You've always wanted to climb Mount McLoughlin, but weren't sure you were up to it. Or maybe you're just looking for an enjoyable way to get your legs and lungs in shape this summer. Whatever your motivation for getting in tip-top condition, we've got some ideas for getting you there.
The trail to the top of 9,495-foot Mount McLoughlin gains 4,000 feet in 5.5 miles. A climb like that requires the kind of effort that can traumatize feet, joints and leg muscles while testing your lung capacity. You can learn to love that type of effort — and reduce the sting to your body — by hiking progressively steeper trails near home.
The first navigation challenge for any hiking trail involves getting to the trailhead. Here's what you need to know to get to these 10 trails.
Jacksonville Trails: Maps for the Jacksonville trail system are available from the Chamber of Commerce and at major trailheads behind Beekman House on California Street, at Britt Gardens and at the top of West Fir Street. Look for the Jackson Forks Trailhead .8 miles beyond Jacksonville's last stop sign on Highway 238.
Upper Table Rock: From I-5 Exit 33 in Central Point, head east one mile on East Pine Road, then left (north) on Table Rock Road. At a curve in the road at 5.2 miles, turn right on Modoc Road. Look for parking on the left in 1.5 miles. Dogs are not allowed.
Lower Table Rock: Drive to milepost 10 on Table Rock Road. Turn left on Wheeler Road and proceed .8 miles to the trailhead. An old airstrip on the top allows hikers a pleasant way to extend their hike. You will find picnic tables but no water at the trailhead or on the trail. Dogs are not allowed.
Roxy Ann Peak: The trails on Roxy Ann Peak start inside gates that lock at 8 p.m., so prepare to be out of the park by then or to park outside of the gated area. Just past milepost 3 on Medford's Hillcrest Road, look for a gravel road on the left and a sign for Prescott Park. Take Roxy Ann Road one-half mile to the first gate and another .9 miles to a parking pull-out in front of a second gate. Walk up the road a few hundred feet to the Madrone Trail on the right. For a map of this trail, consult "Where the Trails Are" by Bill Williams.
Grizzly Peak: Take Dead Indian Memorial Road to Shale City Road, between mileposts 6 and 7. Turn left on a gravel road in 3.1 miles. A small sign with an arrow to the trailhead periodically disappears from this junction. Proceed .7 miles to several roads, and take the uphill road left 1.7 miles to the trailhead. A map at the trailhead shows the loop trail.
White Rabbit Trail: The White Rabbit Trail links to other trails in the Ashland watershed. For a longer hike, continue west to a second trailhead off Ashland Loop Road with options for steep side hikes along the way. The western end of the White Rabbit Trail links to Catwalk Trail via Caterpillar and Toothpick trails. Look for White Rabbit on a map entitled "City of Ashland Bicycle Routes & Public Trails," available at some Ashland businesses and at the Chamber of Commerce.
Catwalk Trail: Drive 3.1 miles up Tolman Creek Road from Siskiyou Boulevard to an unmarked trailhead with a turnout on the right for several cars. The Toothpick Trail starts here on private land. In a mile, turn left on Catwalk Trail. The trail appears on the 2003 Forest Service topographical map, entitled "Applegate & West Half of Ashland Ranger Districts."
Ostrich Peak: You will not find a parking area at the trailhead on Ashland's Birdsong Lane off Strawberry Lane, which leaves you with the option of parking on this narrow, curved road, finding road parking elsewhere or climbing up to the neighborhood through trails in Hald-Strawberry Park. The Birdsong Trail cuts uphill through small oaks to a paved portion of Hitt Road. Turn right and continue up the road to a righthand curve at the water tower. Follow the bike ruts uphill. In about three miles, the trail ends, and roads branch right and left. You are on private land, open at the discretion of the landowners, and could get lost. To negotiate the last mile to Ostrich Peak, turn right and stay on the main road, which curves to the left and rises sharply. Turn on a road to the right and then again on a second road to the right through old wooden gate posts.
Wagner Butte: From Highway 99 in Talent, take Rapp Road 1.1 miles to a stop sign and proceed straight on Wagner Creek Road to a bridge at the end of the pavement. Stay on FR 22 the rest of the way. In about four miles, paved FR 2250, the upper end of the Little Applegate Road, comes in on the right and the gravel FR 22 takes off left. Follow FR 22 past the cattle grate at Wagner Gap to the trailhead. Look for a large parking area on the right and a trailhead sign on the left. The trail appears on the Forest Service topographical map entitled "Applegate & West Half of Ashland Ranger Districts."
Mount Eddy: Turn off Interstate-5 27 miles south of Yreka at the Stewart Springs Road exit. Turn right on Old Hwy 99 and left on Stewart Springs Road. In four miles, turn right on Road 17. Continue 9.3 miles to a pass, where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the road. The longer (11-mile round trip) route to Mount Eddy starts from the parking lot on the left side of the road and continues 2.8 miles to Middle Deadfall Lake. A shorter, steeper approach starts 1.3 miles further down Road 17 at a hairpin. Park on the right. The steep trail through Deadfall Meadow starts across the road and intersects with the PCT in 1.5 miles near Middle Deadfall Lake. This path can be boggy in places and requires many stream crossings. For a trail description, consult "100 Hikes in Southern Oregon" by William Sullivan.
Before You Go
Hiking is healthy, but it's also intrinsically dangerous. To be comfortable and relatively safe during your treks, make these preparations before you go.
1. Wear light hiking boots to protect your feet and improve your grip on everything from rock to scree.
2. Bring a companion whenever possible. Two heads are always better than one for finding your way, reading a compass and sharing a snack.
