Songer Butte + Loop (Ashland, Oregon) 24-Feb-2021

It was just a year ago that did we our first (and only) hike on the peninsula formed in Emigrant Lake (actually a reservoir) by Songer Butte (2,693 ft / 821 m). That now seems like a lot more than a year ago. During that hike in the Before Times, we circled the peninsula but, fearing private property, didn’t try for the butte’s summit. We subsequently learned from Rich Stickle (Ashland Hiking Group) that, while the summit is on private property, the owner doesn’t mind hikers going up to it. So today we combined our previous loop with a side trip to Songer’s summit. More wet weather is expected soon, but today was all cool air, blue skies, and sunshine. 😎

A well-defined use trail runs, for 1.1 miles (1.8 km), from the trailhead along the west side of the butte to a broad saddle on the northern tip of the peninsula. Here the trail around the peninsula veers to the east (left) while a use trail to the summit goes sharply up to the west (right).

Leaving the trailhead with Songer Butte ahead on the right
Bird watching in the oak woodlands that surround the butte
On the use trail to the summit

Not far up this use trail, we crossed what is obviously a ditch. While ditches like this in Southern Oregon are often associated with hydraulic mining, this one is (or was) for crop irrigation. At some point in the past it connected, via an inverted siphon (sag pipe), with the still extant Talent Irrigation District’s ditch that runs along the south end of the peninsula. Moving water (when it’s available) around (for whatever reason) has been a Southern Oregon preoccupation for many, many years.

The old irrigation ditch (D)

The use trail cuts up west and then turns south along the crest of the ridge, passing over Point 2495 in the process. While we crossed several other use trails, animal trails, and an old road, the track to the summit was the only one that consistently stayed on the ridge crest. Walking along the ridge was very pleasant, with good views in several directions – the abrupt 300-foot (92 m) gain in the last 0.3 miles (0.5 km) was the only truly aerobic interval in this hike.

Tom Spring Mountain from Songer’s north ridge
There is a rocky viewpoint overlooking Emigrant Lake
A collapsed fence marks the start of the steep section
Up, up through the oak woodland
Summit!

Once on top, we found our view to the south obscured by the sun, but views in all other directions were wide open. After taking in the views, we retraced our steps back to the saddle on the main trail.

Looking north down the Bear Creek Valley over Emigrant Lake toward Ashland
Looking northeast toward Grizzly Peak (G) and the rock climbing area (R) at the lake
Looking east toward Tom Spring Mountain (T) and Major Butte (M)
Going back down the summit trail atop the ridge, with snowy Grizzly Peak in the distance
Under the oak trees and across the meadow
On the ridge trail with Tom Spring Mountain on the horizon

From the saddle, we continued on the main trail along the east side of the peninsula, over the rocky prominence of Little Songer Butte, and on down to Songer Wayside on Highway 66.

Grizzly Peak from Little Songer Butte
Through a tangle of oaks on the east side of the peninsula
Major Butte, slightly greenish due to early grasses
Across a meadow, with Pilot Rock (P) peaking over the horizon

From the wayside, we crossed Highway 66 and walked up a remnant section of what was Highway 66 before it was moved to accommodate the expansion of Emigrant Lake in the early 1960s. We crossed “new” Highway 66 again and then continued on yet another section (now largely unpaved) of “old” Highway 66 back to the trailhead.

On a remnant section of old Highway 66
Songer Butte from the old road to the trailhead

All told, 5.2 miles (8.4 km) with 700 feet (213 m) of gain on an absolutely perfect day for a hike. 🙂 We hope that others treat that use trail to the summit with respect, so that the accommodating property owner isn’t pressed to deny hikers access to the great views from atop Songer Butte.

Our track (red line) to Songer Butte and around the peninsula. The line of blue dots is the old irrigation ditch we crossed; the solid black line is the old alignment of Highway 66.
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2 comments

  1. Thanks! And thanks for building this trail! It was nice to be able to walk along the ridge and visit the summit – we hope folks don’t abuse being able to do that. Rattlesnake den!? Well, we’d probably only hike this trail in the colder months anyway. 🙂

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  2. Great photos & narrative as usual. I completed (made/cleared/marked) the trail around the peninsula. I’m glad you enjoyed it. A rattlesnake den is under some of the rocks at Little Songer Butte.

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