Songer Butte (Ashland, Oregon) 10-Dec-2021

The first major storm of winter is apparently heading our way. Not to get all excited or anything but snow deeper than a tall snail might be in the offing. We wanted to get in a hike before this snowy tsunami arrives. Plan A – Spence Mountain – was shelved because a long hike on a short day ahead of a storm seemed like a sub-optimal idea. Plan B – some explorations at Lower Table Rock – was pulled because dense fog clogged both the valley and the Rock. Plan C – Songer Butte – became a go when we saw sunlight on the traffic camera near it. Plan C also featured the strong selling point of lunch at Caldera Brewing in Ashland. 🤗

For this iteration of the Songer Butte experience, we parked at the Old Greensprings Day Use Area and went counter-clockwise around the butte, snagging the summit along the way.

A dry Emigrant Lake from the Greensprings Trailhead

From the trailhead, we walked south on what used to be part of the Ashland-Klamath Falls Highway built in 1924. Emigrant Lake was created (it’s actually a reservoir) in 1926 and the tiny town of Klamath Junction grew up where the highway met the lake. It was abandoned, and the highway (now Oregon Highway 66) re-routed to its present location, when the lake was doubled in size in 1960. Parts of the 1924 road and a few remains of the town emerge when the lake is very low, as it is now.

Klamath Junction during its heyday

After a short road walk, we crossed today’s Highway 66 and continued on a bit more of the old road. A small historical marker let us know that its predecessors had been the Applegate Trail (1846-1869), the first public wagon road (1869-1874), the Southern Oregon wagon road (1874-1919), and that it was one branch of the California Trail.

On the old California Trail

We reached the Songer Wayside on Highway 66 and found the single-track trail that runs along the east side of the peninsula formed by Songer Butte.

Major Butte from Songer Wayside
Along the eastside trail
Not an Airbnb
Along the trail, with Grizzly Peak in the distance under a cloud
Major Butte with the deep channel cut in the lake sediments by Emigrant Creek
Across an open field
Sunshine without fog!
Through a patch of forest

About 2.2 miles (3.5 km) from the trailhead, we came to an unsigned trail junction. We knew from previous hikes that going right (east) here would take us up to Little Songer Butte, so we chose to go left. Doing so took us almost to the saddle west of Little Songer where we encountered a much faded old road going southwest and up. We followed that track, across an abandoned section of irrigation canal, to the saddle north of Songer Butte, and then followed a use trail from there to the top. We passed a convey of hikers from the Ashland Hiking Group who were descending from summit.

To the saddle near Little Songer
To the saddle near “Big” Songer
The steep push to the summit

It was nice and sunny 😎 on the summit but we could see that fog still enveloped the valley farther north. So better us here than there.

Vulcanic activity on Songer’s summit
Ashland, the remains of Emigrant Lake, and points north from the summit
Sunlight on the summit
Looking south toward the Siskiyou Mountains and a smoke plume from a slash burn

To get back, we descended to the saddle north of Songer and, instead of taking that old road down, continued on a single-track use trail along the ridge down to the saddle near Little Songer. From there we followed the main use trail along the west side of the peninsula back to the trailhead.

Descending the ridge, with Tom Spring Mountain in the distance
Not completely dead (yet)
The remaining 2% of Emigrant Lake
View from the ridge: (1) Grizzly Peak, (2) Tom Spring Mountain, (3) Major Butte
On the west side trail
Past the rock outcrops
Almost to the trailhead

This loop – with summit – came to just 4.8 miles (7.7 km) with 600 feet (183 m) of elevation gain but it was good to get out in the sunshine – which might be in short supply for the next few days. But that’s fine. We need to seriously exchange sunlight for lots of rain and snow now or we’ll be in a world of hurt come summer. So as that old song says: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! 😁

Around Songer Butte
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11 thoughts on “Songer Butte (Ashland, Oregon) 10-Dec-2021

  1. Thanks for your precise descriptions and directions. I did this hike today and loved it.

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  2. Loved the trail photos! And the black and whites brought extra depth.

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  3. Between the old highway and Klamath Junction and the lake and the various historic trails and the old irrigation canal, the Songer Peninsula has been a busy place history-wise. 😉

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  4. Sorry…. Here is the picture of the bench with the broom:

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  5. Thank-you again for sharing with us your amazing and prolific hikes. The pictures are breathtaking but the narrative is very much appreciated as well. As I wrote in the past I am sending each new post to a dear hiking friend in Switzerland. She always read each posting with pleasure. We have even started to use among ourselves some of your “language” like “the Love One”! :))

    Here she is sending me a picture of her last hike in the Alps telling me “This is not the Love One but my friend Claudia”

    And here a picture taken in Celerina where the city provides a broom on each bench to remove the snow before sitting on the bench. I thought you might enjoy this detail! Till we read you again, Cristina Archambault

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  6. Good info. Never made the loop due to hwy 66 but youve found a way to bypass the hwy. Thanks!

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