Ashland sits in the bottom of the belly of the Rogue River Valley. Prominent ridges flank the town to both the Northwest and Southeast and each ridge has its own unique character and look. Northwest is green and lush; the trails are well known and well used with easy access from downtown providing recreation for both hikers and mountain bikers. Opposite these ridges looms Grizzly Peak, the foreboding brown mountain in stark contrast but equally beautiful.
In the last week I have made three ventures to the top of this mountain and each has been remarkable. With a destination in mind, it is easy to overlook the journey, but I would say that is virtually impossible with his excursion. Exiting town via Dead Indian Memorial Highway, the winding road offers views of the Ashland and the surrounding countryside that become more beautiful with each bend of the road. Pullouts offer a chance to view the rolling hills and snap a few pictures. Continuing up, keep your eyes pealed for deer grazing in the surrounding fields and the possible cattle standing in the road (It is open range-land past a certain point). Off the highway, following the signs for Grizzly peak trailhead, gravel roads take you to the parking area and trailhead.
Entering the forest I was immediately surprised to see how lush and green it was. Three miles of Towering old-growth Grand fir and Pine scented the air and numerous wildflowers and miners lettuce line the trail. Occasional alpine meadows offer a good chance again to see grazing deer or elk on your way to the top. When the forest begins to open and the remaining snags of a forest fire in 2003 become apparent you are near the top and look out. Here a variety of wildflowers abound in spring and early summer and the views of the valley below become visible. Continuing to the now visible exposed high point expect a breathtaking panoramic vista.
To the south are Mt Shasta, Pilot Rock, Emigrant Lake and Mt Ashland. Working north, numerous ridges and rolling hills rise above the towns below. This is one of the best places I have ever witnessed the sunset and rise. From this vantage the entire color spectrum can be seen in the sky as the Sun dips behind the distant ridges. As its light dims the glows of Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Medford and Central Point well up from below. Above is the splash of the Milky Way, shooting stars and satellites in all their wonder. Breath the fresh air and take in the feeling of being on the top of the world. Bring a blanket and a jacket for stargazing, as the sky is absolutely pristine here. The trail is easily navigated out by headlamp.
Directions: Heading east on Ashland street which becomes highway 66, Turn left on Dead Indian Memorial Highway. Follow this road approximately 7.0 miles to the Shale City Road, marked 38-2E-27. (This road will occur before you reach the evergreen forests on top.) Look for the Grizzly Peak trail signs. Turn left. Follow the Shale City road approximately 3.0 miles until you reach road number 38-2E-9.2. Look for Grizzly Peak trail signs. Turn left onto this road. At approximately 1.0 mile on this road, you will come to a three way junction. Follow the road leading uphill, which will be the same road you are on. Look for the Grizzly Peak trail signs. Approximately 1.0 mile further, you will reach the trailhead. Parking is available at the trailhead for up to 10 cars.
Trail Info: Of moderate grade this trail is a loop and is family friendly. Depending on which way you go it is about three miles in, six miles round trip. The sign at the trailhead is very informative and easy to read.
-Written by Brandon Worthington, guide for Indigo Creek Outfitters.