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 for another 3 miles to the end of the lake. You come to a “Tee” intersection and you should turn left to continue following Applegate Road.
In another mile, you cross over a bridge and come to Seattle Bar on your right and Road 1041 on your left. Turn left and park in the raised area on the left about 100ft from the intersection. Seattle Bar is a nice picnic area where you could also park. There is a trail from Seattle Bar that follows the river under the bridge and then up to the trailhead near where you park on Road 1041. The trailhead is another 100ft down the road on the right. There is a big sign that says “Stein Butte Trail”. The trail has been numbered by the forest service as number 929.
The trail starts next to Road 1041 about 200 feet from Applegate Road. The elevation of the trailhead is approximately 2,000 ft. The trail quickly climbs through a forested canopy. There are 3 switchbacks in the first mile of the climb as you gain elevation through a pretty forest on a good trail. After about ½ hour and 600 ft of elevation climb you come to the tip of Elliott Ridge. The trail turns to the east here and follows the ridgeline up towards Stein Butte. You can’t see Stein Butte from here and won’t be able to see it until you are about a mile from the summit.
The trail up the ridgeline bypasses several highspots that are directly on the ridge. The trail alternates going left or right around these spots, but the grade of the trail remains very constant and you continue gaining elevation until you get to about 3,600 ft in elevation and you are on a highpoint on the ridgeline. It takes me about an hour to get here from the trailhead.
The trail follows the ridgeline now with some minor ups and downs. There are views along here of the Siskiyou Mountains and Applegate Lake. Eventually, about 4 miles from the trailhead, you come around a bend in the trail and you can see the rocky summit of Stein Butte ahead of you. Continue following the trail until near the summit, where a signed side trail branches off the main trail and goes up to the Stein Butte Lookout. Follow this trail the last couple of hundred yards up to the summit.
Total hike is about 10 miles round trip and takes 3.5 to 4 hours. Total elevation gain is about 2,400 ft with the ups and downs on the ridge.
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. I have seen fresh tracks from both of these critters on my hikes.
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