THE HEART TRAIL
The Heart Trail is a principal part of the Applegate Ridge Trail (ART) that runs right through the middle of the 5711-acre Wellington Wildlands (WWL). WWL was granted Lands with Wilderness Characteristics status by BLM in 2011 but that designation was taken away in the 2016 Resource Management Plan. The WWL is still wild in 2018. This relatively level trail is on an old miner’s road that is being naturally decommissioned by erosion and encroaching vegetation. Much of the route is on the crest of two ridges extending from the flanks of Wellington Butte. The balance cuts through a stand of magnificent old growth on the north side of the mountain. At 5 miles total (2.5 miles out and 2.5 miles back), this trail is rated moderate. The reward is a trip through raw nature with unique views of the Applegate Valley, Thompson Creek, Humbug Creek, Balls Branch, Long Gulch and the Wildlands.
From the Long Gulch trailhead (parking, kiosk and picnic table), hike south on BLM road 38- 3-7.1. This old mining road turned trail starts on a side-hill with Long Gulch on the left. About 400’ from the trailhead there is a concrete barrier that used to block larger vehicular traffic. A short distance beyond the barrier the trail will emerge on the ridge that separates Long Gulch from the headwaters of Balls Branch. At 0.5 mile a motorcycle trail intersects on the right. The Heart Trail gradually swings southwest and leaves the ridge to pass through a stand of old growth on the steep north side of Wellington Butte. At 1.4 miles the trail emerges on the west flank of the mountain yielding the first good look into Balls Branch and Humbug Creek. At 1.6 miles the trail intersects another ridge running west away from the mountain. From here to the end the vegetation significantly closes in on the trail. There are numerous places to view the Applegate Valley and the surrounding mountains on the left side of the trail but you have to look for them. At 2.5 miles the trail “ends” at an open area in a small saddle with a camp fire ring. It is not recommended to continue down the dirt track on the right as it quickly passes onto private land and the road dead ends after a steep drop.
1. The elevation at the trailhead is approximately 3354’ and there is only a few hundred feet of overall elevation change.
2. This dirt road has the occasional off highway vehicle (OHV) user.
Directions (Suitable for 2-wheel drive vehicles):
From Jacksonville, travel southwest on Hwy 238 (towards Ruch) 4.9 miles and turn right on Forest Creek Road. From Ruch, travel northeast on Hwy 238 (towards Jacksonville) 2.8 miles and turn left on Forest Creek Road.
Mile 0.0 - Junction of State Highway 238 and Forest Creek Road. Go south on paved Forest Creek Road.
Mile 0.7 - Keep right on Forest Creek Road at intersection with Longanecker Rd. & BLM Road 38-3- 14. Bunny Meadows Road leads to BLM’s Bunny Meadows Staging Area where ATA has installed a concrete picnic table and a kiosk.
Mile 1.0 - Pavement ends. Road remains wide with a granite surface.
Mile 2.5 - Keep left on Forest Creek Road at intersection with BLM Road 38-3- 10 (East Fork Forest Creek Road).
Mile 4.3 - Turn left onto BLM Road 38-3- 5 (Oregon Belle Creek Access Road) – single lane road with turnouts and worn asphalt.
Mile 5.0 - Continue straight on BLM Road 38-3- 5, passing BLM Road 38-3- 5.1 on the left.
Mile 6.0 - Continue straight on BLM Road 38-3- 5, passing BLM Road 38-3- 5.2 on the left.
Mile 6.3 - Continue straight on BLM Road 38-3- 5, passing BLM Road 38-3- 6 on the right.
Mile 6.7 - Isabelle Trailhead (parking, kiosk and picnic table). Turn left at the T intersection onto BLM Road 38-3- 8. (BLM Road 38-3- 5 and the Mount Isabelle hikes are to right.) Broken asphalt road surface ends and gravel begins.
Mile 8.7 - Long Gulch Trailhead (parking, kiosk and picnic table). At this saddle, BLM Road 38-3- 8 turns left and goes downhill and BLM Road 38-3- 7 goes straight ahead to a quarry. The Heart Trail is the level dirt track to the right (south).