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Dutchman Peak

 

Dutchman Peak is a mountain summit in Southern Oregon near Ashland, with an elevation of 7,415 feet. You'll find a "D-6" cupola-style fire lookout at the top; one of the highest altitude towers in the state. The structure, on the National Historic Lookout Register, was built in 1927 and commands a stunning view of the surrounding area – both Southern Oregon and Northern California. The Pacific Crest Trail, and multiple dirt roads converge near the peak. On the western ridge a carved wooden headstone can be found marking the grave of “The Dutchman” – a nineteenth century gold prospector. I have made my way up Dutchman Peak many a December past hunting for Christmas trees and had thought I came near the top. Ian, Candace and I were on our way to Applegate Lake when I decided to make a short detour and drive to the top of the peak. I thought it would be a nice view. I soon discovered I had never come close to the peak. Our detour took the rest of the day.

  

 

We drove up towards Dutchman Peak turning onto Beaver Creek Rd, off of Upper Applegate Rd. The drive to the top is about fifteen miles on a gravel road. It's a well-maintained, wide gravel road, but we still didn't get above around 30 mph. Still we made steady progress until we encountered a four pronged fork in the road. There were no signs saying “Dutchman Peak”, which I had expected, and we had no map, so we took many wrong turns. We would head up a road trying to aim towards the direction of the summit. We'd follow each road until it ended, or until it was obvious that it was going the wrong direction – down hill was usually a strong indicator. Still we had some fun, and stopped to enjoy some nice views and snowballs. There was evidence indicating that people regularly camped, made bonfires and drank out in these woods. I found myself wishing had and been a little more wild in my younger days; I would have discovered more of this beautiful country I live in a lot sooner.

 

Finally we got on the right track, but were stopped by a very large drift of snow that blocked the road. It was at the one spot on that particular mountainside where the road passed through a grove of trees (we were nearly above the treeline), and they had kept the sun from melting the snow. This was in late June. Now I had already driven through a few snowdrifts as deep as a foot that day in my old AWD Subaru Legacy, but this drift was over ten feet deep.

 

We got out and walked. It was about a mile to the point where the road we were on met up with a road coming from Mt. Ashland and the Pacific Crest Trail. From that point we could have walked another mile to the fire lookout, but we already had an incredible view and it was getting late.

 

I will return and go to the very top. Probably late July would be the best time to go. At the time we went the road from Ashland was also blocked by snow. Also, the wildflowers were just starting to emerge from the earth, and would have been blooming in another few weeks.

 

I would suggest stopping at a ranger station and getting a map of the forest roads. They spiderweb throughout the mountains and are usually just marked with numbers; without a map it's easy to get lost. We did finally figure out which number marked the road to Dutchman Peak. I would recommend coming from the direction of Ashland; less time driving dirt roads. You can also reach the Pacific Crest Trail from the trails at the top of Lithia Park in Ashland. Many people hike, or bike to the summit from there; it is reported to be about thirty miles round-trip.

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How to get there

 

From the west side: Take Hwy 238 out to Ruch. Turn left onto Upper Applegate Rd as if you're going out to Applegate Lake. After a little over nine miles turn left onto Beaver Creek Rd. After a short distance this turns into a gravel road, it goes on for a very long way. When you eventually come to a fork in the road, take the road marked with a sign that reads 20 – continue to follow these signs. The final road which leads to the fire lookout is very obvious.

 

From the east side: Going south on I-5 take exit 6 onto Frontage Rd (Old Hwy 99) driving towards the Ashland ski resort. Turn right onto Mt Ashland Ski Rd. Continue past the ski resort and turn right at the Pacific Crest Trail, from there follow the signs that read Pacific Crest Trail, or 20.