To find the trailhead from Interstate 5 in Medford take either the North or South exit from I-5 and follow the signs to Jacksonville and Hwy 238. Jacksonville is a quaint historical town located about 6 miles west of Medford. The whole town of Jacksonville is on the National Historic Register because of its well preserved buildings from the 1850’s when gold was discovered nearby. After driving through the middle of Jacksonville continue on Hwy 238 towards Grants Pass. About 8.6 miles from Jacksonville is the little settlement of Ruch. Applegate Road is the major intersection here. Turn left or south onto Applegate Road and head towards Applegate Lake.
Applegate Lake is 15 miles along Applegate Road and the Applegate River. On the way you will pass the Star Ranger Station and McKee Bridge. McKee Bridge is a little settlement that is famous for its covered bridge across the Applegate River. Once you get to the Applegate Dam stay to the right and follow the road down the west side of the lake to virtual milepost 18.5 for the south end of Collings Mountain Trail. The trail is signed and has been numbered by the forest service as number 943. Park across the road at the Watkins Campground.
The trail starts next to the sign along Applegate Road. The elevation of the trailhead is approximately 2,100 ft. The trail climbs quickly up through a brushy area and then crosses a seasonal creek. It continues to climb and soon you break out into an area where you can see Applegate Lake and some of the surrounding mountains. The steepness of the trail lessens now and soon the trail is back under a forest canopy as it meanders around the southern ridgeline up Collings Mountain. Stay on the trail and follow it up towards the summit. At 3.0 miles and 3,500ft elevation the trail reaches a small saddle before it passes over to the east side of Collings Mountain, stop and back track about 50 ft to the first turn and head north along the ridge. There is lots of brush here, but you can easily avoid the bigger patches. Follow this ridge up about .4 mile as you gain another 130 ft up to the forested summit of Collings Mountain. Total hike up is about 3.4 miles and you gain about 1,700 ft with the ups and downs. Return by the way you came or continue on to the end of the Collings Mountain Trail and then cross Applegate Road and pick up the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail along Applegate Lake and follow it back to your car.
The 10 essentials are always required. There is no water available above the lake, so take all you need. Ticks live in this area so take precautions especially in the Spring. If you are concerned about bears and mountain lions, you should take precautions also.