You can only ride the Collings Mountain/Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Loop at Applegate Lake between November and the end of April, and the ride has some challenging spots. But you can see an honest-to-goodness Bigfoot trap along the trail, and the views of Applegate Lake and the nearby mountains are beautiful.
Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
Elevation: 2,000 to 3,500 feet
Distance: 9.5 miles
The Bigfoot Bonus
Bigfoot sightings have been reported in this area for over 100 years, and in 1963 a private research group set a trap to catch one of the creatures. You can still see their trap -- a 10-foot high wooden hut with a guillotine-style steel door -- a short distance off the Collings Mountain Trail, about 0.6 mile from Hart-Tish Park.
The Collings Mountain Trail
You’ll start the loop at Watkins Campground, a people-only campground that doubles as an equestrian day-use trailhead. The trail runs up to the summit of Collings Mountain and down again to Hart-Tish Park. The northern half of the trail can be challenging, with big elevation gains and some steep side hills. The southern half of the trail is much easier. Both segments offer good views of Applegate Lake and the surrounding peaks.
The Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail
The Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail (pronounced daw-coo-beh-TEE-dee and named for a band of Indians that lived nearby), runs along the western shore of Applegate Lake and connects Hart-Tish Park and Watkins Campground. In many places, the trail is narrow and close to the bank, with the lake 10-50 feet below. This trail is popular with mountain bikes and has many blind corners, so blow your whistle as you approach corners to alert cyclists that you’re there.
The camping at Applegate Lake is a real disappointment. Equestrians can camp at Stringtown Trailhead, a flat parking lot with no amenities other than a nearby stream. You’ll have to trailer out from the camping area to reach any of the horse trails.
From Jacksonville, drive south on Hwy. 238 for 7.7 miles and veer left on Upper Applegate Road. Drive 16.6 miles to Applegate Dam. Continue on Upper Applegate Road almost to the south end of Applegate Lake. Between mileposts 18 and 19, turn left into Watkins Campground. You’ll find day-use parking for several trailers along the edge of the campground parking area.
You’ll find more information about the Collings Mountain Trail, the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail, and other trails near Applegate Lake in Riding Southern Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2017), available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.