Kalmiopsis Wilderness

Kalmiopsis Wilderness

The United States Congress designated the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in 1964, and it now totals180,095 acres. This Wilderness includes the headwater basin of the Chetco and North Fork Smith Rivers, and a portion of the Illinois River canyon. This is a harsh, rugged area with a beautifully unique character that resonates with anyone who ventures into its interior! Elevations range from 500 to 5,098 feet (Pearsoll Peak). The area is characterized by deep, rough canyons, sharp rock ridges, and clear rushing mountain streams and rivers.

Diversity of topography and geology provide excellent habitats for a wide variety of botanical species. Much of this diversity results from plant species adapting to life in harsh soils that are derived from peridotite and serpentinite rocks. Both are rich in heavy metals, such as magnesium, iron, chromium and nickel, which in high amounts, can be toxic to most plants. The diversity of plant habitat is the result of a combination of geologic forces (uplift, folding and faulting), erosional and depositional forces (glaciation, weather, climate and the action of rivers), and periodic fires. The wilderness' namesake plant, an endemic shrub known as Kalmiopsis leachiana, was discovered in 1930 in the Gold Basin area by the botanist Lilla Leech. The plant is a relic of the pre-ice age, and the oldest member of the Health (Ericaceae) Family. For those with a more serious interest in botany, there is a plant list for the Kalmiopsis Wilderness available at the Wild Rivers Ranger District and Gold Beach Ranger District.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Visitors to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness should be advised that trail conditions may vary, depending on the level of maintenance performed in the years after the Biscuit (2002), Chetco Bar (2017) and Klondike (2018) Fires. Due to the scales of these fires, and the rugged and remote conditions in the Kalmiopsis, trail work, while ongoing, has not been performed on all the trails within the fire perimeters. Visitors may find downed trees across the trails, dense vegetation where shrubs have grown in after the fire, and unmarked trail junctions in some places. Please check with the Gold Beach or Wild Rivers Ranger Districts before your visit for trail conditions. Additionally, you can visit theï¿¿Siskiyou Mountain Club's page, a local group who performs much of theï¿¿trail maintenance in wilderness areas.

Nation-wide Wilderness Regulations:

  • Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is prohibited. This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Kalmiopsis Wilderness Regulations:

  • Caching of equipment is prohibited. Storing equipment, personal property, or supplies is prohibited.
  • Possessing or storing hay or unprocessed (viable) grain is prohibited. Oregon weed free forage information.
  • Campfire restriction within Illinois River Wild and Scenic corridor: Prohibits building, maintaining, attending or using an open fire except in a firepan or similar device that will contain the fire and its residue.
  • Maximum group size: Overnight use of the area by a group of more than 12 persons and/or 9 saddle or pack animals is prohibited. Note: This does not apply to day-use.
  • Boating permits required: Mandatory unrestricted free permit required to float (via non-motorized devices) the Wild and Scenic Chetco and Illinois Rivers. Permit used to monitor use and for health and safety purposes. 
Closest Towns:
  • Gold Beach, OR
  • Cave Junction, OR
  • Grants Pass, OR
Information Center: Gold Beach and Wild Rivers Ranger Districts

General Information


Trailheads and trails that access Kalmiopsis Wilderness

Other trails within Kalmiopsis Wilderness


Day Hiking

  • This nearly 180,000 acre Wilderness includes the headwater basin of the Chetco and North Fork Smith Rivers and a portion of the Illinois River canyon.


Horse Riding

  • This nearly 180,000 acre Wilderness includes the headwater basin of the Chetco and North Fork Smith Rivers and a portion of the Illinois River canyon.

Viewing Wildlife

Viewing Plants

Viewing Scenery

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  Elevation : 
500' - 5,098'