Wagner Butte

A Granite Ridge Overlooking
the Medford Valley

Wagner Butte is a butte in Rogue River National Forest, OR.

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Overview

Wagner Butte Trail climbs steadily from about 5100 feet at the trailhead to the site of the lookout (now gone), at 7140 feet. After leaving the main road, the trail winds through forest to an abandoned roadbed. It follows this sometimes steep old road for about a mile and a half. As the trail approaches Wagner Glades, the forest opens into rocky dry meadows with sagebrush. Past the Glades, the trail turns north and begins a long, ascending traverse of the hillside, through mountain mahogany and aspen thickets, boulders, and rocky meadows. About 4  miles from the trailhead, there’s a cold spring beside the trail. The last 50 feet of the trip is a scramble up the jumbled boulders below the old lookout site. 

Wagner Butte
Wagner Butte
Wagner Butte

The highest point on Wagner Butte is about half a mile south of the lookout site, at 7255 feet. It can be reached by an easy walk along the ridge crest through sagebrush, firs, and boulders. To return to the trail, a hiker can retrace his path; or go straight west down the hillside; or walk due south for about a mile to rejoin the trail at Wagner Gap.

Wagner Butte

The butte was named for an early settler in the Ashland area, Jacob Wagner.  The first fire lookout was posted on Wagner Butte in 1913, although there was only a tent and a handmade alidade sighting device. This was later replaced with a more modern firefinder. When the observer left the lookout at the onset of winter he "…greased well his stove and Osborne fire-finder and stored them in a cave in the rocks of the summit." In 1923 the lookout site was leveled, and a cabin built. In 1961 it was replaced by a more modern structure, and then in 1971 the lookout was demolished. A section of railing, some concrete footings, and iron rods remain on the site.

Note that the trail on the map which is shown descending the east side of the ridge from Wagner Glades to the Horn Gap road should have two caveats: first, the trail is very little used, and the section I’ve walked is indistinct and appears abandoned; and second, the Horn Gap road is usually gated and closed to vehicles other than forestry crews, so access from that side would mean using a bike or hiking a long section of gravel road.

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