This route from Lithia Park to the top of Mt Ashland has many optional trails, starting, and stopping points that can be used if you want to change things up a bit or you aren’t ready for a marathon hike. There are several places to access the route by car along the route, including the White Rabbit Trailhead, Four Corners, Bull Gap, the Mt Ashland ski lodge, and the summit itself. The City of Ashland has posted route information on this route they call “Creek to Crest Trail.” The Pacific Crest Trail passes about ½ mile south of the summit of Mt Ashland. There are also information boards with maps in a couple locations along the route. If there is snow on the route, this will complicate the ascent, but skis or snowshoes may be handy.
Finding Lithia Park in Ashland is one of the easy to find. Take any of the Ashland exits from Interstate 5 and head downtown. Find the old plaza on Main Street. This is in the middle of the tourist area downtown. On the south side of the plaza is Lithia Park. Drive into the park and park wherever you can find a parking spot. I parked near the children’s play area. This is the trailhead, elevation 1,900 ft. Lithia Park runs in a north/south direction, with Ashland Creek bisecting the park from south to north. On the west side of the creek is a road and all the parking. On the east side of the creek is a nice wide trail that parallels the creek. From wherever you park, cross one of the bridges and find the trail on the other side and go south (upstream).
Follow the trail about ¾ of a mile to the upper end of the park and then go left up the hill to Glenview Drive. Note where you come out on Glenview Drive. It is not well marked. You will have to find this spot on the way down and you won’t want to fool around looking for it. Go left (north) on Glenview a couple hundred yards and then turn right almost 180 degrees onto Ashland Loop Road. Ashland Loop Road then turns east and you pass a few residences before coming to an intersection. Stay right, don’t go up anyone’s driveway and don’t go downhill back towards Ashland. Ashland Loop Road then turns south and is a dirt road. This is about 1.5 miles from the start of the hike.
The route now is simple. Stay on the dirt road. Pass the marked White Rabbit Trailhead and parking area at 2.5 miles and the Lamb Saddle at 4.5 miles at elevation 3,450. At 6 miles and 4,381 ft you reach Four Corners where there is car access and parking. Continue straight through this intersection and at 10 miles and 5,500 ft you reach Bull Gap where there is access and parking for vehicles again.
Go straight through this intersection and the roadbed now becomes more of a steep trail and veers to the right or westerly. This trail makes 2 switchbacks as it climbs up to the ski lodge. Before reaching the ski lodge the trail becomes more of a road again and you pass a couple buildings used to support the activities at the Mt Ashland ski area. At the lodge you are 12.5 miles from Lithia Park and are at elevation 6,600 ft. This is the end of the trail/road system.
From the ski lodge you should be able to see the Doppler Radar tower on the summit. Climb up there any way you feel comfortable. Actually, they tell me there is a trail under the snow and under the ski lift that goes up to the summit but I have never been there when there hasn’t been at least some snow. You can climb directly up the ski slope but you may need crampons if it is cold. It is pretty steep and makes a good glissade slope if the skiers are done for the season. I climbed up the left side through the trees on the east ridge of Mt Ashland. Once near the summit you will have to scramble up some rocks to get to the high point. Be careful this last bit of getting on or off the snow and onto the rocks. There are usually large moats around the rocks that can be clumsy to get across.
Return to the trailhead the same way you ascended Mt Ashland. Total round trip hike is 26.6 miles and has 5,600 ft of elevation gain. Allow 11-12 hours for this hike.
The 10 essentials are always necessary. Take plenty of water and food. It is a long day. Maybe have a bailout plan if you or someone in your party gets tired. Cell phones should work all the way to the summit.