– Distance: ~3 miles
– Min/max elev.: 6510’/7220′
– Elev. gain/loss: 751’/-1136′
Split Rock trail is a pedestrian-only trail connecting Rd 20 and the PCT to Wagner Butte and Wagner Glade trails. This is a designated class-1 Forest Service trail which means it is minimally developed with intermittent tread that is often indistinct. The Split Rock trailhead on Road 20 is about 3.6 miles west from the Mt Ashland ski lodge. There is a small possibility of parking to the north–one to two cars worth. Once on the trail, try to stay on it as this area features some endangered, fragile plant species–Tauschia Howellii.
Heading north, the trail ascends McDonald Peak and then heads steeply down into some groves of trees before re-emerging into an open meadow. This pattern of treed and meadowed areas repeats with the addition of some escarpment edges and one particularly rocky area. The actual Split Rock is shown on maps, but it is hard to pinpoint when hiking. The trail flattens out somewhat as one approaches Wagner Glade gap. From there one can continue 2 more miles up to the Wagner Butte Lookout (that’s a 10-mile + out and back from FS Road 20, so make sure you have enough energy and water to make it back!).
It is easy to get off trail. Ashland Woodlands and Trails has done minimum maintenance, per the Forest Service, mostly redirecting users away from endangered plants species. Each spring, downfall and re-growth makes the trail a bit hard to find; by late summer or fall, the trail looks well-trod again.
The views are unsurpassed: Mt Shasta, Mt McLoughlin, Mt Ashland, the Rogue Valley, the Marble Mtns, the Trinity Alps, and the coastal range. Various wildflowers abound in late spring and early summer. You might see Roosevelt elk, deer and bear.
The snow often lasts until July.
The Split Rock trail has existed, in parts, since at least the early 1900s. Sheep herding was common in the area then and, up until recently, cattle grazing existed as well. Much of the trail follows a cow herder’s fence line and you’ll see remnants of old barbed-wire. Grazing hasn’t taken place here in a long time, the barbed wire fence is down, and nature has taken over and the trail has grown in.
AWTA members hiked this as a potential trail in 2010-2011 and added it to their Trails Master Plan for the Ashland Watershed in late 2011. This part of the plan endured considerable NEPA scrutiny because it passes through and adjacent to a sensitive botanical area. It was approved only in the last stages of the Ashland Trails Project and as pedestrian-only.
Written by Torsten Heycke 05/10/2020