A top-of-the-world feeling and staring down a turkey vulture are two of Molly Morrison’s favorite experiences at Lower Table Rock north of Medford. “There are fantastic 360-degree views of the entire Rogue River Valley on top, and raptors soar close to the cliff, almost looking you in the eye,” said Morrison, with The Nature Conservancy in Oregon.
Visible from I-5, the Table Rocks are iconic, volcanic mesas (Lower and Upper) that rise almost 800 feet from the valley floor and attract about 50,000 visitors each year. Lower Table Rock trail is a moderately difficult, three-mile roundtrip hike that treats visitors to a diverse landscape—grasslands, oak savannah and woodlands, chaparral (shrub land), mixed hardwood forests and volcanic cliffs. Upper Table Rock trail is a bit shorter and closer to I-5. Morrison said it has many of the same features and habitats as Lower Table Rock, plus a “cool, huge volcanic rock that tumbled off the top.”
Vernal pools, which form in the wet season and dry up in late spring, are home to a threatened species of fairy shrimp and a tiny wildflower, the dwarf wooly meadowfoam, found nowhere else in the world. This year, the spectacular wildflower show peaked early but summer visitors might get a glimpse of wood rat nests made from twigs and leaves, the southern alligator lizard, blue-tailed skink or an acorn woodpecker. (Due to the fragile ecosystem, dogs and camping aren’t allowed at Table Rocks.)
The Nature Conservancy in Oregon owns and manages 2,754 acres at Table Rocks. The Bureau of Land Management owns another 2,110 acres, and both organizations have an agreement with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians to involve them in Table Rocks’ future. Both hikes have parking lots with restrooms but no water and are open year-round.
Tips from our expert, Molly Morrison
What to Bring
• For the plant geeks: “Flowers of the Table Rocks” by Susan K. McKinnon
• Reusable water bottle or hydration pack – There is no running water out there.
• Hiking boots – Use the boot cleaning station after you hike to save your car from the noxious weeds.
Flora, Fauna & Wildlife
• To avoid poision oak, remember: “Shiny leaves of three, let it be.”
• Bird: Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
• Lizard: Blue-Tailed Skink
• The crowds are out on lovely spring weekends – try hiking early in the morning or late in the afternoon for more solitude.
Extra Tips & Hacks
• No dogs are allowed. So, leave your pooch at home and not in the car.
• Short on time? Try the level .5 mile oak savanna loop trail at Lower Table Rock. Or hike Upper Table Rock – the trail is .3 miles shorter than Lower Table Rock.
• Hike across the top of Lower Table Rock on the old airstrip to get great views of the Rogue River.