This is the perfect national monument to visit in order to satisfy your inner amateur field biologist, since it’s the only monument to this date that has been created for its outstanding ecology and biodiversity (designated in 2000 by Clinton and expanded in 2017 by Obama to reach almost 100,000 acres/40,000 ha). To best understand the extraordinary value of this national monument read its Presidential Proclamation. Among the many species living here, the diversity of butterflies, mushrooms, lichens and fungi stands out. Located at the meeting point of the Great Basin with three different mountain ranges — Klamath, Siskiyou and Cascade — the area of the national monument harbors a peculiar mix of flora and fauna of distinct ecoregions. This is best understood and appreciated through the explanations of a ranger or a biologist, or at least with a good field guide. In Ashland, the main gateway town, there are organizations dedicated to the protection of the national monument which also host guided hikes regularly. One of them is KS Wild, a local NGO which was most involved in keeping the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument intact during the review in 2017 (logging groups scored a small victory when a shrinking in size was recommended by Secretary Zinke, but that remains in limbo). Another great NGO is the Friends of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, who aside from guided hikes also host bioblitz events open to the public, in order to rapidly assess the species diversity in the monument. Oregon Wild is focused on the whole state and organizes hikes on various conservation lands, including in this national monument. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses through Cascade-Siskiyou, and Ashland is a favorite stop along it for many through-hikers. The pretty mountain town is, therefore, well equipped with local outdoor shops and outfitters. It’s also home to the annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival, with productions that show throughout the eight-month season. Aside from Ashland you can also spend the night at the Green Springs Inn within the national monument, stop to grab a meal at their restaurant or check out one of their live music shows in summer evenings. The owners of the inn were big supporters of the expansion and protection of the monument. A ranger station created by the Friends of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is also open right next door to the inn, and their rangers often organize walks and evening programs at the nearby Hyatt Lake (this section of the NGO’s website is very useful to organize your hikes in the monument). While in Cascade-Siskiyou we hiked the short Green Springs Mtn loop trail where Secretary Zinke was also taken during the review, and the Hobart Bluff trail (map and descriptions here), as well as the more strenuous hike up the famous Pilot Rock (description and map here). Otherwise, you’ll find plenty of options for RV, campgrounds or wild camping, visible on this map. When we visited in September, nearby wildfires were making the air hard to breathe on some days, so check before you go on whether the trails are open or closed, and enjoy your time exploring one of the most biodiverse conservation lands in the US.
If you want to read more stories from national monuments you can check our blog.