Ashland is a town just north of the California border and home to Southern Oregon University and the award-winning Shakespeare Festival. Located in the heart of the Siskiyou Mountains, Ashland lies between the Rogue and Klamath Rivers that extend from the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific. Lithia Park just south of downtown and SOU is the entrance to the Ashland Watershed.
The Ashland Watershed is under multiple ownership including the City of Ashland, the US Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as well as private landowners. Creating new trails required the Ashland Woodlands and Trails Association (AWTA) had to coordinate between various landowners. Due to federal ownership, the group’s plan had to go through a NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process including the preparation of an Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) of the current trails, as well as other areas of the watershed where construction was desired. The watershed is primarily composed of granitic soils that are highly erosive. The municipal water supply is derived from Reeder Reservoir and Ashland Creek, also in the watershed, so erosion must be mitigated. Adding to the complexity, the area is also spotted owl and Pacific Fisher habitat, both protected species. The NEPA analysis and resulting approval of the plan took nearly five years to complete.
The Ashland Watershed
The AWTA met regularly and held fundraisers to pay for the cost of hiring scientists to prepare the EIA. However, during that process, they received approval to reconstruct a couple of historic trails that had fallen into disuse. The first was the Wagner Glade trail. The trail climbs from the Ashland Loop Road (2060) at about mile 10 up to the Wagner Butte Trail. The second historic trail that was approved for rehabilitation was the Split Rock trail, which follows a scenic ridgeline from Forest Service Road 20 (the old Mt. Ashland Road) and joins the Wagner Glade and Wagner Butte trails.
In 2010 the group received approval to construct the first new trail on land owned by the City of Ashland and USFS – the trail is named Bandersnatch. Bander, as it’s referred to by the locals, was constructed for pedestrian use only and was completed in 2013. In 2015, when the final plan was approved, a popular existing trail – BTI – was reconstructed for bikers only. This was an attempt to reduce conflicts in a popular area of the watershed near the swimming hole and Fairy Ponds at the top of Lithia Park.
Watershed Trail Sign
Today there are dozens of sanctioned trails in the watershed that add up to over 45 miles. Paper maps are available at the Chamber of Commerce, Rogue Valley Runners, and Ashland Parks and Rec. There is also an interactive map on the AWTA website.
AWTA also completed the trail to Mt. Ashland’s summit in 2019. The Creek to Crest Trail runs from Bear Creek in Ashland to the PCT near Mt. Ashland.
The Siskiyou Mountain Club also maintains trails in SW Oregon and NW California, including the Red Buttes and Soda Mountain Wildernesses.
Ashland Trail Runs
The Ashland Trails website is a great resource for trails in the area, but here are our favorite trail systems to explore.
Located on the southern edge of Ashland are the Ashland Watershed trails. Several miles of trails are easily accessed from Lithia Park, Southern Oregon University, the Plaza, and several Ashland streets.
Mt. Ashland Hill Climb is among the races with the most elevation gain of any continuous hill climb in the continental United States. This half marathon point-to-point starts in Lithia Park and finishes at Mt. Ashland.
The Growler Guys offer several craft beers on tap to sip while chowing down on salad, pizza, wings, and other pub fares.
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