Wagner Butte in Winter (Ashland, Oregon) 13-Jan-2015

Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon

At 7,140′, Wagner Butte is one of “the” hikes in the Medford area, allowing as it does extraordinary views of the Sisters to the north, of the Rogue and Bear Creek Valleys below, and of Mount Shasta to the S (it’s Hike #60 in the Third Edition of Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon). This year it is also one of the few readily accessible snow hikes down here. So we took advantage of yesterday’s sunny weather to hike it.

Whether it was unfamiliarity with the area, no signage at the trailhead (later we could only find the sign pole but no sign), or The LovedOne’s gloating over the Duck’s tragic loss to the “other” OSU (she’s originally from Ohio), I overshot the trailhead by two miles. Sigh. o_O

Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
The trailhead is back there

Rather than go back and look for it (and to quell the gloating), I decided we should head cross-country directly uphill from where we’d parked to the point on the trail where it turns sharply uphill.

Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
Going uphill

Despite having to work our way around a private in-holding, going cross-country on the open, largely snow-free forest floor proved easy to do and we were soon on the official Wagner Butte Trail (USFS #1011).

Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
Finally on the trail

Ours were the first tracks on the trail in the last week (based on what we found in the summit register) but it was generally easy to follow and the snow, despite some breakable crust, was never more than 12 inches deep.

Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
Going up through very walkable snow

Cute but still gloating (as in “…beaten by our third-string quarterback. Ha!” and so on… 😳 ).

Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
The gloat continues…

Not too long after joining the trail, we reached a large open area on the ridge called Wagner Glade Gap.

Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
Wagner Glad Gap
Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
Wagner Glad Gap

From the gap, the trail to the summit swings out to the west,

Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
Heading toward the butte

and contours along below the ridge, providing expansive views to the west (see the moon?),

Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
Looking west
Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
Preston Peak (black arrow), Grayback Mountain (red arrow)

Between the open areas, the trail went through stretches of forest – where the walking was easier because not much of what snow we did get had been able to penetrate the canopy.

Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
Through the forest along the ridge

Just under two miles from Warner Gap Glade, we started our final climb to the summit (rocky bump on the horizon),

Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
Approaching the summit

and, after a tiny bit of snow-covered scrambling, were on the site of the former Wagner Butte Lookout, with Mt. McLoughlin on the horizon.

Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
At the old lookout site

The final version of the lookout looked like this before it was burned down in 1972.

Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
The lookout in 1961

From the summit, we had several commanding views.

Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
Medford (red arrow), Prescott Park / Roxy Ann Peak (black arrow) to the north
Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
Mount McLoughlin and Ashland to the east
Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
Mount Ashland and Mount Shasta to the south

It was windy and cold(er) on the summit, so we retreated to a sunny spot in the lee of the ridge for a quick lunch. Then it was back down to our impromptu trailhead.

Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
Heading back

A short hike (ours was 7 miles round-trip, 1,500 feet of elevation gain – if you actually follow the trail from the real trailhead: 10 miles round-trip, 2,200 feet of elevation gain) but the terrain is delightful and the views are outstanding! 😀 We’ll be back, likely in the Spring, to do the official hike. Hopefully by then the gloating will have stopped!

Wagner Butte Ashland Oregon
Our improvised track to Wagner Butte

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