This is the first installment of Reid Barbier’s weekly column on the best hiking and outdoor adventure spots in Southern Oregon.
Base camp. What an exhilarating phrase that is, bringing to mind the breathtaking potential of hiking and climbing and all the joys and fears associated with anything worthwhile. You’re standing at the base of a peak and you’re looking up, way up, maybe all the way into the clouds, your pack on your back, your tent struck, and you’re about to take that first step. You can see all the crags and caves, the winding switch-backs or the gentle trail, the snowy patches or the mountain flowers. You know that in an hour, or a day, you will be on that trail, scrambling up that rocky face. You just need to take the first step.
This column exists to help you take that step, to launch yourself into the many beautiful hikes of Southern Oregon, while offering some advice along the way so that no peak looks impossible. So grab your gear, tie up your boots, and let’s hit the trail.
Climbing Grizzly Peak
One of the most accessible and rewarding hikes in the area is the Grizzly Peak Trail, just twenty minutes or so out of town. This is a great hike for both trail beginners and veterans, as it offers striking views without too much effort or time.
To get to the trailhead from the university take Ashland Street off of Siskiyou Boulevard all the way down to Dead Indian Memorial Road, then follow that for 6.7 miles, before turning left on Shale City Road and following signs to Grizzly Peak Trail. From the parking lot you have a good view of snow-white Mt. McLaughlin as well as the far-off Three Sisters Range.
For the next 1.5 miles to the summit, you will snake your way through forested area, broken up by meadows that sport spectacular wildflowers in late spring and early summer. You will also pass through an area that was severely burned a few years ago, presenting an interesting contrast with the rest of the hike. It is worthwhile to stop and see how the land is slowly recovering from the wildfire, with green shoots poking up from among the desolation. Once you reach the peak, you will be greeted by spectacular views of Ashland itself, much of the Rogue Valley, and even Mount Shasta on a clear day. The little plateau at the top offers an excellent place to stop and eat lunch, or to just rest for a few minutes and enjoy the sights.
Continuing the loop, you will leave the peak and journey for another 1.2 miles through forest and meadow before hooking up with the previous trail, and then completing the final 1.2 miles back to the parking lot. On this last leg of the hike, again be sure to keep an eye out for wildflowers, and the unusual orange moss that grows on many of the rocks and boulders in the area. Admire the view from the parking lot once last time, and then head on home! Grizzly Peak is a beautiful and fun hike, a great way to spend an afternoon, and an excellent place to start our exploration of the hikes of Southern Oregon.