Sterling Mine Ditch Trail is 24 miles of trails with 7 trail heads and miles of extras.
Driving – Plan on an hour drive. Get on the 5 freeway north towards Medford. Exit before Medford at the Phoenix exit and turn left. Then turn right on Siskiyou Blvd/ 99. Keep your eyes open for South Stage Road. The intersection is big, but the sign is not. You turn left towards Jacksonville. 5 miles of farmland and you’ll dead end int Griffin Creek Road. Turn left. In a few hundred yards turn right on WEST Griffin Creek Road. A couple miles more of rural Oregon and you dead end into Sterling Creek Road. Turn left towards Buncom. The Anderson Gulch Trail Head comes up in about 5 miles. A small brown sign on the right points left to “The Sterling Mine Trail”. Turn there and follow the signs for a mile.
If you are going to Bear Gulch, continue on Sterling Creek Road and in Buncom (Spoiler Alert – It’s not a town, it’s just an intersection. Don’t even expect a Minute Mart) you dead end into, and turn left on, Little Applegate Road. That becomes a gravel road – albeit a very well maintained gravel road – and in 3 miles, on your left, is the Bear Gulch Trailhead.
Parking – There’s a dirt area for 5 or 6 cars. You should be fine.
The Trail – The Bear Gulch loop is about 5 miles. Start along the creek for less than a mile (feels like more) and then through some oak to the actual ditch trail. There is no longer water in that ditch but… it is level. Level trails are the best. Turn right and go about 2 miles. Before you reach the Tunnel Ridge Trail, the actual tunnel is to your left. It is 3 feet tall and you can crawl the 50 yards to the other side. No bats or bears. But the trail downhill is also right there. Turn right and you have a mile through grassy hillsides down to the road. Turn right and hike another mile along the road to your car.
Armstrong Gulch loop is more than 3 miles. You head up hill for half a mile. Nice shady switchbacks. You reach the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail and turn left. In about a mile you’ll hit the road. This is also the Deming Gulch Trail Head. Turn left and hike the gravel road back to your car for about a mile and a half.