South Umpqua River
>> Always check with local land managers for road closures and conditions.
Gaia GPS (Nat Geo Trails Illustrated layer, Gaia base layer)
Download GPX file
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