Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 42.03060°N / 122.5609°W
Additional Information GPX File: Download GPX » View Route on Map
Additional Information Elevation: 5908 ft / 1801 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Pilot Rock is a prominent basaltic spire 14 miles SSE of Ashland, Oregon, and 1.6 miles north of the OR/CA border.

Moonrise over Pilot Rock
Moonrise over Pilot Rock

This is a columnar basalt volcanic core that has had its outer covering eroded away over the eons much like the much larger and better-known Devils Tower in Wyoming.

Originally named Emmons Peak for an early explorer of 1841, the name didn't stick and it is now officially known as Pilot Rock. The peak is easily spotted by travelers approaching from both the north and the south, and is said to have been a navigation marker for early pioneers traveling to and from California. This is easily understood as it is prominently visible and today a few mile long segment of I-5 is lined up exactly with Pilot Rock as it passes by the town of Ashland. It is also visible from the Mt. Ashland area and even from as far away as Mt. McLoughlin, 32 miles to the NNE. If you know where to look, it can even be seen from Mt. Shasta.

The rock soars from about 350 feet to as much as 570 feet above the base talus slope and measures about 450 feet north-to-south and about 850 feet east-to-west.

The peak seems to be popular with local rock climbers and a couple of them can be (barely) seen nearing the summit in the signature photo above.


Getting There

From the north: Take I-5 southbound, a few miles south of Ashland and get off at exit 6. Continue south on the frontage road ("Old Hwy 99 south") crossing under the freeway and find the PCT trailhead sign on the left. (1 1/4 miles south of the start of the freeway exit ramp.) To drive to near the base of the mountain, continue driving south up the hill for another 8/10 mile and turn left on Pilot Rock Road. Follow this for 2.0 miles and find the parking lot on the right. Take the trail 3/4 mile and turn left on the PCT. In another 2/10 miles the trail splits: Take the right hand fork which takes you directly to the NW cleft. This is a class 3 rock climb with a class 4 crux right at the start and isn't too difficult in good weather.

From the south: From I-5 north take exit 1 after crossing the Oregon border and continue on this frontage road (Old Hwy 99) 3.4 miles to the Pilot Rock Road, turn right and continue as per the above. If going to the PCT trailhead, it's another 8/10 miles north on the frontage road and on the right.

Note: Pilot Rock Road is narrow but has plenty of turnouts and wide spots. It's paved with 2 and 3 inch rocks so it's a 15 MPH drive at best.

The PCT route to the base of the peak passes through private land and BLM land so watch out for cows and close the three gates you'll have to pass through. This route is 4.4 miles to the base of the rock and counting the few ups and downs in the trail is about 2,500 vertical feet total elevation change for the round-trip.

Here's a link to another site with some pics of a more difficult way up the rock than I've described!! Hard Way

Red Tape

No red tape! No parking passes, fees, etc.

When To Climb

This area gets as much as 300 inches of snow in an average winter so this could be a good snow shoe trip or cross country trip. Snow will linger in spots until about May, depending on the year and roads will usualy be snowed in above the frontage road sometime from late November on. Much of the trail enjoys a southern exposure so snow cover may be spotty, even in winter.


For my money, I'd stay in nearby Ashland. Lots of good motels and plenty to do. You could car-camp at the trailhead or even set up a tent and no one is likely to bother you, though. This whole area is a mix of BLM rangeland and private holdings. Too many cows for me!

Mountain Conditions

Once the ski season starts good weather data can be acquired from the Mt. Ashland Ski area which lies just 8 miles away and only 400 ft. higher in elevation than the summit of Pilot Rock. Also, weather info for Siskiyou Pass will tell you what you will find at the junction of Pilot Rock Road or at the PCT trailhead. For now, the following link gives a webcam view and current weather data for exit 6 on I-5, at 4,060' elevation: Webcam & Weather

External Links

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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SiskiyouYeti - May 8, 2007 5:53 pm - Hasn't voted

Directions Note

I had quite an adventure trying to follow these directions, having turned left at the initial fork rather than right (the fork is not mentioned in the directions). The more specific directions below might help: From 99, turn onto Pilot Rock Road, which becomes BLM 41-2E-33. At the first fork in the road, turn right. Now you're on BLM 41-2E-3. After this, stay to the left through any forks, and you will remain on BLM 41-2E-3, which terminates in the parking lot.

Don Nelsen

Don Nelsen - May 8, 2007 10:11 pm - Hasn't voted

Thank you

for the info! I'm sorry you got sidetracked. I'll put your clarification in the route directions. Don

chugach mtn boy

chugach mtn boy - Oct 28, 2008 12:40 am - Voted 10/10

Driving Directions

I'd just make one change to avoid the one major opportunity for a wrong turn. Instead of "Follow this for 2.75 miles and find the parking lot at the end of the road", you could say: "Follow this for 2.75 miles (bearing right at a gravel pit about 2 miles in) and find the parking lot at the end of the road."

Don Nelsen

Don Nelsen - Oct 29, 2008 11:03 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Driving Directions

Good idea and thanks for the comment. I'll make the changes. Don


FarNorCal - Sep 16, 2009 7:37 pm - Voted 10/10

Updated Directions

Yet another update for you. I just made the trek up to Pilot Rock today (9-16-09) and found that in March of this year, the area was designated the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area and the route is blocked off from the cinder pit. I took a pic. of the sign on a new camera that I'm just getting used to but could send it or add it if you'd like. Cheers

Brian Jenkins

Brian Jenkins - Aug 24, 2014 10:25 pm - Voted 10/10


7/17/14 the trail has been changed. First, the former road that you veer right at the rock quarry site is now blocked. You park in the old rock quarry. Hike up the road, lots of signs now. Don't know what the trail was like before but they appear to have altered it for erosion control now.


NorCalNomad - Oct 13, 2017 9:52 pm - Hasn't voted

Possible in the winter...BUT..

Last thanksgiving I climbed Pilot Rock with technical ice tools and crampons up the normal 3/4th class gulley. Was an interesting dicey mixture of being able to swing into some spots of ice and drytooling/veriglass in others. No real places to throw gear unless you used pitons (please don't), maybe rp's would work. MAYBE later in the season you would be able to throw screws into the pools that are formed at the horizontal steps in the rock. So really you should be comfortable on soloing 4/5th glass mixed climbing if you want to have a go at it when it's snowy. Going to go up there around Christmas this year to see how it looks mid winter. I'll be posting an actual trip report with photos but wanted to drop this here for people who might have wondered about the possibility of mid winter missions.

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