Opal Creek Wilderness – Opal Creek and Opal Pool (#)


May 29, 2011

Info: Thank you Oregon.com for the info!!! (http://www.oregon.com/Hike_Opal_Creek)

Difficulty: An easy 4-mile hike traverses the old-growth forest to 30-foot Sawmill Falls. A longer, 7.1-mile loop extends upriver to Opal Pool and Jawbone Flats, a Depression-era mining camp.

Season: Open all year, but the route may be snowy or icy after mid-winter storms.

Getting There: From Interstate 5 exit 253 in Salem, drive on East Santiam Highway 22 for 23 miles to Mehama’s second flashing yellow light. Opposite the Swiss Village Restaurant, turn left on Little North Fork Road for 15 paved miles and an additional 1.3 miles of gravel. At a fork, veer left on Road 2209. Then drive 4.2 miles to the locked gate. Residents of Jawbone Flats are allowed to drive the dirt road ahead; others must park and walk

Fees: A Northwest Forest Pass is required to park here. The pass costs $5 per day or $30 per season. (You can get a pass here ahead of time —  I get the annual pass — http://www.discovernw.org/store_national-forest-recreation-day-pass-national-forests-in-washington-and-oregon-only_09944.html)  It can be purchased at a ranger station, an outdoor store or at the trailhead fee box.

Hiking Tips: From the trailhead gate, the pleasantly primitive road crosses Gold Creek on a 60-foot-high bridge, skirts dramatic cliffs above the Little North Santiam River, and winds through an old-growth grove as impressive as any found farther upstream.

At the 2-mile mark, stop to inspect the rusting machinery of Merten Mill on the right. The mill operated briefly during the Depression, using winches from the battleship USS Oregon, but folded after two of the mill’s lumber trucks fell off the narrow canyon road. Now a camping area for backpackers, the mill site has one small empty building that can serve as emergency shelter. A short side trail behind the building leads to Sawmill Falls, a 30-foot cascade pouring into a deep green pool ideal for a chilly swim.

The route forks 0.2 mile beyond Merten Mill. Turn right across the river on a 100-foot bridge above a lovely gravel beach. The hike then follows the somewhat rough Opal Creek Trail left along the Little North Santiam River through woods where twinflower blooms and huckleberries ripen in July. After a mile, a sign points left 50 feet to Opal Pool’s scenic gorge.

To return on a loop, turn left, cross a footbridge at the head of Opal Pool, climb to an old mining road and keep left through Jawbone Flats, a well-preserved collection of 27 buildings dating from 1929-1932. Jawbone Flats has been donated to the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center as an old-growth study center.

Respect the residents’ privacy by staying on the road. Dogs must be leashed here. On summer weekends, a tiny store in the settlement sells snacks, drinks and T-shirts. The center also includes several rentable cabins for $100-$300 that sleep 2-16 (for information call 503-897-2921 or check www.opalcreek.org).

An optional side trip for those who would to see more of Opal Creek begins at Opal Pool. When you reach the trail junction beside Opal Pool continue upstream 0.6 mile to a single-log footbridge. Along the way you’ll pass several small waterfalls. If you like, continue 0.9 mile upstream on a rougher trail to Cedar Flat’s trio of ancient red cedars, 500-1,000 years old. Near here, the Beachie Creek crossing, on a mossy log, is a good place to turn around. The trail peters out beyond this point.

Jawbones Flats is a Depression-era mining camp that now greets hikersHistory: Opal Creek’s ancient forest was thrust to fame in the 1980s by controversy over Forest Service logging proposals. National television crews and thousands of visitors hiked to Jawbone Flats’ rustic mining camp and scrambled over a rugged “bear trail” to view the endangered old-growth groves towering above this creek’s green pools. By the time Opal Creek finally won Wilderness protection in 1998 an improved path had been built to make the area more hiker-friendly. The new trail shortcuts from the Little North Santiam River to Opal Creek, making possible a loop trip to Opal Pool’s gorge and Jawbone Flats.

