At 6,200 feet, Hogback Mountain is one of the tallest peaks in close proximity to downtown Klamath Falls. A moderate 3.5-mile hike to the summit affords sweeping views of the city, suburbs, farmland and surrounding mountain landscapes. But Foothills Christian Fellowship, which sits at the trailhead, is struggling to balance allowing hikers to access their parking lot while maintaining their facility.
The problem, said Foothills Pastor Denny Roberts, involves both the parking lot and the trail. FCF’s parking lot sits next to a gated gas line road that feeds into a trail going along the ridge of the mountain, making it the closest publicly accessible parking area to the trailhead even though it’s on private land. Hikers have parked here to summit Hogback for years, and Roberts said the church has been happy to accommodate them.
But the parking lot’s accessibility has been a double-edged sword: FCF staff said they’ve found trash and skid marks left by teenagers loitering in the parking lot at night.
“Needles, condoms, all that kind of stuff,” Roberts said, adding that the church is considering putting up a gate at night to keep non-hikers from using the lot after hours. But he said it would be tough to determine when the gate would open and close, especially since summer hikers may not return to their cars until after 9 p.m.
Roberts said a solution would be to develop a smaller gravel area south of the parking lot and adjacent to the gas line road. Hikers could leave their cars there instead of at the church’s parking lot, which could then be gated off at night without worrying about trapping cars. But while the church owns that land, it can’t afford to develop and maintain it. Roberts said he’s open to a partnership with the city or another local organization to construct a trailhead-specific parking lot, but so far nothing has materialized.
“If that doesn’t happen, we’ll just close the whole thing,” Roberts said. “And that’s not right, either.”
Another issue is a separate trail that’s been forged up the face of the mountain, bypassing the gas line road. It eventually connects with the established ridge trail, but because of its steepness and increased use, it’s created a deep gulley that directs runoff down the mountain and directly into a housing development south of the church. Beyond being unsightly for the church staff, Roberts said he worries the gulley could cause damage to the area during storms and would prefer hikers use the gas line road trail instead.
“We would just like to see it restored,” he said. “Let it grow back in; let it do its thing.”
Roberts reached out to the Klamath Trails Alliance, which operates several hiking and mountain biking trail networks in the area, to discuss restoring the trails. KTA is still looking for someone who can lead that effort.
Roberts stressed that the church has no intention of closing off access to the trail; they just want to ensure that only those respectful of their property are able to use it to access Hogback Mountain.
“We don’t want to shut them out,” he said. “That’s not our object.”