The Kims may have plucked their ill-fated scenic route from Grants Pass to Gold Beach off an online mapping service, unaware they chose a snowed-over backcountry road not suited for tourists, authorities said.

Despite its impassable seasonal snowdrifts and single-lane size, Bear Camp Road through the Siskiyou Mountains is offered as the preferred route on some Web sites and on-board-directions software available on some new cars.

Yahoo and MapQuest offer Highways 199 and 101 as the preferred route.

A Google map search, however, suggests the Bear Camp route, a series of federal forest roads used mostly by summer Rogue River rafters but becoming a more common route among summer sightseers.

Authorities suspect that the Kims may have chosen the Bear Camp route via a map search, but Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters said Monday night that could not be confirmed.

"They wanted a scenic route from I-5 to Gold Beach," Winters said.

"There will be more investigation," Winters said. "We'll track every detail of the journey."

Though paved, the single-lane road with turnouts, blind curves and steep embankments can be treacherous regardless of the season.

"That's not good," said Chris Dent, who manages the river section for the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. "It's not a safe route, particularly at this time of year."

Oregon Department of Transportation maps offer the more common directions as Highway 199 to Highway 101, de-emphasizing Bear Camp Road.

"Our state highway maps show that route as not passable in wintertime, and we try to make sure people know that," said ODOT District Manager John Vial in Medford.

Vial said he does not know where online mapping sites receive their information, but he said he hopes sites would discontinue offering such driving advice.

"The public needs to know that's not a safe route in the wintertime," Vial said.

The Kims' saga is similar to the March sojourn of the Stivers family, which was stranded for 17 days in a motor home during an ill-fated trip from Ashland to Gold Beach.

In that case, the four adults and two children intended to take Bear Camp Road to Gold Beach, but they missed the turn and ended up stranded north of the Rogue River. They were rescued after Pete Stivers and his wife, Marlo Hill-Stivers, both of Ashland, spent two days hiking out.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail