OverviewKalmiopsis Wilderness area in southwest Oregon. Big Craggies is ranked number 63 on the list of most prominent mountains in the state with 2,099ft of prominence. This entire area was burned in the 2002 Biscuit Fire that blackened 500,000 acres in southwest Oregon including most of the 180,000 acre Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area.
The Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area is managed by the combined Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. On the hike up Big Craggies you will see the unique Kalmiopsis leachiana and the Brewer’s Spruce. The Kalmiopsis leachiana blooms in June and they are thick on the upper slopes of Big Craggies. A few of the droopy Brewer’s Spruce escaped the 2002 Biscuit Fire and they are near the summit.
The 2002 Biscuit Fire has opened up areas to hiking that were nearly impassable because of brush previously. The area around Big Craggies looks much different than before the fire, but it is strangely beautiful and the solitude is welcome.
Don’t assume since there was a fire, that all the vegetation is gone. That is far from the case. Many areas still have large stands of Old Growth Douglas Fir trees with much of the forest duff below burned away leaving the large trees alive. Other areas with younger trees and large brush patches of primarily Manzanita, Rhododendrons, and Lilacs are problem areas to hike through. The fire burned off all the needles and leaves, leaving the dry sharpened pointed ends on all the limbs and branches. Many of these bushes are now flush with new growth.
Getting ThereTo get to the trailhead, you have to find the beautiful little town of Brookings on the Highway 101 on the south Oregon Coast. From Hwy 101, just south of Brookings is the bridge over the Chetco River. On the north side of the bridge is North Bank Road that heads east up the Chetco River towards Loeb State Park. This is a good scenic paved road. Enjoy the beautiful views of the turquoise colored Wild and Scenic Chetco River on your drive.
Loeb State Park is 7.2 miles from Hwy 101. In another .5 mile the road narrows to one paved lane with turnouts. Right where the road narrows is a neat nature trail on the left that has some of the Oregon Redwoods. Stay on this one lane paved road until you cross a long single lane bridge and the road T’s. This should be about 15.4 miles from Hwy 101.
Turn left at this T towards Snow Camp Lookout. The road turns to gravel here and it is a wide good gravel road from here all the way to the trailhead. 2WD low clearance vehicles are okay. Stay on this main road that is occasionally labeled Road 1376. Keep following the signs towards Snow Camp Lookout.
At 28.1 miles from Hwy 101 and just past a marker for Milepost 21 there is a gate and the road is closed in the winter. On the left here is the trailhead for Snow Camp Lookout and parking for a few cars. There is an outhouse and picnic table here also. Park here. If you visit later in the year, the gate may be open. If it is open continue on another 1.3 miles to where the road takes a sharp turn to the left and a smaller branch road marked 460 continues straight ahead. Continue straight ahead another .5 mile to the end of the road.
Red TapeNo red tape here, just good clean open spaces. The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest does not require a Northwest Forest Pass at any of its trailheads.
Harris Beach State Park
National Forest Campgrounds Scroll down to Chetco Ranger District options.
Snow Camp Lookout Rental.
Backpack camping is not really an option beyond the end of the road until you get to the summit. There isn’t really any flat area and no source for water.
When to ClimbThis climb takes all day. It took me 12 hours. Plan on having enough daylight to complete the climb before dark.
This climb is available all year round mostly. In the winter you will have to be aware of current weather conditions because snow may block the roads after a winter storm. Normal snow accumulations are less than a foot, but may linger for a few weeks after a storm. Check with the local Ranger District for any road access issues.
Chetco Ranger District
John Borton, District Ranger
P.O. Box 4580
539 Chetco Ave
Brookings, OR 97415
Voice: (541) 412-6000
Fax : (541) 412-6025
Mountain ConditionsDuring the rainy season there may be conditions in which you do not wish to hike. The storms that blow in from the Pacific dump huge amounts of rain in the mountains and occasionally dump large amounts of snow as well. Check the local weather forecast to make sure you don’t get stranded in the mountains.
Brookings, Oregon Weather