Taking advantage of another break in the storms rolling through Southern Oregon, we decided to explore the Mike Uhtoff Trail near Ashland. Mike was Portland Audubon’s first managing director from 1976 to 1985. He later moved to Ashland where, as a Sourthern Oregon Land Conservancy member, he helped the City of Ashland acquire Siskiyou Mountain Park as open space parkland. The “hikers-only” Mike Uhtoff Trail was dedicated in his honor. So we powered-up the GPS and headed out to do some exploring.
Finding the Uhtoff Trail can be a little confusing since it is embedded in a system of hiker-only and multi-use trails that run up the mountain from the Ashland City limits to Forest Road 2060. In looking for maps of these trails, we were able to find some detailed ones produced by mountain bikers but none that showed the hiker-only trails. Sullivan’s description of this hike (#58 in his 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon guide (3rd Edition)) isn’t very clear as to where the Uhtoff Trail is or where it goes – particularly the upper portion constructed in 2011. Following Sullivan’s driving directions got us to the Oredson-Todd Woods parking area (small) and trailhead at the southern edge of Ashland. There’s also an upper trailhead but public parking there appears non-existent.
From the parking lot, we swung north and then west around some private land to the actual start of the Oredson-Todd trail complex.
I say “complex” because there are a number of trails with this name running up, down, and around the Hamilton Creek drainage. We started on a trail, which became an old road, which went back to a trail again as we headed up the creek toward Clay Creek Falls.
From the falls, we went northwest and up on the Oredson-Tood Trail, catching a view to the south along the way,
to a signed junction with the Mike Uhtoff Trail. We found the signage to be pretty good throughout this trail system as it included signs, small informal maps, and large printed maps at kiosks. All we needed was a printed hiker’s map that showed the trails in relation to these signs. The Uhtoff is a nice, well graded trail that took us up through madrones and pines,
to a viewpoint (with bench) at about 3,280 feet and nearly in contact with the multi-use White Rabbit Trail. From here, we had a good view across the valley to Grizzly Peak with its now very diminished snowpack (we’re still getting precipitation but air temperatures have risen, so the snowpack below 5,000 feet is dwindling quickly).
From here, the newer (2011) segment of the Uhtoff continues up, contouring above the White Rabbit Trail. At 3,400 feet, the Uhtoff junctions with the Queen of Hearts Trail – the Uhtoff goes down to the right, the Queen straight ahead. We missed this turn and continued on the Queen (or some variant of it) to a junction with the White Rabbit Trail. We followed that a further 0.5 miles northwest to the White Rabbit Trailhead on Forest Road 2060 – which comes up from Ashland but is gated just past this trailhead.
After a little wandering around, we took the White Rabbit 0.5 miles back to its junction with the Queen and then continued downhill on the Rabbit – basically paralleling the Uhtoff Trail now above us. The White Rabbit was generally wider (and steeper in spots) than the Uhtoff but still mostly a trail until much lower down. Easy walking but you have to listen for mountain bikes coming from behind. What the White Rabbit offers – which the Uhtoff does not – is unobstructed views to the north of the Bear Creek and Rogue River Valleys,
and Grizzly Peak to the east.
After these views, we continued descending on good trail,
and bark strewn old roads,
back to the trailhead. The one important thing we learned is that the Uhtoff Trail now parallels, and is independent of, the White Rabbit from just above 2,800 feet all the way up to 3,360 feet. Some earlier guides and maps show the Uhtoff as dependent on the Rabbit – this is no longer the case. A short (5.5 miles; 1,400 feet of elevation gain) but excellent adventure, with some navigating, good views, and new trails. And – bonus points – Caldera Brewing is less than 2 miles from the trailhead!