As our “localness” increases down here in the State of Jefferson, so does our awareness of “local” hiking options – particularly short, low altitude ones that we can fit in between storms (this year at least) and where snow isn’t a factor (or at least not much of one). As it turns out, the hills above Ashland to the west are laced with official and unofficial mountain biking, hiking, and equestrian trails, along with a number of forest roads ranging from those still in use to those long abandoned. The mountain biking community seems to have done the most to identify, map, and name these trails – although not completely or consistently – but few of these are listed in printed or online hiking guides. After some online searching, we came across the description of a loop hike to “Ostrich Peak” (a local name; it’s shown as Point 4653 on the USGS topo map) and went out yesterday to see what “local” hiking was like.
But getting to the trailhead in the steeply inclined streets above Ashland drew on our route-finding skills. In short: Exit 19 off Interstate-5, then south toward downtown Ashland on Highway 99. Just before reaching the center of Ashland, turn right on to Wimer Street, then left on Wrights Creek Drive, then left on Orchard Street, then right on Westwood Street which turns east and becomes Strawberry Lane. Take a right on Birdsong Lane and park on the street. The trailhead is wedged between between private property at the south end of the loop that is Birdsong Lane. The Birdsong Hiking Trail took us up some steps and over 0.2 mi,
to Hitt Road,
and a view of Grizzly Peak to the east – with a fresh dusting of snow from a recent storm.
Hitt Road is only paved for a short distance up to a water tank – after that it becomes a dirt/gravel hiking and mountain biking trail.
We followed Hitt Road up to a junction with Forest Road (FR) 300 at about 3,400 feet. Some maps equate Hitt Road with FR 300, while others show them as distinct roads. It can get confusing and, since we found very little (actually no) directional signage, it paid to have sketched-out the route in advance.
This wasn’t a hike with expansive view opportunities but, as we climbed higher on FR 300, we could start to see Mount McLoughlin peaking over Grizzly Peak.
Just below Point 4242, FR 300 intersects Horn Creek Road. About 100 feet up to the right here, an unsigned – but otherwise good trail – cuts up to the right. Note mountain bike tracks in the foreground.
This is a local trail that climbs through stands of huge Ponderosa pines,
to connect with an abandoned road that leads to the broad summit of Point 4653 – aka “Ostrich Peak.”
Again, views weren’t great from here but we could make out some snowy peaks to the east.
From Ostrich, we continued west on FR 404 through over-arching stands of tall madrones.
At an obvious saddle, we turned sharply north on an old road not shown on USGS or USFS maps but mapped by mountain bikers as the Moai Trail. Whereas FR 300 came around Point 4653 from the east, this old road circles back around it to the west – allowing us to make a loop. The upper parts of this trail are shaded and face north and so still harbored some contributions from our most recent snowstorm.
But lower down, the snow was replaced by Spring hiking conditions.
The Moai Trail connects with Hitt Road just north of FR 300 and we took the road and then the Birdsong Trail steps back to the trailhead.
Overall, a moderate (9 miles round-trip; 2,200 feet of elevation gain) hike along a mix of roads and trails – at a minimum, good exercise on an almost Spring day. Unlike the Mike Uhtoff trail – which seems to have been created in part to provide some separaton between hikers and mountain bikers – these roads/trails are predominantly mountain biker territory. While hiking here is fine, you do have to keep a watch for bikers (as they should for you).