Rattlesnake is a secluded sport crag near Medford that provides the highest volume of single pitch climbs in Southwest Oregon. And while it’s no destination crag, Rattlesnake is a great training ground for local climbers and is worth a visit if you’re in the area. There are over 100 climbs at Rattlesnake that range in difficulty from 5.8 to 5.13a with most of the climbs falling in the range of 5.10+ to mid-5.11. The vast majority of the climbs are bolted sport climbs with even most of the crack climbs “sporting” a few bolts.
The rock at Rattlesnake is a variety of welded tuff that ranges in quality from “solid” to “abysmal” (a.k.a.: "Rattlechoss"), even over the course of a single climb. The cliffs are on a series of buttresses that range in height from about 40 to 100 feet in height. The bottom portion of the longer climbs may feature a band of heavily fractured (read: chossy) rock. That said, once you tiptoe though the loosest of the rock, the climbs are generally very solid.
Rattlesnake is on BLM land but the Boise-Cascade timber company owns some of the surrounding area so follow posted regulations, and as always, leave no trace. There are no outhouses or water out at the crag. If you must sit while you jettison your morning coffee, make a pit stop in Shady Cove or Trail.
Climbing is best during spring and fall, but possible all year. Wintertime can be great as long as a significant snow pack has not formed, which is unusual. Summer can be uncomfortably hot but shade can almost always be found.
A guide to Rattlesnake is in Greg Orton’s "Rock Climbing Western Oregon: Vol. 3, The Rogue". It includes great topos, route descriptions, directions to the crag, FA info, and lots of other good stuff.
Getting to Rattlesnake can be tricky if you haven’t been there a few times. Orton’s guide contains detailed directions but it’s possible to get lost even with these directions. I’ve even heard stories of people having to make two or three trips before they even find the crag.
From I-5 exit 30, head toward Crater Lake on Highway 62 (Crater Lake Hwy.) Pass through Shady Cove after about 20 miles.
About three miles past Shady Cove at Trail turn left on Highway 227 (Trail-Tiller Hwy) toward Canyonville. Drive for about three miles. Keep an eye on the milepost markers on the left (south) side of the road.
Just before MP 50, turn left on W. Fork Trail Creek Rd. Just after the turn you will cross a bridge over a creek.
After the NEXT bridge, turn left onto a dirt road (I believe the directions in the book only mention one bridge, there are two).
The first fork in the road comes about a ¼ mile after turning onto the dirt road. Take the left fork. The road should switch back sharply to the left after making this turn.
At the next fork, go right. When approaching this fork, the right looks more straight, while the left drops down hill. The road should bend to the right after making the turn.
The next time the road splits, you have the option of making a 90 degree turn to the right or staying straight. GO STRAIGHT (a lot of people seem to go astray here).
After a while the road will make a sharp bend to the left and you will pass a large quarry (a place where locals like to shoot their guns). After the quarry the road will start to head uphill, flatten out, then head uphill again. There is a pullout on the left where the road fattens out and bends to the right. The approach trail is on the right. Total distance on the dirt road is about four miles. A short, uphill hike on the approach trail gets you to the crag.
Some more hints and notes on getting to Rattlesnake: Keep in mind that the above directions are from memory. For best results, use these directions in conjunction with the directions in the guide. All of the turns on the dirt road are of a “veering” nature. If you every find yourself contemplating a sharp turn in either direction, don’t do it. The road is pretty well maintained and is easily passable by low clearance 2WD vehicles unless there is an unusual amount of snow or mud. Turnoffs that are particularly rough or vegetated are not mentioned in the above directions.
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