The Sundown Trail
Ridgeline Hike - Rated Moderate
Alternate Loop Hike into WWL - Rated Moderate to Difficult
If you want a great view of some unspoiled country, Thompson Creek and the Applegate, this is the place to go. This 1.5-mile section of the future Center Applegate Ridge Trail (ART), runs along the northwest boundary of the 5711-acre Wellington Wild Lands, an area that was once an LWC – Lands with Wilderness Characteristics, but lost that designation in the last management plan. Much of the trail runs along the ridge top on the edge of a vast open bald sprinkled with oak, mountain mahogany and the occasional pine or fir tree. In the spring the waves of grass are overlaid with bursts of blooming flowers, more than 50 species including California poppy, mountain tarweed and the uncommon showy thistle. Pause to take in the breathtaking views of the Wellington Wildlands, Thompson Creek and the distant Red Buttes framed on the southern skyline. Turn around and get to know Mount Isabelle, Mount McLaughlin and Forest Creek from a whole new vantage point.
From the Isabelle Trailhead walk around the somewhat hidden yellow gate (located about 150 feet to the left of the kiosk), and hike south uphill on the BLM road. At 0.4 mile a trail intersects and the road continues southeast. This trail to the right is a bit longer and steeper but reaches the ridge top faster. Either route (road or trail) will lead you to the same spot on the ridgeline with those fantastic views. From where the road meets the trail on the ridge (with the great view up Thompson Creek), there is another mile of hiking southeast along the ridge to where the road/trail ends at a small logging landing. The landing at the end of the ridge is now covered in young pine trees about a decade old. Most people will turn around here thereby creating a hike of about 3 miles total, out and back.
OR: One can continue further on a loop hike to the Heart Trail and the Long Gulch trailhead by following the steep and eroded user created OHV (Off Highway Vehicle), trail south down a rocky ridgeline into the Wellington Wildlands. From the logging landing follow the OHV trail back along the ridge about 300’ and take the left fork downhill. In less than a mile you will emerge on the Heart Trail (old ridgeline mining road; BLM road 38-3-7.1). Follow the Heart Trail left (north) 0.3 mile to the Long Gulch trailhead/saddle at the intersection of BLM roads 38-3-8 and 38-3-7. A concrete barrier 400’ from the Long Gulch trailhead used to block larger vehicular traffic from accessing the Heart Trail. To return to your starting point at the Isabelle trailhead, follow the relatively level BLM road 38-3-8 to the left, northwest, 2 miles back to your vehicle. This loop hike is approximately 4.5 miles total.
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.
42° 17.724’ N, 123° 06.825’ W - Isabelle Trailhead – Junction of roads 38-3-5 and 38-3-8