Geology: Miners at Jawbone Flats did not find commercial quantities of gold, and so they concentrated on nickel and other minerals instead.

Jenn’s View:I was wet and miserable. LOL. The only downside to the trail was that it was a “road” not a hiking through a forest type trail until you get to the bridge. It was a pretty interesting hike though. We did end up at an “old town” type of place and ate our Subway Sammich!  Just watch for the crazy shuttle van that transports people who rent the cabins from the parking lot. At times I wanted to hop on!  I know we encountered a mine but the entrance was blocked. 🙂


The Falls and the area were actually beautiful. I will try this hike again. It will be at the bottom of my list unless someone wants to shuttle me up to Opal Pool and then I will hike all of Opal Creek area 🙂

Here is the map I downloaded from Oregon.com. Same website that I got all that information from. So we started at the Lock Gate. I believe that’s the parking area. We “walked” on the road towards Opal Pool and hit the bridge. It was a very long walk but Joyce, Terri and I made it a blast.

We found a little area that we pretended (Okay, just Joyce) that she was looking for Edward Cullen from Twilight. She’s so silly.

Well, here are a few of my favorite shots:

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Opal Creek Wilderness – Henline Trail (#9)

 May 21, 2011

Info: (from my book: Oregon Hiking, the complete guide to More than 490 hikes) From the lookout site beneath Henline Mountain, the ridges and peaks of the Cascades ripple into the distance like frozen waves, their folded ridges flowing down to the Little North Santiam River. The lookout site is not on the peak of Henline, but who’s counting? a 1.1-mile trail, rough as it is, continues past this lookout to the 4,650 foot peak, but the view from this destination is in itself worth the climb. This is also an initial foray into the Opal Creek Wilderness. Prepare to climb steadily and steeply for the 2.8 mile trail to the old lookout point. You’ll gain 2,200 feet in this short distance, so give yourself plenty of time.
Directions: Drive east from Salem on OR 22 for 23 miles to Mehama and turn left on Little North Fork Road for 16.3 miles to a fork. Go to the left on Road 2209 for one mile and park on the right near the trailhead.
Jenn’s View: Dang, this hike was hard. Had to stop a couple of times at the switchbacks to catch my breath. Was in much better shape so this hike was such a great work out. This wasn’t on the agenda when I first did this hike. I was headed towards Opal Pool but when I got there, the parking area was full. I remembered I saw another trail on the way towards Opal Pool so I turned my little car around and found the beginning of this trail. I pulled out my hiking book to see what the difficulty rating was and was excited to find it to be some what difficult. Got the dog and off we went. UPDATE: I have hit this trail TWICE now and both times I hit snow!
It starts off already with a climb UP! We didn’t hike very far and you can see my car way down there! Shadowlynn loved this hike – super good work out for her as well. The trail is a little narrow and if you fall, man that would hurt!

I see my car! That little white blob
When it’s just Shadowlynn and I, I normally listen to music really loud. Distracts me from the heavy breathing that I’m doing!
Most of the trail is all wooded and not too many breaks in the tree line to see much of anything but trees. 
We hit a really neat rock outcrop. The trail is pretty flat when you are climbing up (again) but it was a great opportunity to take pictures. It’s actually pretty neat. Wonder how they got all those rocks up there. LOL

The camera was literally hanging upside down on a tree when I took this shot. Self timer is the best!
Did meet a couple of people on the trail. Like I mentioned up above, the trails are narrow, so be careful! Would really suck to tumble down the side of the cliff!
At the end of the rock area, you hit more treed areas.

