The Soda Mountain Wilderness in southwestern Oregon is an ecological mosaic where the state's eastern desert meets towering fir forests. The biodiversity of the area includes fir forests, sunlit oak groves, meadows filled with wildflowers, and steep canyons. The area is home to a spectacular variety of rare species of plants and animals including Roosevelt elk, cougars, black bears, golden and bald eagles, goshawks and falcons. Prior to designation as wilderness, the Clinton administration designated 53,000 acres of federal land in the area as the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in June 2000 to protect this extraordinary biological reserve.
I went up Pilot Rock on a mostly sunny day in mid-October. The trail is short at about 1.6 mile to get to the foot of the 'rock'. Access is easy via I5 just south of the Siskiyou pass; the last 2 miles or so are on a dirt roach but not particular vehicle clearance is required. There is a good size parking lot at the trail-head, complete with restrooms.
The trail is very well maintained. The first mile, until the junction with the PCT, goes up at a fairly gentle grade. The last .5 miles, when veering off the PCT, ascends more steeply via switchbacks all the way to the very foot of the NorthWest face of the rock.
I am a 60 years old man, in fairly good shape but by no means an "ironman" contender; my height (at 5'11) did however help when negotiating the 3 verticals. The ascent required maintained focus and attention but no great physical heroism. Coming prepared (comfortable clothing, good footwear, light or no pack for the climb, etc.) and TAKING TIME to plan the next step are important keys to success/safety. It is also worth remembering that going down is often a bit more challenging that going up.
If you make it, the 360 degree views are indeed quite amazing with Shasta (South) and McLoughlin (North) is full display. For some reason, I imagined the top a some sort of spacious "table", it is not! Once you reach the top, you are standing on an narrow-ish ridge with drop-offs on both sides. There is enough space, however, to sit and enjoy the surroundings. Once more time: take your time going down.
Trail is amazing and isolated from city noise and pollution!
My seven year old son even made it to the top and loved every minute of walking, climbing, and looking for unique plants and bugs!
We have been up twice now and sad that winter is coming since I don't have a four wheel drive.
Per a previous review the trail is more like 2.8-3. The purpose of this review is not to intimidate those who are interested in the scramble and bouldering to the summit, however it should be noted that this climb at the end of the hike does pose significant risk including death. My wife and I are both indoor/outdoor rock climbers, both top rope and bouldering, and this climb for the relatively fit and with a basic level of rock climbing skills is intermediate to be honest. There are (3) crux or obstacles that must be overcome to shimmy up the chute (crack) directly up the middle of the rock. The rock faces are vertical and in some spots provide very few hand and foot holds. With that being said, if this sounds like a climb that you may have trouble with, you probably will. Just remember, after the ascent, you'll have to descend which can be more tricky than going up. People have fallen off of this rock and died per the description via the "Hiking Southern Oregon" book. Do not attempt this climb under wet or conditions where snow is on the peak. Just thought I'd give an honest review for those who may be wondering about this climb as it is not for everyone. In ending, calculate your route and look out for loose or sketchy rock formations as there are a few. Be safe, enjoy