Tips on hiking through the Kalmiopsis:

A land that makes its own rules of natural order

As far as challenging, unconfined and primitive recreation go, the Kalmiopsis wilderness area (and the roadless areas surrounding it) is brimming with opportunities. But exploring the Kalmiopsis doesn’t come easy. Get started with these tips.

  1. Expect trail damage. The 2002 Biscuit Fire brought landscape-scale change to the 180,000-acre Kalmiopsis wilderness area and its surround wildlands. Expect trails filled with fire-killed trees, brush and slides. Some trails may be one contiguous mess of jackstraw, like hiking through a slash pile for miles.
  2. Pursue routes with less vegetation. It shouldn’t take long to realize that trails may not always be the best way to get around in the Kalmiopsis. The area is full of serpentine ridges and slopes, where vegetation has always been sparse. In those areas you’ll find less downed wood and less brush.

  3. Cross reference maps. There are several maps in print that will help you get around the Kalmiopsis. The Kalmiopsis and Wild Rogue Wilderness Area map is large scale and hard to read. But it depicts botanical areas. The Powers and Gold Beach District map is more detailed, but it doesn’t show deviation between old roads and trails, and omits a lot of inventoried trail routes. Compare these with USGS 7.5″ and 15″ quadrangles for trip planning. Use Google Earth and historic USGS maps.

  4. Don’t expect sings pointing you in the right direction. A lot of signs have been burned, damaged, rotted out, or were never there in the first place. We’re working with the USFS to get signs back up, but many of them are still missing. Use the topography to locate faint junctions.
  5. Watch the weather. The Kalmiopsis may feel like Mars, but it’s nestled right against the west coast and catches a lot of the weather coming from the Pacific. Whether you’re hiking through a skeleton forest or on a serpentine slope, much of the Kalmiopsis is exposed. In the summer expect it to be hot. In the winter expect storms to exasperate over these coastal mountains. Finding mild weather runs that fit in with your schedule may be difficult.
  6. Improvise. Be ready to pivot your plans based on conditions, weather, and your level of confidence and fitness. It’s always good to have a goal in mind, but just be willing to change the way you reach it. Curiosity may stretch short hikes into long ones, and poor conditions may condense longer trips.

  7. Have fun. The Kalmiopsis has something for everyone. Whether you’re pursuing a day hike into Babyfoot Lake, or a multi-day journey on the Trans-Kalmiopsis Route, eat it up and soak it in. There is never a boring moment in this land that makes its own rules of natural order.