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A Trip to Hanging Rock Shows Seasonal Splendor
By Tom Baake
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Hikers check out the view atop Hanging Rock. 

With all the rainy weather this spring the forestlands have gotten well watered and they’re bursting forth with new growth – lots of wildflowers and blooming plants like elderberry, ceaonothus  and ocean spray. It’s a great year for waterfalls, too, as I’ve mentioned in recent columns.

You can get a great look at this showcase in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest south of Powers, which also holds some other intriguing destinations. Among them is what’s sometimes called Coos County’s “geologic wonder” – the outcrop known as Hanging Rock.

If you’ve ever wanted to check out this local treasure but were hesitant about taking on the journey, you can join the South Coast Striders hiking group for a guided walk to Hanging Rock this Saturday, June 3. More details at the group’s website, www.coostrails.com

Getting There

If you’d like to check it for yourself, here are directions:

Make your way to Highway 42 and proceed to Myrtle Point, and in about 4 miles take the Powers Highway turnoff. This is the Coquille-Rogue Scenic Byway -- it starts here along the south fork of the Coquille River and eventually ends up following the Rogue River down to Gold Beach.

The road rolls through peaceful countryside, passing through the settlement of Broadbent before continuing the 18 miles to Powers. There are several swimming holes along the way, including those at Albert Powers County Park and at Myrtle Grove State Park, the latter of which also has picnic tables and a restroom.

The U.S. Forest Service Powers ranger station is on the left as you enter Powers, if you want to stop for a map or information. Otherwise proceed through Powers, staying on the main road as it doglegs through town, following signs to China Flat, Ilahe, Agness. In about 4 miles the route enters the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and becomes FS 33. About 1 mile beyond is a short trail to pretty Elk Creek Falls.

About 17 miles from Powers, turn left (E) on FS 3348. It heads immediately uphill through majestic old growth forest. About 1.5 miles up is a trail to Coquille Falls. About a half-mile beyond, turn right (W) on FS 5520, following the sign to Bald Knob Lookout and Panther Ridge trail. The gravel road heads uphill through forested slopes, then turns south.

In about 1 mile, just past FS 3343, is FS 020, the road to Bald Knob Lookout and the eastern terminus of Panther Ridge trail. Stay on FS 5520. In about 3 miles is the access road to Panther Ridge trail’s Clay Hill Trailhead. Stay on FS 5520. You’ll pass many side roads and go through a veritable sea of wild rhododendrons. In another 3 miles, turn right on FS 140, following a sign to Panther Ridge trail and Hanging Rock, 1 mile.

Park at the trailhead and follow the trail (FS 1253-A) about a half-mile up a slope of rhodies and salal to a crossroads with the main trail (FS 1253). Turn left, and after a short uphill, then downhill stretch of just over a quarter-mile, watch for the Hanging Rock trail (1253-A) to the right.

Follow the path up to the ridgeline, passing some trees blackened in recent forest fires. There are some “hanging”-looking rocks, but stay on the trail as it swings west, then actually drops downhill to arrive at Hanging Rock.

Wow! That view goes on and on, and down and down! You might spot turkey vultures and eagles way down in the Rogue River canyon; don’t be surprised if they spot you and float up for a closer look! As for the river, it’s down there mostly hidden in the trees, only a little sliver showing.

And oh yes, as the photo indicates, for the nonchalant and vertigo-unchallenged, it’s possible to walk right on top of Hanging Rock and soak in the awesome if somewhat scary view. Others not so bold can admire it from a safer distance.

The views, the silence, the sighing of the trees make this a hard place to leave. When you’re ready, retrace your route, making sure not to miss the side trail (1253-A) to the parking area.

Back in your vehicle, retrace your route to FS 5520 and turn left, following it back down to FS 33 for the return trip back downriver to Powers and thence down to the Coquille River Valley.

(Shopper columnist Tom Baake is author of regional guidebooks.) 
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