East Applegate Ridge Trail
The East Applegate Ridge Trail (called “East ART” by residents) was recently designated by the Oregon Trails Coalition as an Oregon Signature Trail for the way it showcases one of our state’s iconic landscapes. Applegate residents love it for its soaring views ‑not just of the Red Buttes and the Siskiyou Crest, but of paraglider pilots launching from Woodrat Mountain.
For a level hike, start at the eastern trailhead, accessed via gravel road near mile marker four of Sterling Creek Road. Hike just over 2 miles in from the parking lot and you’ll arrive at a bench with great views. This is a good turnaround point. With two cars, you can hike the entire 5.6-mile trail by leaving one at the western trailhead on Highway 238. Be aware that this adds a steep grade to your hike.
Pro-Tip: The trail runs across a mountain called “Burnt Ridge” and there is a reason for that: Sun exposure is intense on this trail. Be sure to don a hat, carry water and slather sunscreen.
Sterling Mine Ditch Trail
The 26-mile-long ditch along the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail was hand-dug in 1877 to procure water for hydraulic gold mining in the area. Some relics of that era remain — a tunnel, flume, headgates — but these days the route provides access to a different kind of gold: a rich habitat of trees, plants, flowers and exceptional Applegate Valley views.
This well-maintained trail can be accessed from seven different trailheads. While the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail itself is level, the short access trails are moderately steep. A classic 4.7-mile loop starts at the Bear Gulch Trailhead off Little Applegate Road and emerges 4 miles later at the Tunnel Ridge Trailhead. Reunite with your car by strolling a quiet half-mile stretch of Little Applegate Road. This hike features a masterpiece of a madrone — you’ll know it when you see it.
Another stellar section starts at the Tunnel Ridge access point and ends 7 miles later at the Little Applegate Trailhead. The habitat variations on this stretch are stunning, with the trail meandering through thickets of chaparral, oak woodlands, open grasslands and small patches of mixed-conifer forest.
Pro-Tip: Continue your adventure at Wild Wines Tasting Room. This one-of-a-kind winery offers fruit and herb-based wines. Pair them with three different types of empanadas, gluten-free cupcakes made by local bakery Paulazzo Pasticceria, or truffles from the local Supernatural Chocolate Company.