By CAITLYN PILKINGTON
Visit this historic Pacific Northwest town for some great running, racing and food.
Bordered by emerald landscape just 15 miles north of the California border sits Ashland, a quaint Renaissance-esque stop best known for Shakespeare, good grub and trail running.
“From town or anywhere along our 5-mile corridor you can be on dirt in a matter of moments,” says Hal Koerner, two-time Western States 100 champion and owner of Rogue Valley Runners in downtown Ashland. “The terrain here is forgiving but the climbs and descents are rather robust. That mix helps make our area unique and has a little something for everyone. Whether it’s a 3-mile run through the well-manicured Lithia Park or a 4-hour dusting in the watershed to the Siskiyou Crest, we have you covered.”
Lithia Park, the city’s 93-acre crown jewel, houses winding trails that appear endless. Easily accessible from downtown Ashland, the plaza entrance is perfect for grabbing a beautiful jaunt through the grounds. Zip over to Granite Street from inside the park and discover the upscale, unique homes that slowly crawl toward the mountains as you huff your way toward the back of Lithia.
This walker-friendly small town equates to just under 7 square miles. If you’re lodging closer to Interstate 5 on Siskiyou, you’re a short, downhill 2-miler from downtown, where the subtle hippie aroma is welcoming and the fun-loving community is always outside jamming. The annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival entertains tourists February through November, with eclectic happenings both in the theaters and around the city.
Koerner’s summertime favorite is the Pacific Crest Trail portion that hits the access road toward Mount Ashland. The terrain is expansive and maintained, yet challenging.
Where To Run
Follow the Bandersnatch trail above Lithia Park through the Ashland Creek watershed, connecting to the Alice in Wonderland area of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and all the views that come with it.
For the more experienced altitude runners, prep your lungs—and your mental will—to climb up Hitt Road toward Ostrich Peak, totaling over 3,000 feet of elevation change. If you’re passing through and looking for a quick fix during a one-night stay, navigate Lithia Park and soak in the epic greenery that only Oregon can offer. The park lies in the heart of downtown, so dinner is at your fingertips when you’re done.
Just outside of Ashland, the Pacific Crest Trail offers well-maintained, yet challenging, terrain along the access road up to Mount Ashland. And, if trails are more of an afterthought, run from one end of town to the other along Siskiyou Boulevard for an easy run of any distance. The street turns into Main Street, splitting into two one-way traffic routes, but it reconnects after the downtown area.
Where To Race
With endless trail options in Ashland come some flavorful trail races in the area. The Pine to Palm 100-Mile Endurance Run
(Sept. 13-14), which runs from Williams, Ore., to Ashland, is a rugged point-to-point race with less than 4 miles on pavement. Just outside Ashland in neighboring Medford, Ore., happens the Run The Rogue Half Marathon
and 10K (Sept. 21), which offers a traditional road race with exceptional views of Southern Oregon. The Lithia Loop Trail Marathon
(November 2014) offers some hefty climbing in the beginning miles, but runners are rewarded with a downhill finish.
For the relay warriors traveling with running buddies, the Wild Rogue Relay
(June 2015) brings teams of 12 through the vineyards of Applegate Valley Wineries and travels to cities, including Medford, just outside of Ashland. After tackling the P2P 100, consider the Siskiyou Out Back Trail Run
“SOB” 15k, 50k and 50-Mile (July 2015), which tours daring runners over the border into California, climbing along the Pacific Crest Trail for all distances.
Where To Eat & Drink
Breakfast is a must after a long run, and Morning Glory
(1149 Siskiyou Blvd) is a top choice for morning grub. With hearty American breakfast options that don’t skimp on their sides, this 15-year-old establishment is a popular stop until 1:30 p.m. If the wait is long—and it normally is—walk over to Case Coffee Roasters
(1255 Siskiyou Blvd.), which prides itself on good coffee from the best farms in the world. For lunch, ask for Louie at Louie’s Restaurant and Bar
(41 N. Main St.) in downtown Ashland—she’s often talking to the patrons. The traditional comfort food offers vegan and gluten-free options for almost every item, and the Recession Burger with the homemade Kettle Chips is a must. Add an elegant twist to your evening at Smithfields
(36 S. 2nd St), where the slightly elevated price tag is worth it for your taste buds. Sit outside under draping patio lights and try anything on the menu—but definitely don’t skip the peanut butter chocolate cheesecake.
Snow happens every winter in Ashland, and late summer temperatures are known to enter the high 90s. June and July offer manageable weather with the occasional rainy day. When the ground is dry, a light jacket does the trick when the sun goes down. But keep a heavy winter jacket handy for the late winter months when temperatures can dip into the 20s. The best time to experience Ashland and pack light is late spring or early summer, when the hottest time during the day doesn’t happen until late afternoon.
Where To Shop
The only running store in Ashland, Rogue Valley Runners
(161 E. Main St.) is owned by ultrarunner Hal Koerner, and the entire staff offers the best running routes to traveling runners, as well as shoe recommendations for new runners. For everything outdoors, check out The Ashland Outdoor Store
(37 N. Third St.), which offers equipment for any outdoor activity during any time of year in Southern Oregon and Northern California. If you’re taking a break to peruse the local shops and add to your non-running wardrobe, take a walk along Main Street in downtown Ashland—most clothing boutiques are managed by locals who hand select each item for their collection.