Great Spaces: Jack-Ash Trail

Facing the Little Applegate Valley

If Southern Oregonians had to choose the two most unique cities in the region, my guess is that most would probably select Jacksonville and Ashland. Both cities were key locations in the Rogue Valley’s early railroad days, and when tourists come to the valley today, sightseeing itineraries always tend to include Jacksonville and Ashland. So now, imagine a hiking trail that connects the two seamlessly! The Jack-Ash Trail (though still a work-in-progress), intends to do just that.

In 2017, Phase One of the Jack-Ash Trail finished, which means that there is now a trail connecting both ends of the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail—potential for a thirty-eight-mile loop hike. The non-profit trail association known as SUTA (Siskiyou Upland Trails Association), planned Phase One so that it uses existing roads and several miles of new trails managed by the Medford Bureau of Land Management. The mountainous trail capitalizes on the ridge panoramas, especially toward the Little Applegate Valley. Hikers, bikers, and equestrians are all invited to start at either end, though (hint), parking is often easier when starting from the Little Applegate Recreation Site.

The second phase of the Jack-Ash trail (still a few years from completion), will not only connect with other trails—possibly even the popular East Applegate Ridge Trail—but may also feature smaller loop trails of three, five, or ten mile stretches. With these shorter options, adventurers don’t have to spend all day on the mountain, but can enjoy a casual walk or jog. SUTA is already hard at work planning out the exact paths for Phase Two. During the Spring, the trail association—along with community volunteers—even made progress clearing brush and weeds. (If that’s your passion, SUTA invites you to sign up for the next cleanup day).

Narrow Trail along the Ridge

Even if you’re not an avid hiker (or horseback rider, or biker), the economic value of such a trail is still considerable. As mentioned earlier, when tourists come to Southern Oregon, most visit Ashland and Jacksonville at some point in the vacation. Because of immense hiking opportunities already in the area, including access to the Pacific Crest Trail, the region is gaining in backpacking fame. The Jack-Ash Trail is less extreme than the PCT, but a perfect length for a weekend hiking trip—bookended by two of the quaintest cities around. In tourism conversations, international dollars are often the most desirable, and with Crater Lake not far away, an outdoorsy trip to Southern Oregon—with a fun hike on the Jack-Ash Trail—is something that may attract more visitors from outside the country. Even for locals, a hiking trip with breakfast in Jacksonville and a cold drink in Ashland profits both communities.

Through the hard work of numerous organizations and volunteers, Southern Oregon is gaining new outdoor recreation opportunities. So, if you’re up for an adventure, don’t waste that perfect Fall afternoon! Check out the Jack-Ash Trail and you might just find your new favorite spot.

(Strategy 4.4. Grow the Region’s Outdoor Recreation and Organized Sporting Industries).

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