Buck Rock Tunnel: East Portal (Ashland, Oregon) 23-Jan-2021

Two weeks ago, we journeyed just south of Ashland to explore a tunnel started by the long-defunct Oregon & California Railroad. Their tunnel under Buck Rock was only partially-completed and has been abandoned since 1884. We climbed Buck Rock and found the tunnel’s West Portal but not its East Portal. Today was one of The LovedOne’s volunteer days at the library, so I headed out solo to visit the East Portal and bring closure to our Buck Rock saga.

I reached the yellow gate at the trailhead in a thick fog, which persisted all the way to the East Portal, which proved easy to find (given the right directions). From the trailhead, I went up the old road and then took the first turn to the east (left) on another old road.

Fog shrouds the yellow gate
On the old road north of Buck Rock
Snow crystals on needles
(1) The road turns uphill, (2) The East Portal is in a gully past an open area

At 2.3 miles from the trailhead, the old road comes to an open, flat area, then turns west (right) and starts climbing somewhat steeply. To reach the East Portal, I went straight ahead across the open area, then veered right into the trees and a small gully (a use trail became apparent at this point). About 100 feet (30 m) or so up this gully I came to the historical marker and the partially obscured mouth of the portal. The tunnel itself is sound but its mouth has been largely covered by loose dirt sliding down from the slopes above. While the West Portal is a 20-foot high walk-in, this one requires going up and down a pile of dirt through an 8-foot high opening. Inside it’s just as big as the West Portal but a little spookier due to the limited light from the outside.

In the small gully – the dark area ahead is the cut-face of the tunnel
Historical marker
Loose dirt has fallen across the tunnel’s mouth
The entrance has been narrowed to about 8 feet high
Colorful minerals have seeped from the tunnel’s walls
Still sturdy after 137 years
The cut-face of the tunnel (1) is visible from the road above

After visiting the tunnel, I continued up the road (which runs over the tunnel) to the saddle south of Point 4087. The sunbreaks ๐Ÿ˜Ž started just before the saddle and continued, on and off, until I got back to the trailhead. From the saddle, I followed a single-track use trail north over Point 4087 to the base of Buck Rock and then scrambled snow-slippery rock to its summit.

A new pine
Red needles and white snow
At the saddle – The road (1) continues down to the West Portal while a use trail (2) goes north toward Buck Rock
Going over Point 4087
Ashland and the Bear Creek Valley from Buck Rock
The summit of Buck Rock with cloud-covered Grizzly Peak in the distance
Wood and snow

From the summit, I did a short cross-country descent to an old road just to the west, followed that (which is almost a single-track in places) to the road coming up from the yellow gate, and that back to the trailhead.

On the old road after the cross-country descent
The Bear Creek Valley during a sunbreak on the way down
On the road to the yellow gate

In all, a 6.8 mile (10.9 km), 1,350 feet (411 m) of gain loop over and around Buck Rock. Once you know where they are, both of the tunnel’s portals are easy to visit in a single loop hike. Throw in the summit of Buck Rock and you’ve got a good day’s worth of exercise, history, and adventure! ๐Ÿ˜€

My track to the East Portal (E) and back via Buck Rock

6 thoughts on “Buck Rock Tunnel: East Portal (Ashland, Oregon) 23-Jan-2021

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  1. After reading your two posts, I decided I needed to check it out as well since I’d never heard of it before! I went last weekend and found significantly more snow than was shown in your pictures(from the recent storm). I was the first tracks to the east tunnel since the storm. I also saw a lot of bear tracks in the area of the east tunnel(from the top of the ridge east). I’m pretty sure they were all from the same small bear.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad you found the east portal. I made the same loop (in reverse order) a few weeks ago (including summit). Great photos!


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