Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness: Muir Creek Loop

Looking east towards Crater Lake along Trail 27
The Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness is a short 10 miles directly west of Crater Lake, but is a world away from the crowds that descend upon Oregon's only National Park. The Muir Creek trail follows its namesake for approximately 3.9 miles before it's terminus with the Buck Canyon Trail. As you set out on the Muir Creek trail you will be treated to beautiful views of the meandering stream and perhaps grazing elk. 


Muir Creek along the Muir Creek Trail

Muir Creek trail meandering along Muir Creek
After nearly 2.8 miles you will hear Muir Creek Falls to your right. Watch for faint trails through the alder that lead to a few seldom used campsites and a view of Muir Creek Falls. The thick riparian vegetation made photographing the waterfall difficult, but if it was mid-summer instead of mid-October one could easily ford Muir Creek for a better view. 

Muir Creek Falls along the Muir Creek Trail

The 10 foot Muir Creek Falls
The waterfall is located on a tributary of Muir Creek known as East Fork Sherwood Creek. It was possibly only because of the drought but upstream of the waterfall Muir Creek was merely a trickle. I was using Bill Sullivan's Muir Creek Trail so it came as a surprise to me , that shortly after Muir Creek Falls to the Buck Canyon Trail cutoff the trail is also an ATV trail. Don't be confused though, continue upstream along this now 6 foot wide track until you reach the Buck Canyon Trail. 

Muir Creek upstream of Muir Creek Falls

Muddy ruts from OHVs

The beginning of Buck Canyon Trail 
If you're only out for a day hike this makes for a decent turn around point. If you're completing the loop head straight onto the Buck Canyon Trail. Approximately 1.5 miles from the end of the OHV section you will see the well signed junction with the Hummingbird Meadows trail. The drought has made some of the normally reliable water sources further up Buck Canyon dry, so I would recommend filling up in West Fork Muir Creek 1/10 of a mile down the Hummingbird Meadows trail. In a normal water year or even earlier in the year I suspect that water would be flowing in many more places further upstream. The section of trail from the Wilderness sign to Bear Camp Spring had many beautiful meadows and a large rock slide that had previously dammed West Fork Muir Creek. 

Large western hemlock and Douglas-fir line the Buck Canyon Trail in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness

Murphy enjoying some cold clear water from West Fork Muir Creek

The broken Rouge-Umpqua Divide Wilderness sign along the Buck Canyon Trail
Every Wilderness Area is individually designated by Congress and so there will often be contingencies in the legislation that is seemingly at odds with wilderness values. The Rogue-Umpqua Divide still has a grandfathered grazing allotment, so it is likely that you will come across cattle or at least cow pies and trampled riparian vegetation. Be sure to treat your water in this area. 

Murphy checking out the cattle along the Buck Canyon Trail

Cattle grazing in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness along the Buck Canyon Trail


Cattle in the foreground and quaking aspen across the meadow
There are several small patches of quaking aspen along the Buck Canyon Trail. Quaking aspen provide many benefits for animals including thermal cover and forage, more can be read about quaking aspen here. On top of being great for many animals they provide beautiful fall color. 

Quaking aspen along the Buck Canyon Trail in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness

Massive Douglas-fir along the Buck Canyon Trail in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness

I was torn on camping at Wiley Camp or pushing on towards the headwaters of West Fork Muir Creek or Alkali Meadows. Shortly before reaching Alkali Meadows you reach the nearly 6,000 feet, which is the high point of the loop. Unfortunately the majority of springs were dry until shortly before the junction with Meadow Creek Trail. I would recommend camping at Wiley Camp or plan to push to what I named Cedar Meadow near the junction with Meadow Creek Trail.

One of the dry meadows near the base of Fish Mountain in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness

Looking back down on Buck Canyon from near the high point of the Muir Creek Loop in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness
 It was a surprisingly cold night, but sleep came easy because of the several thousand feet of elevation gain and nearly 12 miles of hiking. I absolutely love hiking in fall, but the lack of daylight is something I never seem to account for when planning my camping spots. After turning left onto the Meadow Creek Trail you will come to a road junction in 1 mile. 

Sunrise near the junction of the Buck Canyon Trail and Meadow Creek Trail in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness

Beautiful multi-stemmed incense-cedar

A small meadow along the Meadow Creek Trail in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness
Upon reaching road 700 you will turn left and walk past an incredible incense-cedar and about 100 yards after there will be the start of OHV trail 27. OHV trail 27 will take you to FR 950, from there it's either a short bushwack or following an abandoned trail back to the Muir Creek Trail. After walking short distances up and down FR 950 I was unable to find the trail, so I just set out down hill near a cattle guard. After a short distance I found pink flagging that marked the trail. My guess is that the trail starts slightly north of where OHV trail 27 puts you out on FS 950.

Directions from Eugene:
Follow I-5 south for 6.5 miles, take Exit 188 onto Highway 58, follow Highway 58 for 86.2 miles, turn south(right) onto Highway 97 and follow for 17.5 miles. Then turn right onto onto Highway 138, follow for 17.8 miles. Turn left onto Highway 230 and follow for 13.5 miles, the trailhead is just after a bridge on the right.

Hike Distance: 16.4 miles round trip

Hike Type: Loop

Elevation Gain: 2,736 Feet

Trailhead Elevation: 3,800 Feet

Usage: Light

Difficulty: 4 out of 5

Fees: None






  

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