Would trail run as much as I can!
The first view point is a little hard to find. I’m one to venture off and find little trails, which I really shouldn’t do cuz one of these days, I’ll probably get lost! But this time, I’m glad I did. On the trail, you come to a rock wall type of area to your right side. I believe it’s the second set that you will see a little pathway heading towards the TOP of this rock wall. Climb it! If you aren’t scared of heights, do it…You will not regret it. It’s not that hard of a climb, my teenage kids did it and my sister, Joyce Piol, did it when I took them up on the trail the second time around. It leads you to a very flat area that shows the views of, I believe, is the Opal Creek Wilderness. Ate lunch here and enjoyed the views and the sounds.

The area was quite big and lots of room to walk around and take in the surroundings. Great opportunity to take a couple of pictures. 

After eating and looking around the area, I hit the trails again to go to the top. 
Brrrr, getting colder but the more I move, the hotter I get
I hit a road block trying to reach the top — 5 INCHES of SNOW! Met a lovely young man on the trail, Kevin and tried to go through the snow but he started sinking so we turned around and headed down. Will plan to do the whole thing in the summer. There is a waterfall that I see in the middle of the mountain. Determined to find out what waterfall that is and how I’m going to get there. 🙂
If you click on this picture, it will make it bigger. If you look close enough, there is a little white vertical line – That’s a WATERFALL! I want to know which waterfall that is and how to get there!
JUNE 5, 2011
 So, my second attempt at hoping to reach the top and do the trail! This time I brought my son, Timothy James (TJ) Hunter, my daughter Makaila Hunter, and my sister Joyce Piol. My other daughter had no desire to go. Boo on her! My sister was super glad that TJ went because they were able to rest at every switch back waiting for TJ to catch up. Shadowlynn and I went ahead to see if I remembered how to get to the first view point.  It’s not that hard to find the rock area to climb, just follow the small trail on the right. Makaila and I reached the top. The views are still amazing.
Makaila and I!

I don’t think she was getting any reception but she sure is trying!
We took the opportunity to take some silly pictures. It’s not really rock climbing, we made it look like it. If you are scared of heights, you will crawl like this to get over the wall to get to the flat area.

Ate lunch before heading back on the trail but of course had to take more pictures!
See, the area is quite large…

Good ol’ ShadowLynn
So, on our way up… we were hearing quite a bit of thunder. I don’t think we saw any lightening but the thunder was echoing in the valley. I was scared to see any lightening since we were so high up. No rain yet but it’s coming! We got a great break in the tree line to take some pictures. I bet you would be able to see great views of Mt. Jefferson or Adams or Broken Top or 3 Finger Jack if the visibility was better. 🙂
Joyce paying homage to the Nature Gods

Well, we did get a bit further up than my first attempt to complete this trail. But low and behold, we hit the snow! We thought we could still get through it but we hit a pretty deep and slippery area so we turned around.

TJ slipping on the snow…If you slipped, you would tumble down the cliff!

 So, since it was useless to attempt it, we turned around and Kaila and I decided to rock climb instead!

Made it to the top!

Climbing back down. Harder to go down than it is going up
To be continued….. (I’m gonna complete this hike someday!)

Santiam State Forest – Lower and Upper Butte Creek Falls (#8)

Scotts Mill, Oregon
May 7, 2011

Info: (http://www.waterfallsnorthwest.com/nws/falls.php?num=4443) This gorgeous 78 foot waterfall is the highlight of the Butte Creek Falls trail system, and the view from the viewpoint makes it all that much more impressive. The falls are viewed from atop a rocky promontory, jutting 150 feet above Butte Creek, which makes a wide 180 degree turn around the obstacle. The trail actually continues down the ledge, clinging precariously to the edge of the cliffs at points (not something I wanted to try in the rain), eventually reaching the base of the falls, and Lower Butte Creek Falls, which are located immediately below the large plunge pool of Butte Creek Falls (the lower falls are, however, very difficult to clearly see). Flowering trees can be seen adorning the basin in the spring months, some of which stand at perfect locations to frame the waterfall. KATU did even a story on these falls. http://www.katu.com/younews/99994229.html
Difficulty: Easy but careful it’s slick                                                                   Distance: unknown
Jenn’s View:
I loved it even though it rained and was wet, slick, muddy —  I loved this area. It’s easy and relatively flat except in areas that I had to get great pictures but otherwise a great trail for kids and families of all ages. Just be super careful when you get to one of the falls. The ledge is quite high and slick. A dog had fallen off the ledge and died. Was on KATU news. 😦  You must go in SPRING to get the full waterfall effect. Otherwise, the waterfall display is minimal and not so grandeur! Like most waterfalls in Oregon.
Upper/Lower Butte Creek Falls are northeast of Salem, OR.

