Trails

We highly recommend that guests carpool if at all possible. The trailhead has become very crowded, especially on summer weekends.

The Opal Creek Wilderness and Scenic Recreation Areas are covered by the US Forest Service’s Mt. Hood and Willamette National Forest map, which also includes the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness and the Bull of the Woods Wilderness.  These maps are sold at most Forest Service locations and outdoor stores, and can be purchased from Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center by calling 503-892-2782, visiting our office at 721 NW 9th Ave., Suite 236, or from our staff on-site at the Jawbone Company Store from April through October.

Please click here for an overview map of the Opal Creek Wilderness and Scenic Recreation Area.

This weather forecast is centered on Jawbone Flats.

Hiking into Jawbone Flats, you are hiking to a remote location. Please plan accordingly; carry water and snacks with you and dress for the weather. We do not have the ability to provision hikers with missing supplies or to drive people out to their cars. Thank you for your understanding – happy hiking!

Gate to Jawbone Flats and Opal PoolOC Trail

An easy 6.25 miles round trip with approximately 200 foot elevation gain. Bikes are allowed on the road between the gate and Jawbone Flats.

This trail follows the original road into Jawbone Flats along the Little North Fork of the Santiam River. You will cross Gold Creek on a 60-foot high bridge, pass some of the oldest trees in the Opal Creek Wilderness 700 year-old trees, peer into abandoned mines, and rest on a log at the Bertha E. Hewitt Memorial Grove, where the forest canopy towers far overhead.

At 2 miles you reach the historic Merten Mill, built in 1943, a steam-powered sawmill that logged five of the surrounding acres. The operation ended after two of the company’s logging trucks fell off a steep area of the road, proving the logging risky and unprofitable. A steam engine repurposed from the U.S.S. Battleship Oregon still lies in the clearing. A short side trail behind the mill leads to Cascada de los Ninos (Waterfall of the Children) a 30-foot falls that marks the end of the native winter steelhead run.

The road forks 0.2 miles ahead giving you two options. Continue on the road another 1.1 miles to the historic mining town of Jawbone Flats, a collection of buildings built between 1929 and 1932. A short distance beyond camp is Opal Pool, a scenic gorge and an easy day-hiking goal. To get there, continue through camp across Battle Axe Bridge making a right turn past a building humming with a water-powered generator. Continue down the road to a sign indicating a short trail to Opal Pool.

To bypass Jawbone Flats and head straight to Opal Pool, make a right turn across the log bridge, and turn left following the Kopetski Loop. This trail winds its way for a mile before reaching an overlook for Opal Pool.

Gate to Cedar Flats

Round trip a moderate 10.5 miles, 500 foot elevation gain. Cedar Flats can be reached from Jawbone Flats or from the Kopetski Loop trail. From Jawbone, hike towards Opal Pool, but walk past going uphill and turn right at the Cedar Flats trail sign. From the Kopetski Loop, continue across the bridge and rejoin the main trail.  Turn right and then right again at the Cedar Flats trail sign.

From Detroit to Elk Lake

At Detroit turn off Highway 22 at a sign for the Breitenbush River on paved road 46. Drive north for 4.4 miles and turn left at a small sign to Elk Lake onto gravel road 4696. Drive 0.8 miles and turn left onto road 4697. After 4.7 miles turn left at a sign for Elk Lake. After 2 miles of travel on a bad dirt road, park at the junction to Elk Lake campground and continue up the road on foot for 0.4 miles to the Bagby Hot Springs Trail 544, or to the Battle Ax and Mt. Beachie trails.
Opal Creek to Bagby Hot Springs

If you arrange for a friend to pick you up at the end of your hike, Opal Creek to Bagby Hot Springs is a great backpacking or long day hike trip. With a total of 17.5 miles and a 3200-foot elevation it can be completed in a long day, but it is worth your while to take a more relaxed pace by making it an overnighter. Head over Whetstone Mountain by continuing along the ridge on trail 546 to trail 544 (a.k.a. the Bagby Hot Springs trail). Follow trail 544 down the valley to Bagby. Silver King Lake makes a good mid-trip camping spot.

For about the same mileage with a 2700-foot elevation you can go through Jawbone Flats up trail 3339 to trail 3369. After hurdling many downed trees and climbing 2000 feet in a short 1.8 miles, follow trail 546 east to trail 544. The beginning of trail 544 is located at Elk Lake, for an 11.6-mile trip with a 900-foot elevation gain.

