“A wonderful way to visit the interior of the Soda Mountain Wilderness.”
— Bruce Hope
Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
This trail is enters the Soda Mountain Wilderness and the usual federal wilderness area regulations and restrictions apply here. Practice Leave No Trace (LNT) backcountry skills and ethics. Camp 100 feet from fragile areas; bury human waste at least 200 feet from water, trails, and campsites. This upper reaches of this trail may be closed (but often aren't) by snow between December and April.
Establishment of the Soda Mountain Wilderness in 2009 did not bring with it the resources needed to build trails into this new wilderness. Fortunately, the Siskiyou Mountain Club (SMC) in Ashland, Oregon stepped up and converted an abandoned road into the Lone Pilot Trail
which gives runners and backpackers ready access to the deepest recesses of the wilderness. The SMC has cleared and groomed this road to make it easy to follow and, although it's not a pure "trail", it is the very best way to visit the interior of this wilderness. By combining this trail with part of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Pilot Rock
Trail, you can enjoy a delightfully long loop through this wilderness.
Need to Know
Carry extra water, particularly if you do this as a backpack. There are two perennial water sources, and several intermittent ones, along the trail but any of these might be dry by late summer. The best times to run or backpack this route are mid-spring to early summer and early to mid-fall. It can be very hot here in mid-summer.
From the Pilot Rock
Trailhead, run up the trail (an old road now restored to a trail) for 0.7 miles to its junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). To do the loop counter-clockwise, continue south across the PCT, and you'll come to another abandoned road. Continue south on this old road, past where an old road going left (east) has been completely decommissioned, to another road junction 1.8 miles from the trailhead. Continue on the road going due south from here and, at 2.2 miles from the trailhead, continue on this road as it turns sharply to the east near the head of the west fork of Hutton Creek.
Just stay on this obvious road as it heads east, ducking in and out of canyons and gullies. You'll notice that each canyon is a unique microclimate—allowing you to go (for example) from stands of towering Ponderosa pines to open meadows in the space of 500 feet or less.
The trail continues eastward and crosses the east fork of Hutton Creek at about 4.6 miles from the trailhead. This is one (the other being Scotch Creek) of only two perennial water sources along the route. From here the old road contours around and into the Slide drainage which is usually completely dry. Eventually, at 9.2 miles from the trailhead, it descends into the drainage of an unnamed intermittent stream then climbs into the Scotch Creek drainage, which is known for its hovering maples and gigantic ponderosa pines. This is a possible campsite if the loop is done as an overnight backpack.
If Scotch Creek is dry where the trail crosses it, your options are to: (a) Follow the apex of the drainage down for about 8-10 minutes to where there’s a perennial spring rolling over a small outcrop or (b) continue up another mile to where another perennial spring crosses the trail.
From Scotch Creek, the trail climbs to the top of Lone Pine Ridge and follows yet another old road north along the ridge. After an easy stroll along the ridge, you do one big descending switchback (to avoid some cliffs along the ridge) followed by a climb back up to a junction with the PCT. You then follow the PCT west (south-bound) back to the trail leading down to the Pilot Rock
Although running on the old road is straightforward and without any navigational challenges, it is a long run (17 mi) and there are enough elevation changes (3,000 feet worth) to make an intermediate/difficult
Flora & Fauna
This wilderness is an ecological mosaic where the state's eastern desert meets towering fir forests. The biodiversity of the area includes fir forests, sunlit oak groves, meadows filled with wildflowers, and steep canyons. The area is home to a spectacular variety of rare species of plants and animals including Roosevelt elk, cougars, black bears, golden and bald eagles, goshawks and falcons.
History & Background
The Soda Mountain Wilderness is a 24,707 acre wilderness area within the Cascade–Siskiyou National Monument in southwestern Oregon and was created by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. The 53,000 acre Monument was designated in 2000 to protect the extraordinary biological diversity in this area. All of this wilderness is located in Oregon and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).