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Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Wildcat Canyon (Maston Trail System) – 10/11/2020

A wet weather system arrived with the weekend dropping some much need rain over the wildfires in Oregon and depositing a decent amount of new snow on the Cascades. This was great news and one of the few times that we were more than happy that our original plan was forced to change due to weather. We were going to be in Bend to celebrate the 75th birthday of Heather’s Dad which provided us an opportunity to hike in the rain shadow of the Cascades before heading home Sunday morning. It was a nice celebration and a rare event for all our calendars to align and be together.

Having finished all 100 featured hikes (post) in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Oregon Cascades” (4th edition) we turned to his 5th edition of the book and decided to check out Wildcat Canyon (Hike #36). Wildcat Canyon is part of the Bureau of Land Management’s Maston Trail System, a 4,000 acre mixed use network of trails for hikers, bikers, and equestrians. It also happens to be located in my old stomping grounds near Tumalo, OR. The Maston Trailhead (see previous link) is less than 10 driving miles from the my parent’s old house between Bend and Redmond and just over 5 miles from my former elementary school. Way back then the Maston Trail System didn’t exist but I had spent time exploring the Deschutes River Canyon near that area, closer to Eagle Crest Resort, so I was excited to check the trail system out.

We were the second car at the Maston Trailhead that morning.
Sunrise at the Maston Trailhead

Maston TrailheadCline Buttes from the Maston Trailhead.

It was a crisp morning with a bit of frost on the ground, the kind of morning that reminded me of a high school job I had moving irrigation pipes at a nearby farm. We set off through the equestrian parking area and passed through an open fence by a trail map.
Equestrain trail at the Maston Trailhead

Maston Trailhead map

This was the Settlement Trail (an equestrian/hiker only trail), named for the settlers who had cleared the land and began constructing farms in the early 1900’s in preparation of the arrival of irrigation water. The water never came and by the 1930’s the farms had been abandoned.
Interpretive sign at the Maston TrailheadInterpretive sign at the Maston Trailhead telling the story of the settlers.

Old foundations along the Settlement TrailStone foundation of one of the abandoned buildings along the Settlement Trail.

We followed the Settlement Trail by staying right at junctions for the first 1.5 miles.
Settlement Trail

Settlement TrailTypical sign at a junction. Not all of the junctions had signs and not all of the signs identified which trail/junction it was so having a copy of the trail system map is a really good idea.

There were a lot of different birds about but most wouldn’t stay still long enough for a picture and those that did perched at the top of junipers distant enough to make identifying them even with a 30x zoom a bit difficult.
Songbird atop a juniperThis one may be a sparrow of some sort, it was signing quite a bit.

Bird atop a juniperPossibly another sparrow or a finch or something else.

Bluebird atop a treeMaybe a bluebird?

We took a wrong turn at a junction just over a half mile from the trailhead. We had been expecting to see the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead to our right which our guidebook indicated we should go down to, so when we spotted a signboard along a road less then a tenth of a mile to our right we headed for it. When we got to the little pullout at the road we double checked the map and realized that we had turned right too early so we turned around and returned to the junction. We turned right again and continued on the Settlement Trail another quarter of a mile to the actual Wildcat Canyon Trailhead.
Wildcat Canyon Parking from the Settlement TrailWildcat Canyon Trailhead off to the right.

We spotted the only non-bird wildlife of the day near this trailhead when a rabbit raced out of the sagebrush and paused briefly on the other side of a juniper.
Out of focus rabbit behind the juniperI managed to snap one photo and of course the camera focused on said juniper instead of the rabbit beyond.

We stayed straight at the trailhead on the Settlement Trail which was now almost directly next to the Rockbar Trail (a mountain bike trail). The Settlement Trail quickly arrived on the basalt cliffs above the Deschutes River Canyon.
Deschutes River and Wildcat CanyonWildcat Canyon on the right joining the Deschutes River Canyon

Deschutes RiverThe Deschutes River near where the canyons meet.

Deschutes RiverGrizzly Mountain in the distance beyond the Deschutes River.

The trail turned north along the canyon rim which we followed for half a mile, switching to the Rockbar Trail when the equestrian trail crossed over it.
Deschutes RiverAnother of several viewpoints along the rim.

Deschutes RiverSome Fall color along the Deschutes River.

Rock doveRock dove

Deschutes River CanyonA viewpoint along the Rockbar Trail.

Deschutes River

Deschutes RiverLooking south up the river canyon.

Deschutes RiverA calm pool along the Deschutes.

Stellar's jayI could see this one, a Stellar’s jay.

Shortly after the Rockbar Trail turned away from the canyon it crossed a private road.
Rockbar TrailComing up to the road.

We followed Sullivan’s instructions and jogged left 100′ picking up the equestrian trail again.
An equestrian continuing on the far side of Necomb Road

We turned uphill on the equestrian trail to a junction with the Headgate Trail, another mountain bike trail, in just 100 yards.
Headgate Trail

We turned left following this single track through the juniper and sagebrush for approximately 2 miles ignoring side trails along the way.
Headgate Trail

Headgate TrailThis was Junction 2 (one of the junctions with an identifying sign). We stayed right on the Headgate Trail here.

At a slightly higher elevation than the Settlement Trail the Headgate Trail would have provided a fairly nice view of the Cascades but on this day they were mostly shrouded in clouds although we could see fresh snow on Tam McArthur Rim (post) and on the lowest portion of the South and North Sisters.
View from the Headgate TrailTam McArthur Rim is left center with South Sister in the center and North Sister to the right center.

We turned down what we believe on the map to be the Maston Tie Trail (it was unmarked) and followed it for a quarter of mile back to the beginning of the Settlement Trail at the Maston Trailhead.
Maston Tie TrailHeather and Dominique on the Maston Trail.

Maston Tie Trail comging back to the Maston TrailheadComing up on the Settlement Trail.

This wound up being a nice loop, just under 5 miles, with minimal elevation gain (200′ or so). The network of trails provides options for both shorter and longer loops too with multiple starting points available. We hope to come back again in the Spring some year to check out more of the area and see what it looks like during a different season. Until then this was a great introduction to the area. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Wildcat Canyon

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