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Lone Pilot Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Trail sign at PCT (B. Hope)
View of Pilot Rock (B. Hope)
Old stock tank pond along road (B. Hope)
Stand of ponderosa pines along trail (B. Hope)
  • Start point: Pilot Rock TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Pilot Rock Trailhead
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 17 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3,000 feet
  • High Point: 5,300 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Late spring; Early fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

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). 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.

Wilderness designation did not, however, seem to 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 hikers 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.

From the Pilot Rock trailhead, walk up the trail (a restored old road) 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 an abandoned road. Stay straight south and at the next obvious junction, turn south. At the next major junction after that, near the head of the west fork of Hutton Creek, turn east. 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 a 500' or less.

Continue E, across the head of Slide Creek, across the East Fork of Hutton Creek, before descending to a crossing of an unnamed creek and then a climb to Scotch Creek, a possible campsite if this is done as an overnight backpack. The East Fork of Hutton Creek and Scotch Creek are the only perennial water sources along this route - usually available in the Spring but likely absent in the Fall. From Scotch Creek, you continue climbing to the top of Lone Pine Ridge and follow the old road along it north - including one big descending switchback and climb back up - to its junction with the PCT. You then follow the PCT back to the road leading down to the Pilot Rock trailhead.

Although hiking on the trail/old road is straightforward and without any navigational challenges, it is a long hike (17 mi) and there are enough elevation changes (3,000' worth) to make it a "difficult" hike.


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Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon by William L. Sullivan (Third Edition, Hikes #54 & 55)

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Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.