Bill's Excellent Adventures - Cathedral Wildflowers
Nature loop in Grants Pass features spring blooms.
It’s easy to overlook Cathedral Hills Park, just four miles off Interstate 5 in Grants Pass. But from April through June this 400-acre park erupts with thousands of brilliant wildflowers - a display that rivals the stained glass windows of genuine cathedrals.
If you’re driving south toward California during this magic season, pull over for a 4-mile loop hike that showcases the unusual blooms of the Siskiyou Range. The brightest light in the constellation is Indian warrior, a blazing ball of red tubes. It resembles Indian paintbrush at first glance, but grows atop a clump of frilly, fern-like leaves.
If you’re not a flower fan, then come here for the forest. Cathedral Hills boasts the state’s largest knobcone pine and manzanita bush. Fire has been kept off the area for more than a century, so these flammable species have waxed big. One whiteleaf manzanita, normally a shoulder-high shrub, has become a 25-foot tall semi-tree with a trunk two feet in diameter. The knobcone pine is a small and rare pine species of the Siskiyous, but here one has grown 117 feet tall, with a trunk more than three feet in diameter.
From Interstate 5, take Grants Pass exit 58 and continue straight on the Redwood Highway through Old Town for 3 miles. On the far side of the Rogue River, follow signs toward Murphy onto Highway 238. After another 2.9 miles, turn left on Espey Road and keep left for 0.6 mile to road’s end at a parking turnaround.
The park has ten miles of trails, all of them open to hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers. For a good sampling of the park’s variety, take the 4-mile Outback Loop. Signposts mark this route at junctions.
Don’t leave the trail to explore, because poison oak grows thick on these slopes. Following “Outback Loop” signs, you’ll climb to a ridge with views across Grants Pass. A bench here makes a good lunch stop before continuing on the loop back to your car.
William L. Sullivan (www.oregonhiking.com) is the author of "Oregon Favorites", available in all bookstores. Six of Bill's sixteen books are now available in electronic format at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/38219.