The southern Oregon monument nearly doubles in size.
In 2011, a group of 15 scientists came forward with their fears around the fate of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon. Designated as a monument only 11 years earlier by President Clinton, the nexus of the Cascade, Klamath, and Siskiyou mountain ranges faced perilous threats from climate change and nearby development, according to the scientists. The 65,000-acre monument had been created to preserve the rich variety of forests, grasses, plants, and other ecological specimens growing in the region; without help, researchers argued, the unusual mix for which the monument was known would be lost to history.
Six years after the scientists first came forward, and in his last few days in office, President Obama expanded the monument by roughly 48,000 acres (5,000 of which now reach into Northern California). In an announcement, Obama expressed optimism that the expanded monument would better protect the region’s watersheds, plant life, and ecological diversity.
Today, hikers can enjoy the monument’s sweeping old-growth forests, unfettered views of numerous Cascade peaks, and a treasure trove of geological diversity not found anywhere else in the region. (The monument hosts the oldest rocks in Oregon, dating to 425 million years!) Interested in exploring the newly-expanded monument? Here are five of our favorite hikes in and around the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.
1. Pilot Rock Hike
If you do one hike within the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, odds are good it will be Pilot Rock. Accessible as a quick offshoot of the Pacific Crest Trail, Pilot Rock is among the most popular trails—and offers some of the best views—in southern Oregon.
The hike starts in a majestic forest, follows a ridgeline leading to the volcanic plug Pilot Rock, and continues on the rock’s north side. Once at the summit, hikers enjoy unfettered views of Mount Shasta, the Siskiyou Mountains, Mount McLoughlin, and Mount Ashland (among others).
Note: Most hikers stop just short of the actual summit, though a rock scramble may offer slightly better views. Take care when attempting the scramble, and only attempt it in favorable conditions.
2. Pacific Crest Trail
You don’t have to be ready to tackle the entire length of the PCT to enjoy the newly expanded monument. Roughly 20 miles of the vaunted Pacific Crest Trail cut through the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Fans of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild might recognize a passage from the region, and a few key scenes from the film adaptation were shot in nearby Ashland.
This stunning section of the PCT passes a few regional landmarks, including Pilot Rock, and traverses meadows full of wildflowers, old-growth forest, and more. Hikers will enjoy views of the Soda Mountain Wilderness and Mount Shasta, as well.
Not up for making the full trek yourself? Several trailheads within the monument offer easy access to the PCT, which connects with several day hikes (such as Pilot Rock, Hobart Bluff, and more).
3. Mount McLoughlin
Located just north of the newly-expanded monument, the Mount McLoughlin Summit Trail promises expansive views of the surrounding wilderness—and a glimpse at the ecological diversity that inspired scientists to push for an expanded monument in the first place. The strenuous 4.5-mile-long hike, most popular and accessible at the height of summer, starts in a ponderosa pine forest. Once above timberline, colorful pumice and craggy boulders provide most of the scenery until the summit. There, hikers are rewarded with views of Mount Shasta, Mount Thielsen, South Sister, and the picturesque Klamath Basin.
Remember, the trail can be difficult to follow and is a strenuous hike, even in the best conditions. Hikers should be prepared for a 4,000-foot ascent, bring plenty of water, and pay close attention to trail markers.
4. Britt Woods
Not exactly part of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, the Britt Woods (just outside nearby Jacksonville) offers a relaxing change of pace from the monument’s rugged wilderness. If you’re in the area, this trek is one of my favorites.
Popular with hikers, trail runners, mountain bike riders, the Britt Woods network of trails covers 18 miles and offers something to love in nearly every season; spring and summer mean colorful wildflowers, fall brings with it vibrant fall foliage, and winter typically means a peaceful stroll in the snow. The paths are well-maintained and cover lush forests and bubbling creeks, not to mention a few views of nearby peaks.
5. Hobart Bluff
Hobart Bluff, not far from Ashland, doesn’t make hikers work too hard for some of the best views within the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Named for the surrounding basaltic cliffs, the hike gains roughly 240 feet over less than 1.5 miles. Springtime wildflowers line the trail at times, and hikers travel through a mix of old-growth forest and rolling meadows along the way. Once at the summit, hikers enjoy views of the surrounding Rogue Valley, basaltic cliffs, and several Cascade Peaks, including Mount McLoughlin and Mount Shasta.