Top picnic spot

Ashland lies in the shadow of Grizzly Peak, a 5,920-foot reminder that we live in a valley with peaks to conquer.

Butterfly-attracting wildflowers blanket the mountain, and past fires have created another aesthetic layer. As if captured in one of Tim Burton's dark, quirky movies, a still-charred hillside is riddled with snags, dead trees that have become home to small creatures.

The mountain with a bear's moniker also offers one of the best picnic opportunities in Oregon. Hike to the top with a few sandwiches, take in views of Emigrant Lake and the Rogue Valley, and see for yourself.

The hike is perfect when temperatures skyrocket in the valley. Every activity feels better in cooler mountain air.

There are two hiking options: To the picnic area, which is about 2.2 miles round trip, or the full loop, a more strenuous 4.6 miles.

The full hike will take you through different types of woodlands, including a pine forest, prairies and the hillside burned during the East Antelope fire of 2002.

Although there are no bears on top, you may see a grazing cow or two.

"It's just the perfect summer day up here," says Suzanne Marshall of Ashland, who hikes it weekly. "I like the wildflowers."

Amelia Covert Zeve, 13, is a wilderness enthusiast who attends Willow Wind Community Learning Center. Contact her at

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