Some hikes are rugged forays through wild country to hard-earned mountaintops with dazzling views. Some aren't, and that's fine, too.
Reaching Hobart Bluff is simple and straightforward. It's a pleasant day hike through white fir and oak/chaparral forests and high-country meadows to craggy basalt cliffs offering bird's eye views of peaks like Mount Shasta, Mount McLoughlin and Pilot Rock.
It's a hike almost everyone can do, and even offers two choices.
The shortest, easiest way to reach Hobart Bluff is by a short, easy, 3-mile roundtrip hike. The shorter distance involves following Highway 66 about 15 miles east from Ashland. At the Soda Mountain Road junction, turn south for about four miles to a small parking area where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses. From the well-marked trailhead signs follow the PCT north about 1½ miles to the signed Hobart Bluff junction.
Our group opted for a longer hike, parking instead at the PCT trailhead near the Greensprings summit and following the PCT 3-plus miles south to the signed Hobart Bluff overlook. From the south or north, the trail steepens, with the scenery taking on other aspects.
Along the way we passed through private property marked by signs through forests of oaks, firs and mountain mahogany and fields. Weeks earlier, on a get-out-and-stretch walk after too many hours driving, those same areas had blooming columbines, paintbrush, larkspur, trillium and camas.
For this fall hike, the surprise came in exposed, upper-elevation areas, where wind- and snow-tortured junipers are twisted into surreal shapes and forms. Likewise, stunted ground-hugging manzanita, serviceberry and other plants and bushes seem to doggedly hold on. There, too, were limp leaves from yellow arrowleaf balsamroot plants well past their bloom.
The bluff is actually a series of viewpoints. Different perches offer panoramic views south, southwest and west and north. Some teetery overlooks peer down to Hobart Lake and, farther distant, the Bear Creek Valley. Our group of hikers was early enough to avoid snow — Hobart's summit is at an elevation of 5,502 feet — but too late for the showy spring-summer wildflower displays, when sightings of the federally endangered mardon skipper, a rare butterfly species, occur.
Hobart Bluff has been described as sublime, a reference to its inspiring sense of grandeur.
Hobart's viewpoints aren't breathtaking like those fearful, harder-earned mountaintop vistas from the summits of Mount Thielsen or Mount Shasta. Hobart doesn't have a defined summit or a single-best viewpoint. Instead of having a single-peak viewpoint, it's necessary to move to various high points with different aspects — north, west and south — to see sights like the already snowcapped summits of Shasta to the south, or Mount Ashland, Mount Eddy and knobby Pilot Rock to the west, and pyramid-shaped McLoughlin from north-facing vantages.
Hobart Bluff, reportedly named after a local rancher, is part of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, a designation created because it's where the Cascade, Klamath and Siskiyou mountain ranges converge, creating a region of unusual biological diversity and varied landscapes. Evidence of that mish-mash of biology and geology is part of what makes the hike, from either the north or south, unusual. Fall is a gentle, less splashy time of year, especially compared to the vivid colors of spring and, I'm told, the sometimes snowy solitude of winter.
The hike to Hobart Bluff is a hike for all seasons.
— Lee Juillerat has been writing about outdoor adventures in Southern Oregon and elsewhere for more than 30 years. He is also a regular contributor to the outdoor-travel website High On Adventure at www.highonadventure.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-880-4139.