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Hiking the PCT in the Soda Mountain Wilderness


Hiking the PCT in the Soda Mountain Wilderness

By Andy Harris

After 2 years of hiking in Southern Oregon and Northern California, I was a bit surprised to find a trail that I hadn’t really considered much beforehand to be one of my absolute favorites in the area.

But that is exactly what I experienced when I spent a recent weekend afternoon hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in the Soda Mountain Wilderness.

Soda Mountain WIlderness sign

If you are unfamiliar with the territory, it is located essentially between Grizzly Peak and Mt. Ashland, or more precisely, between Pilot Rock and the Greensprings Highway. It is a protected wilderness area that is located within the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Here you can find a map of the Soda Mountain Wilderness.

And what a wilderness it is! We started out just about 4 miles from the Greensprings Highway, and headed south and west on the PCT toward Mt. Ashland and California.

One of the first treats we encountered was a couple of incredible areas full of spring wildflowers. Having seen the wildflowers at the Table Rocks, Grizzly Peak, and Mt. Ashland, among others, I was as impressed with the gorgeous display of color as any I’ve seen. (Be on the lookout for an upcoming blog post sampling photos of these wonderful flowers)

Pacific Crest Trail flowers in Soda Mountain Wilderness

As we continued along the trail, we came across numerous mountain meadows with gorgeous views of Mt. McLoughlin, Mt. Ashland, Grizzly Peak, Pilot Rock and the surrounding wilderness. The trail starts at about 5300 feet, and rolls up and down a few hundred feet for the roughly 5 miles that we traversed (in one direction, and about 5 hours total), but for the most part the trail was relatively flat. So it’s an excellent hike for those looking for a nice, long day hike with beautiful views, but without the taxing inclines that many hikes in this region contain.

A little more than halfway through our hike, we came across a grassy field with a nice camping site with a fire pit and a water spigot – though you need to boil the water or use a water filtration system to drink it.

Moving along, the trail eventually comes out on the back side of the mountain (relative to Ashland), so instead of views looking north and west, epic views of Mt. Shasta, the Klamath River basin and northern California come into view.

Pacific Crest Trail and Mt. Shasta

Toward the end of the “out” portion of our hike, we came across some scraggly juniper trees in fields overlooking Mt. Shasta. We had a snack there and enjoyed the late spring sunshine, and then continued on, eventually stopping not too much further when we saw a sign for Lone Pilot Trail. Of course, the PCT continues on to Mexico, so feel free to hike as far as you’d like!

In the end, I definitely learned – yet again – that there are countless trails in this region to explore…and to never assume that the next one on your list might not be one of your favorites.

Difficulty level: Moderate

Directions: From downtown Ashland, head southeast on Siskiyou Blvd. Take a left onto Ashland Street and follow it past the freeway entrances and curve to the right (Ashland St. becomes OR-66/Greensprings Hwy). Follow the winding Greensprings Hwy about 15 miles to Soda Mountain Road (which is well marked with a sign), and take a right onto the gravel road. Follow this road for 3.8 miles, and park just after passing the 2nd set of electric powerlines.

Side Notes: Once you arrive at the parking spot, you can also head north and east toward toward Hobart Bluff, a lookout about 1.2 miles from the parking area. Additionally, Soda Mountain has a lookout that you could hike to in addition to or instead of following the Pacific Crest Trail the entire way. Just over a mile into our hike south and west, you’d take the trail that diverges to the left, follow it to the Soda Mountain Rd, and then follow that up and to the right to the lookout. It’s about 1 mile and a 600 foot elevation gain from the trail diverging to the lookout.

Outdoor Recreation Safety Note: Please be sure to read our safety note on our Outdoor Recreation home page.

PCT view of Mt. Ashland

Pacific Crest Trail sign