3. Bring a map and compass, and pay attention to landmarks as you go. False trails and changes in light and angle can cause a trail that appears obvious on the ascent to become obscure on the descent.
4. Pack clothing layers. Weather on mountain trails is always unpredictable. While sun prevails in the valley, you could face sleet, rain or chilling winds at a higher elevation or different exposure.
5. Carry water and snacks. Staying hydrated during a hike will help keep energy levels high. Hiking is a big calorie burner, so even dieters will need nourishment to go very far.
6. Bring a flashlight or headlamp on all-day outings. Just one miscalculation or wrong turn can put you in the dark.
Try these 10 hikes, and by the time you finish you should be prepared to tackle Mount McLoughlin in late summer. The hikes are arranged so that when you reach the top of each, you'll be able to see the next climb on your list.
Jacksonville's trail system mixes short steep trails with gentle grades for customized workouts. The paths are soft and relatively even underfoot, with poison oak trimmed well out of the way. For an introduction to steep trails, climb the 2/3-mile Jackson Forks Trail to Rich Gulch and connect to the one-mile Petard Ditch Loop, which features dramatic shifts in exposure and grade. Stop by Panorama Point to admire Roxy Ann Peak and Mount McLoughlin.
Upper and Lower Table Rocks
While gold miners scoured Rich Gulch in the 1850s, the U.S. Army guarded a new Indian reservation on and around the Table Rocks. Today, nature buffs swarm up these prominent mesas near Central Point. Caution: for safety, stay back from the crumbly edges of the rocks. Lower Table Rock Trail offers welcome shade as it climbs 780 feet in 1.6 miles. The sunny Upper Table Rock Trail climbs 720 feet in one mile. A gravel path keeps mud and poison oak at bay. From aloft, the Rogue River snakes through the valley floor, and the trails in your future wink on the horizon, including the shapely cone of Roxy Ann Peak.
Roxy Ann Peak
A road restricted to pedestrians and bicycles climbs to the 3,571-foot summit of Roxy Ann Peak on Medford's eastern edge. But the smooth surface and gentle grade of a road won't prepare you for the rock and roll of a trail. To build trail legs, head to a three-mile loop trail that offers a winding, sometimes muddy, 900-foot ascent over 1.5 miles. The lugged soles of hiking boots minimize slippage, while maneuvering on rocky terraces improves balance and strengthens feet and ankles. Winds, climate and plant life change as you circle the peak and rediscover our valley, squeezed between the Siskiyous and Cascades. Mount McLoughlin presides to the east, Wagner Butte to the west, the Table Rocks to the north and the broad back of Grizzly Peak to the south.
Few peak hikes deliver as much grandeur for as little grunt as the five-mile round-trip hike up Grizzly Peak's north side. A couple of steep pitches on the lower part of the trail can be slick in wet weather. Well graded switchbacks pass from deep forests to wildflower-strewn meadows and rocky outcrops. The long views aren't from the 5,940-foot summit, a nondescript knob ignored by most hikers. The trail crests 700 feet above the parking lot, then descends via loop trail to southern exposures. Ashland lies at your feet and Mount Shasta floats in the distance. Between the near and the far is the curling crest of the Siskiyous.
White Rabbit Trail
Steep trails start from the top of some of Ashland's steepest streets. You can ramp up your hiking routine on the first two miles of the White Rabbit Trail at the top of Park Street. The trail rises 800 feet to a rock-strewn ridge (3,300 feet). For variety, try short detours on Looking Glass and Cheshire Cat. Add another 500 feet of climb by walking up Park Street from Siskiyou Boulevard.
A .5-mile hike on the Toothpick Trail off Ashland's Tolman Creek Road leads to the turn-off for the 1.5-mile Catwalk Trail, which gains 1,000 feet on steep switchbacks before meeting Ashland Loop Road near Coggins Saddle (4,380 feet). A couple of views offer excuses to stop, but the most efficient pace is one you can continue without fully stopping.
You can count on tough ascents and challenging descents when you climb a trail that mountain bikers made by sailing downhill at high speeds. Thatís the kind of action hikers face on the four-mile one-way hike to Ostrich Peak. The unmarked route combines rutted trail and dirt road for a 2,200-foot rise that begins at Birdsong Lane (2,440 feet) and continues onto private land. Ostrich Peak (4,650 feet) is a local name, so donít expect to see the name on a map. Your route twists around the mountain for unusual views of the city, Wagner Butte and Grizzly Peak crowned by Mount McLoughlin and the Crater Rim.
If you try the 10-mile round trip hike to 7,140-foot Wagner Butte before mid June, snow is likely beyond 6,600-foot Wagner Glade Gap, a point where the trail ends a sharp ascent and begins a gentler two-mile traverse across the mountainís west face for an overall vertical gain of 2,200 feet. While you are enjoying 360-degree views, look for Mount Eddy. Itís on the leading edge of the Siskiyou Mountains just west of Mount Shasta and Black Butte.
The last 1.4 miles of the trail to Mount Eddy climbs 1,000 feet up tight zigzags on the exposed south face of the 9,025-foot peak. The trail surface is more secure than what you can expect on the 1,300-foot scramble up the last 1.2 miles of the Mount McLoughlin Trail. Snow often lingers near the highest tarns until mid July. The long drive to this trailhead pays off with a 2,600-foot elevation gain over 4.5 miles and a taste of high altitude and all-day exertion along a path strewn with rare plants, deep cirques and wind-ravaged pines.
Not only does one trail prepare you for the next, but the harder the going gets, the more likely your body will produce pain-killing endorphins. These feel-good brain chemicals may well account for a hikerís uncanny ability to forget the strain and recall only the glory.