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Pilot Rock Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Pilot Rock (Cheryl Hill)
Looking east from Pilot Rock (Cheryl Hill)
Mount McLoughlin from the summit of Pilot Rock (Greg Lief)
Mount Shasta from the summit of Pilot Rock (Greg Lief)
  • Start point: Pilot Rock TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Pilot Rock
  • Hike Type: Out-and-back
  • Distance: 2.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1010 feet
  • High point: 5,900 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: late spring, summer, fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

As of 2009, Pilot Rock is in the new Soda Mountain Wilderness. The name comes from the fact that this prominent landmark once guided gold miners, trappers, and pioneers toward a pass in the Siskiyou Mountains. Oregon's last known grizzly bear was shot near Pilot Rock in 1891.

Because of the boundaries of the new wilderness, you can't drive as far in as you used to and the first 0.8 mile of the hike to the old trailhead is now along an old road that has been converted to a trail. This trail junctions with the PCT on the ridge. You will turn left onto the PCT (there is a sign), following the path through the trees. When the trail forks, take the signed right fork and start climbing a new (as of 2014) trail that replaced the steep, crumbly, poorly-graded, eroded use trail. The new trail will take you to the base of Pilot Rock where there are fine views to the south, west, and northwest. You can climb up on the rocks at the base of Pilot Rock for slightly better views.

It is possible to climb to the top of Pilot Rock, though it is not for the faint of heart. This is a Class 3–4 rock climb, and should only be attempted during dry conditions.

When you reach the base of the cliffs, continue uphill to the left and follow a rocky boot path until you are face to face with the monolith. Looking up, you will see the chute on the left side. This is your climbing route. Ignore the "path" which leads up and diagonally to the right—although that may initially seem more promising, it dead-ends on a cliff. (However, that is the route to the geocache if you are seeking it.) Scramble up and through two narrow notches. After the second notch, ascend carefully to your right staying well above the trees. When you reach the summit, you will have a 270 degree view with Black Mountain, Mount Shasta, and Trinity Alps to the south, the Siskiyou Mountains and nearby Mount Ashland to the west, Emigrant Lake to the northeast, and Mount McLoughlin and Aspen Butte to the north. As you retrace your steps descending to the top of the chute, go very slowly because there is an enormous amount of loose rock. One misstep here could cost you your life.


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking Southern Oregon by Art Bernstein & Zach Urness
  • Pacific Northwest National Parks & Monuments: The Creaky Knees Guide by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Hiking Oregon's Southern Cascades and Siskiyous by Art Bernstein
  • Where the Trails Are: Ashland - Medford and Beyond by Bill Williams

More Links


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.