“Rhyolite Ridge” (Soda Mtn. Wilderness) 08-Apr-2018

Rhyolite Ridge Soda Mountain Wilderness Pilot Rock Oregon

The desire to test a new pack (Zpacks Nero), a tender knee, a break in our fickle Spring weather, and the need for some outdoors put us on a short hike to one of the many odd little destinations tucked away in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (4th¬†Edition). In this instance it was to a viewpoint he calls Rhyolite Ridge, set on the side of Point 5401 just west of Pilot Rock off the Lone Pilot Trail. We could have made this a ridiculously short hike by starting at the Pilot Rock Trailhead but instead made it slightly longer by starting where the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses Pilot Rock Road (BLM Road 40-2E-33).

After parking, we followed the PCT south through snow-free meadows,

Rhyolite Ridge Soda Mountain Wilderness Pilot Rock Oregon
Along the PCT

across open areas,

Rhyolite Ridge Soda Mountain Wilderness Pilot Rock Oregon
Along the PCT, with cloud-shrouded Mount Ashland in the distance

past a view of Pilot Rock, whose north face was slathered with the only snow and ice in the area,

Rhyolite Ridge Soda Mountain Wilderness Pilot Rock Oregon
Pilot Rock dusted with snow

to a four-way junction of the PCT, the Lone Pilot Trail, and the trail coming up from the Pilot Rock Trailhead.

Rhyolite Ridge Soda Mountain Wilderness Pilot Rock Oregon
The four-way junction on the PCT

Then it was south on the Lone Pilot Trail,

Rhyolite Ridge Soda Mountain Wilderness Pilot Rock Oregon
Down the Lone Pilot Trail

for only a few hundred feet to a point where a very faint old road (now shown as a trail on the USFS map) goes straight upslope to the west. Directly across from here are two ponds full of exuberantly chorusing frogs and a terrific view of the west side of Pilot Rock.

Rhyolite Ridge Soda Mountain Wilderness Pilot Rock Oregon
Pilot Rock, with the frog ponds in the foreground
Rhyolite Ridge Soda Mountain Wilderness Pilot Rock Oregon
Heading up toward Rhyolite Ridge
Rhyolite Ridge Soda Mountain Wilderness Pilot Rock Oregon
Almost to Rhyolite Ridge; the old road is in the left foreground

The view from the ridge is almost as good as the one from Boccard Point, but with less driving and hiking. The weather being what it is, only the lower slopes of Mount Shasta were visible, but we could see Black Mountain, Black Butte, and Mount Eddy.

Rhyolite Ridge Soda Mountain Wilderness Pilot Rock Oregon
The view south from Rhyolite Ridge

We then followed the old road / trail north along the west side of Point 5401.

Rhyolite Ridge Soda Mountain Wilderness Pilot Rock Oregon
Going along the west side of Point 5401

As we swung around the north side of the point, we could see Wagner Butte with a light dusting of fresh snow from yesterday’s storm,

Rhyolite Ridge Soda Mountain Wilderness Pilot Rock Oregon
Wagner Butte (arrow)

and Mount Ashland enveloped in clouds.

Rhyolite Ridge Soda Mountain Wilderness Pilot Rock Oregon
Looking west toward Mount Ashland

After that, the trail went though a bit of forest,

Rhyolite Ridge Soda Mountain Wilderness Pilot Rock Oregon
A brief walk in the forest

before we junctioned with the PCT on the north side of Point 5401. The trail where this junction occurs is very faint and you’d most likely not notice it if you weren’t aware of its existence. There’s little snow in this area and the ground is warming up, but only a few wildflowers are out yet. The showiest of these are the Yellow Bells, whose bright yellow petals pop out visually from the brown ground.

Rhyolite Ridge Soda Mountain Wilderness Pilot Rock Oregon
Yellow Bells / Yellow Fritillary (F. pudica)

A short (3.8 miles round-trip; 760 feet of elevation gain), but comforting, hike on a mellow piece of the PCT, with some good views to the west and south. The knee held and the new pack seems to work. There should be a lot of wildflowers up here within the next month.

Rhyolite Ridge Soda Mountain Wilderness Pilot Rock Oregon
Our short hike to Rhyolite Ridge

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