Soda Springs Trail #1009
A steep challenging climb, the Soda Springs Trail begins quite leisurely from the temporary lower trailhead on Forest Road 3730. The flood of 1997 has made it necessary to relocate this trailhead temporarily. Please excuse the inconvenience until the new trailhead is constructed. Until then follow the signs and respect the privacy of Camp Latgawa as you pass by the area. A stroll along Dead Indian Creek takes you past several mineral springs and traces of an elaborate rockwork fountain built here ca. 1935. An interpretive sign at the site relates the history of this area. The presence of dozens of "game trails" that cross the Soda Springs Trail, indicates that this area is an important deer migration route from the high summer range of the Dead Indian Plateau to lower elevations along Little Butte Creek.
A little over 0.3 mile from the trailhead the trail forks at a junction with the path to Latgawa Church Camp.
The Soda Springs Trail climbs steeply on the right to vistas of Dead Indian Canyon and South Fork Canyon of Little Butte Creek. After climbing about 0.4 mile, the trail levels briefly through an invitingly open stand of Oregon white oak. Off trail exploration here will reveal several small ponds that are rumored to be poison (arsenic). The rare plant Howells yampah (Perideridia howellii) is known to exist nearby.
If you have the legs for it, keep going. The trail climbs another 0.6 mile to a pocket of old growth where huge California black oaks reach up to mix with the canopies of Ponderosa Pines and Douglas fir. In the spring and early summer the bird song is magical. The Californian black oak is distinguished from the Oregon white oak by its darker bark, larger size and toothed leaves. Its acorns were preferred over other species by the Takelma and other local Indians.
Continuing upward, the trail traverses an opening created by a timber harvest in 1990 (views of Mt. McLoughlin and Brown Mountain to the east). The trail re-enters the forest on a bench and skirts a cool spring, before climbing the last 0.3 mile to the upper trailhead on Forest Road 2500-185.
While the Soda Springs Trail is best experienced in the late spring and early summer, the lower trailhead can be accessed most of the year. At peak runoff in the early spring, fording over Dead Indian Creek may be difficult at times. However, remnants of the short footbridge washed out in the 1997 flood help with footing.
At a Glance
|Open Season:||Year Round|
|Water:||Not available. Surface water should be treated.|
|Information Center:||High Cascades Ranger District|
From Ashland, OR, drive east on Highway 66 to Dead Indian Memorial Highway. Turn left on to Dead Indian Memorial Highway and go 13.5 miles to Conde Creek Road (paved). Turn left on to Conde Creek Road and go 11.3 miles to the junction with South Fork Little Butte Creek Road. Turn right and go approximately 3.8 miles to a small turnout on the right just before the entrance to Camp Latgawa. This lower trailhead provides parking for 2-3 cars.
From Ashland, OR, drive east on highway 66 to Dead Indian Memorial Highway. Turn left on to Dead Indian Memorial Highway and go 18 miles to Shell Peak road (just past Lily Glen Horse Camp). Turn left on to the Shell Peak Forest Road 2500-100 and follow it 5.7 miles to Forest Road 185 and the upper trailhead on the left. The former rock pit site provides plenty of parking area.
From Medford, OR, when there is snow on the Dead Indian / Conde Creek route, take Highway 62 east from Medford 6 miles to Highway 140. Turn right on to Highway 140 and go 12.6 miles to South Fork Little Butte Creek Road on the right. Follow South Fork Little Creek Road 11.5 miles to the cattle guard at the National Forest boundary (the pavement ends here). Continue another 2.2 miles on good gravel road.The lower trailhead provides parking for 2-3 cars on the right just before Camp Latgawa. Follow the temporary trail signs.
|Difficulty Level:||Most Difficult|
Alerts & Warnings
- Effective 9/20: Wild and Scenic Lower Rogue River Stage 1 Fire Restrictions
- Illinois River Swinging Bridge Closure
- Butte Fork Trail Bridge in Red Buttes Wilderness Closed Through July 2023
- Effective 7/27: Forest-Wide Stage 1 Fire Restrictions
- Understanding Parking and Fire Restrictions on the Illinois River
- Bear-Human Interactions on the Rise!