- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 4, 2015

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) - A late October hike along the stretch of the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail between Wolf Gap and Bear Gulch offers more than a testament to the fall colors of Southern Oregon.

The oak leaves are now popping neon splashes of browns and rusty reds on ridge after ridge after ridge all the way to the Red Buttes of Northern California.

“That’s got some gorgeous views of the ridges around the Little Applegate and beyond,” says Hope Robertson of the Siskiyou Upland Trails Association, which works on the trail. “And the colors of the oak woodlands are just gorgeous.”

This sliver of the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail is one of five fall hikes that highlight the turning flora and returning fauna of Southern Oregon - including the spawning fall chinook salmon of the Rogue River Basin.

Taking in the fall colors and watching the Rogue’s apex salmon at work are foot pursuits that can be tailored to the hiking abilities and interests of virtually anyone.

This fall’s list, however, starts with this stretch of the Sterling Mind Ditch Trail because it can cater to a variety of hiking interests.

Some can hike the 1 1/2-mile trek down the Wolf Gap access trail to the actual ditch trail, absorb the scenery and hike out.

“Or, you can go as far as you want in either direction,” Robertson says. “But I suggest people go east toward Bear Gulch just for those views of the meadows.”

The roughly 20 miles of the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail and its nearly 10 miles of access trails comprise the first Oregon State Scenic Trail in Southern Oregon, literally putting it on the map of the state’s most gorgeous hikes.

The Sterling Mine Ditch Trail and the eight access trails to it are detailed on maps available from the Bureau of Land Management or Siskiyou Upland Trails Association. For online maps and directions to all the trailheads, see the association’s website at www.sutaoregon.org .

Here are four other trails worth checking out.

Rainie Falls

You can’t go wrong with a fall hike when there’s a waterfalls involved, and the Rogue River’s Rainie Falls fits the bill.

The falls are about two miles downstream of the Grave Creek launch, where rafters, driftboaters and kayakers start their run down the Rogue’s famed Wild and Scenic stretch, but it is a fine destination hike for Rogue Valley residents wanting to get into the wild where cellphones won’t buzz.

Fall chinook salmon and summer steelhead now migrating past Rainie Falls can be seen trying to jump the falls before negotiating the rugged “fish ladder,” a series of rock jump pools around the falls on the opposite side of the Rogue.

The trail hugs the river’s south side, and the trip is generally considered a moderate hike and accessible year-round.

To get there, take Interstate 5 to exit 61 and take Merlin Road, which turns into the Merlin-Galice Access Road, for 22 miles to the Grave Creek bridge, where the road dead-ends into the Grave Creek boat ramp. Park along the road before the bridge near the trailhead.

Crater Lake rim hike

Perhaps the most scenic hike in Crater Lake National Park is also the most accessible. The rim trail, which follows the caldera from Rim Village to The Watchman, offers the best views of Wizard Island.

The colors of fall in Crater Lake are blue and gold - the blue of the lake and the golden light of autumn - making this a prime time to grab your camera and capture stunning images at one of Oregon’s 7 Wonders.

To get there, park your car at Rim Village, walk to the lake overlook and head left. After a few hundred yards you’ll leave the pavement and follow the dirt trail between Rim Drive and the caldera. You’ll pass Discovery Point, the spot where some would-be miners first came upon Crater Lake in 1853.

If you hike all the way up to the lookout on The Watchman, it’ll turn into a fairly demanding, roughly 5.5-mile roundtrip hike, but you can make it as hard or as easy you like and turn around wherever you like. One word of advice: If you plan to do this hike, do it soon. Snow comes early and often at Crater Lake, so this simple hike could turn into a snowshoe adventure before long.

Oredson-Todd Trail

Though it starts in a rather pedestrian 10-acre city park, the Oregon-Todd Woods trail snakes along a portion of Clay Creek in Ashland and ties into Ashland’s Siskiyou Mountain Park, connecting with a miles-long network of trails that lead high up Mount Ashland.

It truly is an opportunity for all levels of hikers who can invest as much time and as many miles as they wish.

It’s a popular trek among the Rogue Valley’s birders, and the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy last year put together an online birding guide listing all the birds found in the woods. Find and download a copy of the list at www.landconserve.org/content/oredson-todd-woods

To get to the Oredson-Todd trailhead, head south on Tolman Creek Road from Siskiyou Boulevard in Ashland. Less than half a mile from Siskiyou, turn right on Green Meadow Drive, and after a couple of blocks, take a left on Lupine, where there is a parking area and a map.

Valley of the Rogue State Park

Those who are more interested in seeing the Rogue’s mighty fall chinook spawning instead of jumping can do so closer to home and with far less of a physical investment.

The Rogue-side trail at Valley of the Rogue State Park off Interstate 5 at milepost 45 has a nice, easy and accessible trail that travels past portions of the Rogue where fall chinook spawn in the heart of the season.

The 1.25-mile riverside interpretive trail begins in the campground’s A Loop and runs the length of the state park. There are several opportunities along the way to view spawning chinook salmon in the shallow gravel bars, digging their egg nests, called “redds,” to deposit and fertilize more than 3,000 eggs from each female.

The spawning in this section of the Rogue will run deep into November.

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You can see the original story on the Mail Tribune’s website: https://bit.ly/1OVG5h4

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Information from: Mail Tribune, https://www.mailtribune.com/

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