The Redwood forests have long been claimed by our sister state to the south, California. Tourists flock there year round to experience the last few standing native redwood groves.
These trees — the largest living structures in the world — have a dwarfing effect on those who encounter them; their age and size puts our own lives into an active perspective. But you don't have to travel to California to hike through the redwoods. They're found in Oregon, too.
This easy 2.7-mile loop outside Brookings offers the redwood experience, but unlike better-known hikes to the south, you will never feel like you're in an amusement park. With less than 500 feet of elevation difference on a smooth, wide grade, this hike is suitable for the very young and old. Part of it is wheelchair-accessible, too.
Bring a variety of clothes whenever hiking this close to the coast. Sometimes these small mountains are just enough to break up the fog and clouds, leaving their interiors sunny and hot. Other times they may be completely saturated in a foggy, dewy drip. And often the weather just won't decide what to do, so be prepared. Leave bikes, horses and motorized recreational vehicles at the trailhead.
Get the Gold Beach District Map from the National Forest Store online anytime, or from one of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest ranger stations. About .7 miles north of the Oregon-California border on Highway 101, set your tripometer and head east on Winchuck River Road.
At 1.5 miles, turn right (south) on Peavine Ridge Road and follow the signs to the Oregon Redwoods Trail.
The road ascends through private property. Drive slow to avoid potholes and be courteous of residences. At 5.6 miles there is a parking lot with a well-maintained vault toilet, fire pit and a picnic table with wheelchair accessibility. The Oregon Redwoods Barrier Free Trail (No. 1106) is on the parking lot's southeast end.
At the trailhead is a large sign that the Forest Service is planning to remodel into an interpretive outlet.
About 500 feet into the hike you'll come to a junction. Wheelchairs should veer right, staying on trail No. 1106. Hikers should head left on the Oregon Redwoods Trail No. 1107, descending into the upper reaches of the Winchuck River drainage.
At about .5 miles, the wide trail enters groves that rival anything in California. Some of these giants are actually cedars, which can be difficult to distinguish from the California Redwood. Lots of these trees have deep fire scars, an indication of their natural history. Rhododendrons with tree-sized trunks and cabbage-sized flowers intermingle throughout the slope.
At about .75 miles, after crossing a trickle of a creek, the trail flattens to where you'll find the most impressive trees on this hike. The largest redwood specimens are downhill and off the trail; don't get lost finding them.
By 1.2 miles, the path will change direction and start ascending. The easy grade it assumes is evidence of careful trail planning over steep grades. Some of this trail could be part of old roads or skid-rows, too.
At about 1.7 miles, after ascending on easy, well-built switchbacks and passing through some smaller cedar and redwood groves, you'll come across another junction; head left and clockwise. You are now back on the wheelchair accessible Barrier Free Trail No. 1106.
Shortly after this junction is a picnic table not far from a giant snag completely hollowed by lightning and fire. Sit here, eat lunch and smell the rich air. The Forest Service wisely installed a platform in and around the snag so visitors can walk into it without feeling eco-guilt from eroding the soil around popular trees. On this ridge are some decent views through the forest and toward the coast.
Even though this hike is really just a stroll through the woods, it takes a long time, especially for camera clickers and tree geeks. These small tracts of native forests seem to slow everything down, including time and walking pace. The shade, enormity and silence have a cathedral effect. And peering back through this forest at the trailhead is like looking back into time — when trees were fat and there was no highway going through them.
Freelance writer Gabe Howe lives in Ashland and is founder and chair of the Siskiyou Mountain Club. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org