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Sterling Mine Ditch Trail Out-and Back

Intermediate
 3.5 (4) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

Miles of singletrack along a historic canal route.


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Map Key

34.0

Miles

54.7

KM

100%

Singletrack

3,254' 992 m

High

2,519' 768 m

Low

2,357' 719 m

Up

2,357' 718 m

Down

3%

Avg Grade (2°)

47%

Max Grade (25°)

Dogs Unknown

E-Bikes Unknown

Features -none-

Overview

Not an old road, this narrow singletrack follows the edge of a hand-dug ditch as it contours through steep terrain. Although it is a mostly smooth trail with minimal elevation change, it earns the 'blue square' component to its difficulty rating by virtue of its winding narrow tread, as well as a couple of significant climbs and descents as it leaves the ditch to stay on BLM land.

Traversing as it does across south facing slopes of oak, madrone, manzanita, and pine, this trail rarely sees snow and is a good choice for year-round riding.
Shorter sections and loops can be done by using some of the other trailheads.

Need to Know

Poison oak is common in this part of the state. Although not usually an issue while you're riding, watch for it if you get off your bike for a break. In the summer there is no water available along the trail, so bring plenty!

Description

From Deming Gulch Trailhead, head south and west along the ditch through mixed forest, crossing the Armstrong Gulch road after 1-3/4 miles. The trail continues following the contour, along a narrow ridge of excavated material alongside the old ditch. In places this feature has eroded away, and the trail dips briefly into the ditch proper. As you turn the corner of a ridge and head east, views are obtained of the Sterling Creek Valley, Little Applegate Valley, and the Siskiyou Mountains.

About 8 miles from Deming Gulch, The Wolf Gap trail (no bikes, un-signed as of july 2014) comes in on the left. Soon after, the trail leaves the ditch and climbs 200' up the hillside in half a mile, before descending again. The moderately steep grade and a couple tight switchbacks are a welcome change from the fairly level ride!

At about ten miles from Deming Gulch, the Bear Gulch Trail descends to the right one mile to a trailhead on the Little Applegate Road. In another mile and a half, one of the largest madrone trees in the area is passed, then Tunnel Ridge is reached at the 12-mile mark. Here, rather than following the contour around the point of the ridge, the ditch builders tunneled straight through. Here, the Tunnel Ridge Trail descends to the right one mile to a trailhead on the Little Applegate Road.

Another mile and a half of slightly less-travelled trail along the ditch brings you to another climb up to the left, this time gaining nearly 500 feet in a mile. Another mile of sweet downhill though tall grass and oaks lands you back on the ditch for one last mile.

Here, 16.5 miles from Deming Gulch, the trail leaves the ditch and descends a little over 300 feet in a half mile to the Little Applegate Trailhead.

Retrace your route for the 34-mile out-and-back!

History & Background

Here is a short history of the ditch from the BLM website:

"Gold was discovered on Sterling Creek in 1854. The first gold was easily removed by panning. Eventually, the greatest success was achieved with hydraulic mining, which uses a powerful jet of water from a hydraulic giant to wash out gold lying under layers of soil and rock. Ditch construction began in 1877 to bring water from the Little Applegate to operate hydraulic giants. The Sterling Mining Company was the contractor. A 26.5 mile long ditch, three feet deep, was completed in December, 1877. Up to 400 workers, many of them Chinese laborers were employed to construct the ditch. The ditch was in use through the 1930s."

Contacts

Shared By:

Peter Carse

Trail Ratings

  3.5 from 4 votes

#2873

Overall
  3.5 from 4 votes
5 Star
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4 Star
75%
3 Star
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2 Star
25%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#96

in Oregon

#2,873

Overall
88 Views Last Month
6,286 Since Jul 7, 2014
Intermediate

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100%
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Photos

Mega Madrone
Nov 27, 2014 near Talent, OR
Huge madrone tree along the trail between Bear Gulch and Tunnel Ridge
Jul 8, 2014 near Talent, OR
The Sterling Mine Ditch cuts across the hillside between Bear Gulch and Tunnel Ridge
Jul 8, 2014 near Talent, OR
Sterling Mine Ditch Trail near Deming Gulch
Jul 8, 2014 near Jackson…, OR
Near the eastern end of the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail, the trail climbs up the mountainside away from the ditch.
Jul 8, 2014 near Talent, OR
West end of the tunnel at Tunnel Ridge
Jul 8, 2014 near Talent, OR

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