The Copper Salmon Wilderness is an area of Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest established in 2009 to protect the salmon and steelhead runs of the pristine North Fork Elk Creek, as well as the old-growth Douglas firs and Port Orford cedars nearby. Threatened northern spotted owls also take refuge here. It’s a beautiful spot to hike, and the highlight of the wilderness is arguably Barklow Mountain, the area’s highest peak. A great way to check out the area is via the Barklow Mountain West Hike, which is a family-friendly in-and-out hike near the Oregon Coast.
Best explored from spring to mid-fall, it’s only 4.5 miles, with a moderate 1,000 or so feet in elevation gain. The most challenging aspect of the hike is actually the drive in, but assuming you make it down the narrow and bumpy Elk River Road, and the gravel track of Forest Road 5201, the rest is smooth hiking.
The hike kicks off just past a parking pullout, the trailhead signed as the Barklow Mountain Trail #1258. Take this trail into a woodland of madrones, tanoak, and rhododendron as you start in across the northern section of Copper Salmon Wilderness.
Up ahead is the curve of a ridge, which you’ll ascend to catch views of the Pacific Ocean and Star Mountain. As you keep hiking you’ll round the nose of the ridge, passing through slopes of dense coniferous woods with tall Douglas firs. Look here for the signs of old wildfires, evidenced as scarring on large trees. The trail will lead back into mixed woodlands again as you hike up from a shallow bowl to another ridge.
Thick growths of manzanita turn into Douglas fir shades as the path steepens, and the understory fills with salal. The trek up is aided by switchbacks near the rim, which levels out at the signed Barklow Mountain-Barlow Mountain Ridge Trail junction.
Take a right here, plunging back into heavy growths of Oregon grape and salal. The trail leads out to an unsigned junction, at which you have the option of taking a right and exploring the collapsed remains of the Barklow Trail Shelter. There’s not much to see – just some debris and a rusting stove, but it’s a nice little detour for the curious. Otherwise, stick to the main trail and head up a steep slope leading to the northern-most ridge of Barklow Mountain.
From here you’ll cross into wide manzanita fields that open up views of the North Fork Elk River, Copper Mountain, and the far-off glitter of the ocean. There’s another junction up ahead, with the main trail taking a left up a slope to an old lookout site on the summit of Barklow Mountain. The lookout tower itself is long gone (moved via helicopter in 1974 to become the Lake of the Woods Lookout) but the views across the valley are reward enough. Rest up here, then return the way you came.
Directions from Port Orford, OR to Barklow Mountain West Trailhead, NF-5201, Port Orford, OR 97465, USA:
- Travel north on Highway 101
- Turn right on Elk River Road (County Road 208) which turns into Forest Road 5325.
- Turn left on Forest Road 5201 and cross Elk River at Butler Bar Campground.
- Follow Forest Road 5201 to the trailhead.
Please note: It’s best to call ahead to local ranger stations and check on road conditions, as rock fall and/or road washouts could potentially cut your trip short: (541) 899-3800.