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Lithia Park Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Ashland Creek in Lithia Park (bobcat)
Entrance to Lithia Park, Ashland (bobcat)
Quietly reading, Lower Duck Pond, Lithia Park (bobcat)
Deer at the Perozzi Fountain, Lithia Park (bobcat)
Turkey family in Lithia Park (bobcat)
The trail walk is traced in yellow; road/sidewalk sections in red (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/MapBuilder Topo


Hike Description

In 1914, voters in Ashland passed a bond measure to help develop a park and set of fountains that would establish the small town as a mineral springs resort. The mineral water, called lithia water just like the famed restorative liquid found at Saratoga Springs in New York State, was piped in from a spring four miles away. While the park lives on and, in 2014, was named one of America’s Great Public Spaces, the resort idea never caught on: The water itself was not particularly palatable, although you can sample it in a couple of locations still, and its high mineral content clogged the original pipes that were installed. Luckily, Ashland developed a second tourist resource in the world-renowned Shakespeare Festival, and many of the strollers you will encounter on this leafy walk up Ashland Creek will be theater goers from far and wide. Although this is a city park, native vegetation shades the creek above the playground area, and in the early mornings and evenings you have an excellent chance of spotting deer and wild turkeys.

Walking directions are given from the Plaza on Main Street, but parking is tight there at the best of times. You can find better chances the farther you drive up Granite Street, on the west side of Ashland Creek, where there are several parking areas on the edge of Lithia Park. Note that no dogs or bicycles are permitted on the trails in Lithia Park.

In the Plaza, you can check out the Lithia Fountain, fashioned from local granite, and get a taste of lithia water, not a particularly pleasant taste but once extolled as the cure for a number of ills. Nowadays, a sign admonishes you to drink in moderation due to the high levels of barium. The fountain was installed in 1927. Then head south away from the hubbub to cross Winburn Way and enter Lithia Park at a large sign. Keep left on the paved trail to walk around the Lower Duck Pond (Don’t feed the ducks!), ignoring trails that head up the slope to the Shakespeare theaters. Pass by two pleasant lawns, and reach some restrooms at the Butler Playground, originally constructed in 1953. Walls of river rock verge Ashland Creek here, and a bridge crosses to Winburn Way.

Keep hiking up the west side of the creek on a chip trail under Oregon white oak, California black oak, madrone, and ponderosa pine. Pass a large shed and two footbridges over Ashland Creek. There’s a large incense cedar next to the trail. Take a railed walkway along the creek, and enter the Madrone Picnic Area, shaded by smooth-barked madrones and tall ponderosas. Pass below an ivy-draped hillside, and cross Pioneer Street near the Parks Office and another picnic area in a grove of madrones. A boardwalk takes you under white alders above the creek where it braids among large-leaved Indian rhubarb. The trail passes a firepit and more picnic tables where a culvert spouts noisily into the creek. Where the creek spreads again, cross two bridges under a leafy bower of alders and big-leaf maples. The creek descends through a veritable obstacle course of boulders here. Pass through the Hillside Picnic Area and see two more bridges over the creek.

The trail narrows and switchbacks up an oak/madrone/ponderosa slope using a series of steps to join a network of paths. To continue on the loop, turn right at a junction, and then keep right at the next junction as well. Pass through a fence line, and descend under oaks and madrones to cross over a low ridge. Reach a junction, and keep left to round a large concrete water tank. Blackberries clog the hillside here, and you’ll pass a footbridge and then go through an open green gate. A gravel road track leads past the Swim Reservoir, once Ashland’s water source. The current water source, still on Ashland Creek, is the Reeder Reservoir farther up the slopes of Mount Ashland, where the Hosler Dam was constructed in 1928. There are picnic tables and restrooms at the reservoir, and this is popular swimming spot on warm days. Above the reservoir is the Granite Street South Trailhead on the left side of Granite Street.

To complete the loop on the west side of Ashland Creek, cross the bridge below the reservoir dam to reach Granite Street. Reach a parking area with restrooms, and take a trail to the next parking area. From here, trails pass through the Cottonwood Memorial Picnic Area and then lead out to Pioneer Street. Take a sidewalk down Granite Street to turn in at another parking circle, and find a trail that leads past the Upper Duck Pond with its motley collection of domestic mallards. Looking carefully, you might spot brilliantly colored but secretive wood ducks as well. Walk down steps to the tennis courts. It’s worth going left here to cross Winburn Way and to ascend to the torii gate at the park’s small Japanese garden. A trail leads north from the garden through a plantation of plane trees to the Perozzi Fountain, sculpted by a Florentine artist in 1916 and restored in 1987. Descend the steps from the fountain to recross Winburn Way to reach the Butler Bandshell and the Enders Shelter, where you can imbibe more free lithia water. From here, you’ll be taking the sidewalk down Granite Street to where Winburn Way crosses Ashland Creek to reach the Plaza. Stay on the west side of the creek opposite Calle Guanajuato, a mall above the creek with outdoor dining. An information kiosk tells of the history of Shasta Indians in the area and the fact that Ashland Creek hosts steelhead spawnings. When you reach the bridge on Main Street, go right to find your vehicle at the Plaza.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Restrooms, picnic areas, playground, interpretive signs
  • Dogs NOT permitted in the park
  • Park open dawn to 11:00 p.m.
  • Guided tours Sunday, Wednesday, Friday 10:00 a.m., May through September; additional tours in July and August on Saturdays at 10:00 a.m.


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Hiking in Ashland by Maria Katsantones
  • 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Urban Hikes Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Where the Trails Are: Ashland – Medford And Beyond by Bill Williams
  • Oregon’s Southern Cascades: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill

More Links

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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.

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