by Ben McBee
This year marks two decades since the monument’s founding, yet it remains relatively under the radar despite its uncrowded beauty. “People aren’t super aware of it,” says Shannon Browne, executive director of Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. “What does the vision for the next 20 years of protection, biodiversity awareness, education look like? We have this opportunity to celebrate it and also expand our understanding of what this place is.”
Here’s how to make the most of this 114,000-acre outdoor lover’s paradise all year round.
Observe Picturesque Nature
The monument’s preservation is vital to the existence of rare or endemic plants, not to mention more than 300 species of animals that live there. From towering ponderosa pines to delicate wildflowers, these vibrant environments require mindful exploration. Birdwatchers may encounter a soaring peregrine falcon, bald eagle or great gray owl, and with over 100 documented varieties of butterflies, the region hosts one of the country’s largest concentrations of the winged insects too.
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Photo courtesy BLM.
Hit the Trails
Much of the monument’s remarkable landscapes are accessible by foot. The storied Pacific Crest Trail crosses its territory from north to south, offering day excursions or more lengthy journeys. Several shorter trails branch from it, leading to summits such as Hobart Bluff and Pilot Rock, a vestige of an ancient volcano. Nearby Lone Pilot Trail forms a loop with the PCT and ventures 12 miles end to end through the Soda Mountain Wilderness. Another separate trail leads to Grizzly Peak for a scenic 360-degree panorama.
Mount Shasta view. Courtesy BLM. Hobart Bluff Trail, Soda Mountain Rd.
Splash in the Water
At Hyatt Reservoir, a 10-mile-per-hour speed limit is in effect, making small craft, paddle sports and swimming ideal options. Nearby you’ll find the larger Howard Prairie Lake with Mt. McLaughlin as a dramatic backdrop, for boating, water skiing and tubing. Relax in the day-use areas or book a resort or campground to stay overnight. Anglers can try their luck at largemouth bass or cast a line for native redband trout. Keene Creek Reservoir is another great spot for fishing from the shore.
Emigrant Lake County Recreation Area. Photo Jak Wonderly
Pedal the Scenic Bikeway
From Ashland, the Cascade Siskiyou Scenic Bikeway curls through the northwest quadrant of the monument, passing by several of its landmarks. The 55-mile loop’s extreme difficulty is matched by extraordinary sights — sprawling forests, sparkling lakes and sweeping vistas — a fitting reward for the 5,000-foot climb. An additional 5-mile out-and-back detour brings you to Tub Springs State Wayside, where you can fill your bottles with pure spring water like the Applegate Trail settlers did in the 1800s.
Slide in the Snow
Don’t forget your mittens, because at high elevations, the monument receives substantial snowfall during the winter months. Travelers can enjoy fun cold-weather activities such as snowshoeing, sledding and Nordic skiing at Table Mountain Winter Play Area and Buck Prairie Winter Recreation Area, which has additional paths specified for snowmobile use.
Table Mountain Sled Area. Courtesy BLM.
If You Go:
On June 11, 2020, Southern Oregon University’s Schneider Museum of Art will open a special exhibit dedicated to the monument, “Celebrating Wild Beauty,” highlighted by a 24-hour digital film by renowned artist Mark Tribe as well as pieces from other creators.
On every adventure, make sure to follow Prepare, Care, Connect principles to keep the monument beautiful, accessible and diverse for generations to come. Much of the monument is remote, so bring ample food, water and fuel; plus paper maps, waterproof clothing layers and emergency supplies, among other Ten Essentials. Always check weather and road conditions ahead of time.
Ben McBee is a Portland-based writer and photographer who grew up along the banks of the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. He specializes in travel, food and science, and his work has appeared in 1859 Oregon’s Magazine, Portland Monthly and TravelAge West. When he’s not producing stories, he enjoys hiking with his partner and pet cockapoo.