IMG_0460Elk Lake to Battle Ax

A moderate 4.5 mile loop hike, 1600 feet elevation gain

Elk Lake to Mt. Beachie

A moderate 5.8 miles round trip, 1200 feet elevation gain

Battle Ax and Mt. Beachie are heavily eroded volcanoes whose size may have once rivaled the much younger and taller High Cascades to the east. Worn down by glaciers, only their volcanic vents remain. Though the mountains lost much of their mass due to glaciation, Elk Lake and the Battle Ax Creek valley formed as a result. From the top of Battle Ax and Mt. Beachie there are stunning views of the Opal Creek and Bull of the Woods Wilderness areas. The High Cascades stretching from Mt. Adams to Diamond Peak are also visible from these summits. Battle Ax and Mt. Beachie offer little protection from the elements, so remember sunscreen and avoid electrical storms. After parking at the junction for the Elk Lake campground hike 1.1 miles to the saddle between Battle Ax and Mt. Beachie. To your right (north) Battle Ax rises 1200 feet in a short 1.6 miles. Mt. Beachie, though smaller, is a challenging 1.7 miles and 900 feet above you to your left (south). If you were to continue straight downhill, Jawbone Flats is 6.7 miles away.

The Battle Ax trail switchbacks up amidst weather-stunted trees and sub-alpine wild flowers before reaching the 5558 foot summit. Twisted Mountain Hemlock hang onto the top next to the foundation piers of a long gone Forest Service lookout. From the lookout site follow a faint trail leading to the north ridge. After 1.6 miles take a right at the Bagby Hot Springs Trail, 544. The route then contours along the east face of Battle Ax crossing many large rock slides with views of Mt. Jefferson. Passing two small lakes and a spring-fed slope enlivened with wildflowers, continue to the road and walk the 0.4 miles back to your car.

The trail leading up Mt. Beachie climbs for 1.7 miles along the north side of the ridge crossing large rock slides with Pikas, (a.k.a. Rock Rabbits) sounding out warning calls intermittently. Stop along this mostly exposed ridge when you find a spot with a good view of the Opal Creek valley. The trail continues for another mile before reaching a junction for Byars Peak. You can also circumvent the northern end of the Opal Creek valley along French Crest Ridge by staying on this trail. Please consult a map for more information about this area.

Whetstone Mountain LoopSeptember JJ

A strenuous 14.5-mile loop trail or 11-mile summit-and-back round trip hike, 3000 foot elevation gain.

This loop trail takes you to a lookout site on top of 4969-foot Whetstone Mountain, with views stretching from Mt. Adams to the Three Sisters. Noble and Pacific Silver firs dominate the summit ridge with rhododendrons in bloom from June to early July. Be sure to wear good hiking shoes and to carry lots of water. A good map of the area is also recommended.

Begin at the locked gate and continue up the road a quarter mile past the Gold Creek Bridge. On your left (north) take trail 3369 that climbs up an old road towards Whetstone Mountain. A mile up this road there is a fork. To the right is the Whetstone Mountain trail, which will take you to a secluded lookout site on top of Whetstone Mountain.

Traveling a total of 4.5 miles on trail 3369, you reach a steep side trail heading to the top of Whetstone Mountain. Though the lookout tower is gone, foundation piers and broken glass mark the site.

At this point you have the option of turning back for an 11-mile round trip hike. For those looking to do the entire loop continue east on trail 3369 for 0.8 miles where you make a right at the junction of trail 546 and 3369. In 0.4 miles you reach another fork in the trail where again you take a right continuing on trail 3369. This 1.8-mile section of the trail is covered with many downed trees and drops 2000 feet before reaching Battle Axe Creek. In the summer it’s an easy rock hop across but high spring run off can make it a cold wet crossing. Continue up the trail a short distance before making a right onto trail 3339.

Moving down towards Jawbone Flats you pass an old wilderness boundary gate, old mines and the remnants of an old mining camp. At the bottom of a series of road-grade switchbacks you will see a sign for Opal Pool, a short spur trail leading down to a scenic gorge. Continue down the road through Jawbone Flats and out to the trailhead.

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