The Grizzly Peak Loop Trail offers an easily accessible, gently graded, and family-friendly run with meadows laden with wildflowers in June and wonderful views at all times.
Features: Birding — Fall Colors — Spring — Views — Wildflowers
Access to the trailhead is all on paved roads, although the last 2 miles or so are narrow and essentially one lane with turnouts. There is parking at the trailhead for 8-10 cars. There is a pit toilet, but no potable water at the trailhead. The downside of local favorite routes like this one is often their popularity. There can be a half-dozen cars at this trailhead at any time. On hot summer weekends, parked cars can stretch down the access road.
Every place seems to have a favorite local run—one that is close-by, accessible, and short—so that you can get out into the woods for a leg stretch without committing to an epic journey. There are actually several such routes in Oregon's Rogue River Valley, but one that is mentioned in every local guidebook, in several newspaper and magazine articles, and on numerous websites, is Grizzly Peak, located on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands just east of Ashland, Oregon.
The trail is an easy lollipop loop run you can see the Crater Lake Rim and Mount Thielsen to the north, catch a glimpse of Mount McLoughlin to the northeast, look right out at Mount Shasta, Pilot Rock
, and Mount Ashland to the south, and west to Wagner Butte and Grayback Mountain.
At the trailhead, Mount McLoughlin can often be seen to the east. Sometimes you can see the Three Sisters from here too. This is the only time you'll have a view to the east.
From the trailhead, the trail switchbacks up through the forest, whose understory will present a variety of wildflowers in early June and then again in July. At 1.2 miles, you'll reach the loop junction. Go right (north) here to save the best views for last.
At 0.3 miles from the junction, you'll pass the rocky—and viewless—summit of Grizzly Peak. The trail continues on through the forest, skirting (at 1.6 miles) the edge of a large meadow that is laden with wildflowers in season. An opening in the forest a little further along offers views to the north and northwest.
At 1.9 miles, the trail turns a corner and starts heading due south. Here the views open to the west and southwest because, in 2002, the East Antelope Fire swept through this area and burned away most of the trees, leaving hundreds of ghostly snags on the slopes around you.
But continue onward through the burn to where the trail crosses the ridge and makes a brief climb to the high point at the end of Grizzly’s southwest ridge. From here, the view is astounding and usually includes Mount Shasta and Pilot Rock
to the south, Mount Ashland to the west (look for the round, white radar dome on its summit), the town of Ashland below, and the city of Medford further north up the valley.
After soaking up the views, continue on the loop. At about 3.3 miles, you’ll come to a trail marker. Going right here will take you to yet another viewpoint and then back to the main trail. Going left will keep you on the main trail and expedite your return to the loop junction. From there you'll continue straight ahead to return to the trailhead.
During the early June and July wildflower seasons (there are two peak seasons for wildflowers), this area hosts up to 300 different species of flowering plants, including tall bugbane (cimicifuga elata), growing here at the southernmost limit of its geographic range.
The story goes that this peak was named for Southern Oregon’s last known grizzly bear, “Old Reelfoot”, that roamed the area for 50 years before it was shot by a 17-year-old hunter in 1890.