Every year tourists from across all of American end up in Ashland, where plays develop imaginations, shops intrigue specialty gift-hunters, and scenic beauty captures explorers. Southern Oregon residents are all familiar with Ashland’s tangible culture and diversity, but not everyone knows as much about the little-known recreational opportunities sometimes within minutes of the downtown plaza. The Oredson-Todd Woods are practically a hiking and biking haven, and Mt. Ashland, with its rich history and snowy slopes, is a beautiful backdrop for the town. In addition, Ashland is home to one of the state’s four nationally recognized monuments: the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Filled with trails, scenic overlooks, and picnic spots, the outdoor-adventure portion of Ashland is definitely worth a visit.
The Oredson-Todd Woods are literally a five minute drive from the downtown Ashland Plaza, which makes getting into Ashland’s scenic wilderness quite feasible, even for a lunch break. While at first you might feel that you’re hiking across someone’s backyard, the scenery quickly changes into miles of well-kept trails (and even a surprise waterfall in the wetter months). The Oredson-Todd trails (some of which are for hikers only, bikers only, or even horses only), connect with Lithia Park and the Siskiyou Mountain Park through over forty-eight miles of twisting trails labeled after Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland characters. In a way, the names are fitting. As most Oregonians know, our forests are natural wonderlands.
In the late fifties, years before Mt. Ashland became an official ski area, dedicated skiers were often towed up the mountain behind cars or plows. By 1963, the Mt. Ashland ski lodge started and finished construction, welcoming guests for the first time in winter of 1964. Skiers had access to training from ski instructors and instead of riding behind vehicles, they used rope tows and an actual chairlift. Yet in 1970, after several winters of minimal snow, the Mount Ashland Corporation couldn’t keep up with the resources needed to operate the ski area. This led to a public bailout and new management by the Southern Oregon College Foundation (later to become Southern Oregon University Foundation). The ski area changed hands a couple times in the following years: in 1977, it was purchased by Dick Hicks, and then in 1983, Harbor Properties of Seattle bought the ski area. However, at the beginning of the 1990’s, previous droughts and little resources were threatening to close Mt. Ashland for good, until the Southern Oregon communities stepped up and raised nearly two million dollars during the “Save Mt. Ashland” campaign.
Ever since, the non-profit Mt. Ashland Association has been running the show and hosting numerous community events on the mountain—like Bavarian Night in the winters and biking/running races in the summers. Usual snowfall is near 350 inches, and the past few years have had “wildly successful seasons,” according to Adam Hanks, assistant to the Ashland city administrator. With four chairlifts, twenty-three runs, open bowl skiing, and weekend night skiing, Mt. Ashland is a popular spot for winter sport enthusiasts of all kinds.
Another nearby mountain area is home to a place that has generated national attention. Of the four national monuments in the state of Oregon, the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is the most recent, having received its status in 2000 by President Clinton. Because the location is the intersection of two of Oregon’s mountain ranges (the Cascades and the Siskiyous), there’s a plethora of diversity in plant and wildlife species. With trails intersecting the Pacific Crest Trail and the route to Hyatt Lake, hikers find that there’s plenty of fresh air and natural beauty to go around.
As if all these natural escapes weren’t enough, Ashland is also the gateway to numerous mountain lakes and the Jackson Hot Springs. You can’t get away from the outdoors in Ashland, which is one of the reasons the town remains a gem of Southern Oregon.
Hale, Jamie (2019). Tumble into the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ trails around Ashland. The Oregonian. Website: https://www.oregonlive.com/travel/2018/03/tumble_into_the_alice_in_wonde.html
Mt. Ashland Association (2019). Website: https://www.mtashland.com/nonprofit-ski-area/