Hike It, Save It: Red Buttes, Oregon/ California

Threatened by OHVs, logging, and overgrazing a 120,000-acre proposed addition to Red Buttes Wilderness would quintuple its size and benefit the Pacific Crest Trail.
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Threatened by OHVs, logging, and overgrazing a 120,000-acre proposed addition to Red Buttes Wilderness would quintuple its size and benefit the Pacific Crest Trail.

The Details The Siskiyou Mountains function as a bridge running along the California-Oregon border, connecting the Coastal Range with the inland Cascades. "It's the only place you'll find white fir, red fir, mountain hemlock, Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, and knobcone pine all together," Dave Willis of Wild Oregon notes. The Siskiyous also serve as a corridor for species like the northern spotted owl and the Pacific fisher, and, as Joseph Vaile of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center says, "In the face of climate change, the Siskiyou Crest will be all the more important to allow genetic movement and species adaptation." Imminent threats come from OHVs, logging, and overgrazing. A massive, 120,000-acre proposed addition to Red Buttes Wilderness would quintuple its size and help to keep the bio-passage intact. Not only would owls and mountain lions benefit, the additions would also protect another key mammal route: 36 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The Hike Traverse the entire potential wilderness on an 88-mile horseshoe through constantly changing landscapes. From the O'Brien Creek trailhead, climb 1.8 miles to the 7,000-foot shoulder of Grayback Mountain and arc south to link to the Boundary Trail. The path turns southwest, bouncing for five miles along a series of 6,000-footers, then swings south to a string of high, grassy meadows bisected with the telltale doubletrack of ATVs. After 9.6 miles, the Boundary Trail enters California. Wind 11.4 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail. Head north through massive incense cedars dubbed Siskiyou Sequoias. Stay on the PCT for 27 miles, through intermittently pristine and clearcut forests, to a trailhead on Interstate 5. The proposed wilderness ends just before the trail reenters Oregon. Conditions are primo–warm as well as snow- and bug-free–in August and September. fs.fed.us/r6/rogue

The Champion Red Buttes Wilderness Campaign (redbutteswilderrness.org) rallies grassroots support and fundraising.

The Way From Ashland, go north on I-5 10.8 miles to OR 62. Drive .5 mile to OR 238. Go 20.7 miles to Thompson Creek Rd., then 9.9 miles to NFD 1005. It's four miles to the trailhead.