  1. On I-5 take Salem exit 256 (Market St. / Hwy 213)
  2. Head east on Market St. (note HWY 213 sign)
  3. At the second light turn left on Lancaster (HWY 213 sign).
  4. After 1.3 miles turn right on Silverton Road.
  5. In another 10 miles (while in Silverton) you will reach a three-way
    stop sign. Turn left to remain on HWY 213
  6. Turn left on 1st St.
  7. Turn right on Oak St. (HWY 213)
  8. In another 4.8 miles turn right onto Scott’s Mills Road NE
  9. In another 2.7 miles (while in Scott’s Mills) turn right onto Crooked Finger Rd.
    (go past park for McKay Falls)
  10. After 9.2 miles Crooked Finger Road turns to gravel.
  11. Note your odometer or reset your trip odometer at this point.
  12. In 2.1 miles turn left onto road CF400 (but not marked as such)
  13. In one-tenth mile the road forks. Take the right fork.
  14. In another 1.8 miles there will be a rest area with parking on the left.
  15. Trail to the falls starts here.


 I had such a crappy day the day I did this hike. The night before, I wrecked the front end of my car and then got it towed at an apartment complex and had to wait till the next morning to get it out! I was feeling quite depressed and so I loaded up the rental car that I got and took off. I printed this fall (and many others) from Oregonwaterfalls.net.  But my rental car sure did get me there!
 Here is my poor wrecked car before they hauled it away 😦
 It was sunny when I left but sure did start to pour when I got there. Glad I brought my ski jacket to keep me warm. I still loved it though! The road to get there was pretty neat.  The sun shining through the trees…makes a great photo opportunity.

You’ll see the trail head to the left of you. The trail is pretty easy but be careful of the slippery rocks and mud.

The first fall I came to was Upper Butte, I think. he he. I don’t know, a fall is a fall….

You can walk down this little path to get behind the waterfall.  The water level was a little too high and it was quite muddy, so I stayed away from it. 🙂 I’m not dumb.  Did discover a little grave site.  Didn’t really see an actual grave, just the crosses.

For Spring in Oregon, it was still very cold. The jacket did get soaked but still kept me warm :).  Start traveling down the trail and you will always hear the creek. Tons of water going through.  I think Spring is a great time to go since the waterfalls are at their best display. Unfortunately, it is so wet and cold in Oregon that it deters me from actually going out and seeking them.  But once I get the bug to go, I go!

There was one part of the trail that I really wanted to get a picture of but had to practically slide down this hill and hopefully not fall in.  Pictures from my phone DOES NOT do it justice!

 It was pretty close to Lower Butte so climbed up the hill and voila, hit the next falls.  Like I said, easy trail, relatively flat…you can trail run this.

Me being a bit of a dare devil.  The cliff is pretty high but heights really don’t scare me. 

Of course Pics for my Facebook wall…he he

The trail back towards the car…you see interesting things. Someone made a chair to sit on. 

After returning to my car, I was looking for another hike to do.  Started following this road to get to a lake.

Unfortunately the higher I went, the more snow I saw until I got to the point that this rental car would not be able to go through. he he.

The END… 🙂
Go check out Santiam State Forest – Abiqua Falls blog dated October 23, 2011.  It is less than a couple of miles from here and the Fall is amazing!