Dreaming of shady forest trails and crystal-clear swimming holes? Here’s what you need to know to have a fun, safe, and hassle-free Opal Creek trip this summer.
Only wilderness remains
Opal Creek is a wilderness area! This means we are blessed with ancient trees, pristine mountain streams, and thousands of acres of solitude–but it also means that it’s even more important that you come prepared. Some important things to know:
- There is no potable water at the Opal Creek trailhead, and we do not have the resources in Jawbone Flats to provide water to hikers. Opal Creek temperatures are often cooler than the valley, but we still have hot summers that can easily dehydrate the unprepared. Bring extra water for yourself and any minors or dogs who are accompanying you.
- There is no cell service shortly after turning off of Highway 22 (20 miles before reaching Opal Creek). Make sure you have a copy of our driving directions, and always tell someone back home where you are going and when you expect to return.
- It will take emergency services a minimum of 45 minutes to reach the Opal Creek trailhead once they are contacted–meaning it could easily take up to two hours for help to arrive after an incident. Play smart–our canyon walls are steep, our water is frigid and often fast-running, and rocks can be unexpectedly slippery.
Leave no trace
This year, for the first time ever, the US Forest Service implemented a series of regulations aimed at reducing the effects of overuse on the Opal Creek area. Help us show the Forest Service that this community can treat this area responsibly! Follow these important Leave No Trace practices:
- Pack it in, pack it out! The ancient forest is not a place for your trash! Even compostable items like orange peels must be packed out with you. Trash and even organic litter can be hazardous to wildlife, and are a terrible eyesore for other visitors.
- Stay on the trail, especially in riparian zones (the plants at the water’s edge). Too many people going off-trail creates trail erosion and tramples sensitive plant life.
- Leave what you find. This is especially important at Opal Creek, where in addition to protecting the forest, the Wilderness Act protects the historical mining artifacts left behind. Many beautiful pieces of our history have been stolen or vandalized in recent years. Not only is this illegal, but it disrespects the experiences of thousands of other wilderness users.
No such thing as free parking
One of the biggest changes the Forest Service is making this year is limiting the parking at the Opal Creek trailhead. Parking is now only allowed up to 1/4 mile from the trailhead, which equals about 100 cars. The Forest Service is working to develop a system where parking availability will be indicated farther down the road, but in the meantime, please be patient as they work through the kinks of these new policies. And it’s a perfect time to take up carpooling!