Opal Creek Wilderness and Scenic Recreation Area Area Trails

Salem, Oregon 97306

Opal Creek Wilderness and Scenic Recreation Area Area Trails

Opal Creek Wilderness and Scenic Recreation Area Area Trails Professional Review and Guide

"Opal creek is one of the most beautiful streams in western Oregon. It flows into the Little North Fork of the Santiam River. A limpid blue color, the creek pours over water-rounded boulders and among lichen-shrouded, old-growth Douglas fir forests. The wilderness and scenic area protecting the Opal Creek drainage was created in 1996 and established in 1998. It lies immediately east of the Bull of the Woods Wilderness and includes about 8,000 acres of lands formerly part of that wilderness. Elkhorn Creek, a major tributary here of the Little North Santiam, was also designated a Wild and Scenic River.

Both Elkhorn Creek and the Little North Santiam River support steelhead runs. Opal Creek Wilderness boasts steep, rugged, forested hillsides. The eastern portion of the area encompasses the headwaters of two major creeks, Battle Ax and Opal, which join and flow into Little North Santiam River. The western portion of the area is dominated by two prominent peaks, Whetstone and Henline Mountains, both former fire lookout sites. This trail guide contains three trails ranging from 3.5 to 14.5 miles in length."

More Opal Creek Wilderness and Scenic Recreation Area Area Trails Professional Reviews and Guides

"Opal Creek’s history stretches from ancient times to a modern-day legislative showdown, but its value can hardly be measured. It’s an almost completely preserved sample of what the Northwest used to be, a place that hasn’t been logged and where the water runs clear. The largest such low-elevation area in the state, it doesn’t even require that you work hard to see most of it."

"Although this hike follows a clear stream, passes several small waterfalls, and visits an interesting old mining settlement, the real stars of the show are the trees. But not just any trees. These are big trees, old trees, magnificent trees! The kind of trees that make hikers look up in awe and loggers look up and drool.

It was those competing views that led to one of Oregon’s fiercest environmental battles during the 1980s and 1990s. The issue was resolved in 1996, when parts of the Opal Creek drainage were designated as wilderness and others as a scenic area. Both classifications provided enough protection to save the trees for future generations."

"The Opal Creek Wilderness is a low-elevation ancient forest that is home to the largest intact stand of old-growth forest in the western Cascades. Trees in this area can range up to 1,000 years old. Because the forest has remained intact for so long, the flora and fauna interact the way nature intended. Cycles that can take hundreds of years to complete have been left alone to do so, and in the process the forest filters Opal Creek to a state of pristine beauty. Oh, and it has waterfalls!

If the opportunity to experience a forest in unaltered ancient condition isn’t enough, the hike to Opal Creek provides other diversions. The loop hike begins at the gated road to the former mining community of Jawbone Flats (population 9). The town now serves as home to the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center. The small amount of mining that was done here was performed without chemicals, leaving the watershed undisturbed. Only residents are allowed to drive the road, but fortunately there are some interesting things to see along the walk into town."

"The Opal Creek Wilderness is a low-elevation ancient forest that is home to the largest intact stand of old-growth forest in the western Cascades. Trees in this area can range up to 1,000 years old. Because the forest has remained intact for so long, the flora and fauna interact the way nature intended. Cycles that can take hundreds of years to complete have been left alone to do so, and in the process the forest filters Opal Creek to a state of pristine beauty. Oh, and it has waterfalls!

If the opportunity to experience a forest in unaltered ancient condition isn’t enough, the hike to Opal Creek provides other diversions. The loop hike begins at the gated road to the former mining community of Jawbone Flats (population 9). The town now serves as home to the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center. The small amount of mining that was done here was performed without chemicals, leaving the watershed undisturbed. Only residents are allowed to drive the road, but fortunately there are some interesting things to see along the walk into town."

Opal Creek Wilderness and Scenic Recreation Area Area Trails Reviews

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7/18/2018
This trail is super packed on weekends because it's so popular, with good reason. It is beautiful. If you are bugged by crowds go during the week. I love cooling off in the water next to the waterfall on a summer day. The hike is not too demanding but it still makes you work from time to time.
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6/2/2007
We were planning to hike the loop but ended up just hiking to serene lake and back. There was still a little snow on parts of the trail which made the trail hard to follow. The hike is relatively flat and easy the first 2 miles and then gets more steep as you head down towards serene lake. This hike was beautiful with lush green meadows and blue-green lakes. Our campground was right next to serene lake with a beautiful view. There was only one other group camping at the lake and they were on the other side. The mosquitos were bad at times but not unbearable -- just make sure to take plenty of bug repelent. We saw some people swimming and others fishing. It was a great hike I would definately do again!
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11/25/2006
My favorite Mt. Hike. You get more your your money here than any hike I know. I've done it as late as the end of September and it's always been awe-inspiring and so beautiful Has anybody ever tried this as a winter hike?
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8/12/2006
Highly recomended either as a day hike or overnight. Stay at the stone hut and explore up the mountain for a true alpine experience.
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12/4/2002
This is a tough hike but worth it! It is a beautiful and scenic hike, you can do it in a day or pack in a make it an over night get away. There are two approaches one that is half mile and the other is about a mile loop going around the back. We did the half mile and it is very steep. Hands and feet all the way up on slate rock that is loose at times but no overly dangerous. My ten year old son and I did it and at the top you are in for an amazing view of three other mountains. St. Helens, Jefferson and Adams and if you look over your should the peak of Hood is right there. The half mile up is tough the rest is moderate. A great hike and highly recomended!
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Opal Creek Wilderness and Scenic Recreation Area Area Trails Photos

Trail Information

Salem
Nearby City
Dog-friendly
Accessibility
28.9
Distance
Several options
Trail Type
Moderate
Skill Level
April to November
Season
1,600 feet
Trailhead Elevation
4,600 feet
Top Elevation
Waterfalls
Features
Willamette National Forest
Local Contacts

Activity Feed

Oct 2018