The trail up Wagner Butte is good all the way to the summit. It is easy to follow and there are no branches or forks to confuse the hiker. The trail starts at Road 22 and immediately starts climbing through the forest. In about ¼ mile the trail meets up with an old abandoned logging road and turns to the right. Follow this road up as it gains ground rapidly heading generally east. Soon you come to a large meadow and the trail turns north and bends around the top end of the meadow.
Continue up the trail until you come to a large clearing. There is a sign on the left that identifies this clearing as the Sheep Creek Slide of 1983. This is a very impressive area. Traverse through the slide area and continue heading in a generally southeast direction. You will have to cross several little creeks and muddy areas, so don’t wear your best white tennis shoes for this hike.
After about an hour from the trailhead, you will pass out of this wet area and the vegetation changes. The trees are shorter and more spaced out into little groves. The brush also changes to short manzanita and buckbrush with lots of wildflowers also. After about 3 miles you get to Wagner Gap and you can see the domed Doppler Radar atop Mt. Ashland to the southeast.
The trail makes a switchback here and proceeds around the southern end of Wagner Butte to the west side and then heads north to the summit. In the Spring you will start to run into patches of snow on this side of Wagner Butte. Keep heading north. Soon after you pass a water trough you will get your first glimpse of the summit.
The summit is a big pile of rocks. No fear, you don’t need a rope or any of your Class 5 moves to get to the summit. The trail is easy to follow up the rocks to the summit.
Enjoy the view down below from Ashland to Medford. To the southeast less than 5 miles away is Mt. Ashland. On the left of Mt. Ashland is Pilot Rock and to the right lurking in the background is massive Mt. Shasta. On the other side of the City of Ashland you can see Mt. McLoughlin, Mt. Scott in Crater Lake National Park and you can even see the tip of Mt. Thielsen poking up on the horizon. The views are really worth the hike.
Look back to the south west about ¾ of a mile along the Wagner Butte ridge and see the true summit of Wagner Butte. It is about 115 ft higher than the lookout site. If you have the energy and the inclination head cross country to the highpoint. Contniue south from the highpoint until you intersect the Wagner Butte Trail again and follow it back to your car.
The total hike is 10 miles with about 2,200 ft of elevation gain. Allow 4 hours plus your rest time on the summit.
To find the Wagner Butte Trailhead, drive to Talent on Interstate 5. Take Exit 21, zero your odometer, and head west on Valley View Ave. Pass by the Wal Mart and cross over Old Highway 99 at the signal and continue to Talent Ave which is .6 mile from the I-5 Exit. Turn left on Talent Ave., and then in 100 yards turn right on Wagner Street. Watch your speed through the school zone and at 1.0 mile from I-5 turn right on Wagner Creek Road. Wagner Creek Road is paved for the next 4.8 miles and then turns to a good gravel road. At 8.2 miles from I-5 go left otherwise you end up in an active logging area. Stay on this road until you reach an intersection at mile 9.6, then turn left on the signed good gravel road 22. Follow this road another 2.1 miles to the Trailhead. The trailhead is signed “Wagner Butte Trail No. 1011” on the left side of the road and there is a large parking area on the right. The trailhead elevation is 4,960 ft.
The 10 essentials are always required. There is water along the way, but it is untested and may be contaminated. Take all the water you need.