Dunlop Trail offers much in a short distance

Your kids won't be asking "How much farther?" when you take them to Dunlop Meadows, because the boggy meadows and dilapidated 1920s cabins are close to the trailhead. Talking your kids into walking down the S-curves to the South Fork of Little Butte Creek (1.5 miles) — well, that could be challenging.

To reach the Dunlop Trail, drive 18.3 miles from Ashland on Dead Indian Memorial Highway. Turn left on gravel road 2500-100 just past Lily Glen Equestrian Park. Continue 6.5 miles down the gravel road to a trailhead on the right.

Dunlop Trail is named after a family from Eagle Point who used the site for a summer ranch in the 1920s but never took out a legal homestead claim. Bark still clings to logs in two structures on the eastern edge of one meadow. You can identify the food cooler by its double logs and sawdust insulation. In the 1930s, the Nickerson family raised mohair goats here. At the time, the hides were in demand for expensive automobile upholstery.

Pines are beginning to encroach on the meadows, which were formed by landslides thousands of years ago. The cliffs that frame the meadows' south end are all that remain of a mountainside that slid into the canyon. The landslide debris trapped enough water to mold two small lakes, which gradually developed into grassy meadows as the lakes filled with sediment.

Not many people come to the meadows or the water-laced canyon, so chances of spotting elk or deer are good. The meadows are at a relatively low elevation (3,700 feet) and sustain their kaleidoscopic bloom longest on the sloppy south side, where garter snakes and frogs find a home among bog orchids, elephant's head, monkey flower, lupine, balsamroot and tiger lilies.

The trail has sustained blowdowns since a 2006 trail project, but the bridge over a feeder creek remains intact. Pinedrops and pinesap push up through the forest litter. These plants survive on a fungus that forms on the roots of conifer trees. Prince's pine and queen's cup colonize in the deep shade. The switchbacks into the canyon begin in earnest about one mile from the trailhead and continue for .5 mile to the fast-flowing creek.

Bring sandals for wading in the water and insect repellent for warding off mosquitoes. Wet down a cotton shirt or bandana to stay cool during the 300-foot climb back to the trailhead.

Mary Beth Lee is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail her at

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