Grayback Mountain (near Applegate, Ore.)

Rating (Out of 5): 4.5

Location: Near Applegate, Ore.

Distance: From lower trailhead, 3.6 miles round-trip to Grayback Meadows, 5.8 to summit. From upper trailhead, 2.6 miles to Grayback Meadows, 4.8 to summit.

Difficulty: moderate/hard

Camping: Yes

Quick hit: This glorious trail weaves through an old-growth forest before stopping at Grayback Meadows, which during the early spring is packed with a bright array of wildflowers and views of the Applegate Valley. The lower trailhead adds a mile to the hike, but follows a nice little stream and so, if you’re up to it, it worth the extra effort. In the Grayback Meadows area there is a snow survey cabin that’s worth checking out, along with the charred remains of the Krause Cabin, which burned down in 2002.

Reaching the summit requires a little more work, a map and compass, or a hand held GPS device.

There are a few different options, but the route I've taken runs from the Upper O'Brian Creek Trailhead for 0.9 miles to a trail junction. At the junction, go right and in 1.2 miles reach the Boundary Trail junction. From here, go left 133 feet and head off-trail to the right, climbing southwest through a grassy meadow toward a silver-gray peak 342 feet above. From the silver-gray peak, follow a faint trail through a wooded area and bushwhack and climb the final 559 feet and 0.8 miles to the summit.

The off-trail section climbs 901 feet in one mile and is not easy (the colony of black flies that call the summit home are particularly annoying). But from the summit, the view extends to the Pacific Ocean and includes the Red Buttes, Siskiyou Wilderness and Mount Shasta, to name just a few.

Directions: Follow Highway 238 south of Grants Pass for 11.5 miles to the green bridge over the Applegate, just before the town of Applegate. At the bridge turn south on Thompson Creek Road for 11.9 miles. Where pavement ends at a pass, turn sharply to the right past an “O’Brien Creek Trail” sign onto Road 1005. Follow this gravel road 2.3 miles to the lower O’Brien Creek trailhead on the left. Stop here for access to the lower trailhead. Continue another 1.7 miles uphill to the upper trailhead. From the upper trailhead, the trail begins along an old roadbed.

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