For Memorial Day weekend this year we headed to Bend to visit Heather’s family and of course do some hiking. Having finally reached our goal of completing all 100 featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Oregon Cascades” 4th edition last year (post) we kicked off this trip with a stop at a the Whychus Canyon Preserve, which was a new featured hike in his 5th edition.
The 930 acre preserve is owned and managed by the Deschutes Land Trust who have established over 7 miles of hiker only (dogs on leash) trails open to the public. The focus here is conservation so respecting the rules and Leaving No Trace is imperative (as it always should be) in order to keep the access open. We arrived at the trailhead a little after 7am on Saturday morning to find the parking area empty.
Kiosk and bench at the trailhead.
A map at the kiosk shows that there are a number of loops possible here and we decided to deviate slightly from the route described by Sullivan.
From the kiosk we followed a pointer for the Rim & Creek Trails onto a dirt path.
The trail led slightly downhill, through a red gate and after just 0.2 miles arrived a “T” shaped junction with the Rim Trail where Sullivan has you turn right. We opted for a slightly longer loop and turned left instead.
Tent caterpillars (and the red gate)
As we followed the Rim Trail west along the canyon we began to get some good mountain views.
Mt. Washington and Black Butte (post)
Broken Top, The Three Sisters, Black Crater (post), Little Belknap & Belknap Crater (post), and Mt. Washington.
After 0.4 miles the trail made a 180 degree turn dropping further into the canyon.
Whychus Creek was hidden by trees for the most part.
While there weren’t a lot of wildflowers a number of different types were present.
Sedum leibergii -Leiberg’s Stonecrop
In addition to the various flowers we spotted some varied wildlife as well.
Magpie playing hard to get.
Pair of bucks in Whychus Creek
This is a good time to mention how much I appreciate the zoom on my Canon XS740HS. While I often look at other peoples photos and wish mine were as crisp/clear the compact size and low price (compared to even low end DSLR cameras) of the little point and shoot has worked well enough. Those two bucks are a good example as we spotted them from here.
Approximately 0.6 miles from the big turn we arrived at a signed junction. Uphill led back to the trailhead (where we would have come down following Sullivan’s directions) while the Creek Trail headed downhill to the left.
We turned downhill and switchbacked downhill for 0.2 miles to Whychus Creek.
We followed along the creek on this trail for 1.5 miles, ignoring a steep trail to the right at the 0.8 mile mark. The sounds of the creek combined with the songs of birds made for a relaxing stroll through the canyon.
Star-flower false solomonseal
Trail junction at the 0.8 mile mark.
Spider on a wallflower.
Heuchera cylindrica -roundleaf allumroot
At the 1.5 mile mark the trail turned uphill away from the creek and made a turn back toward the trailhead.
The trail climbed for 0.4 miles before leveling out near a rock outcrop where a side trail to the right led to a viewpoint.
Buckwheat and penstemon
Sign post for the viewpoint.
Heading for the rock outcrop/viewpoint.
Middle and North Sister with Whychus Creek below.
Two tenths of a mile beyond the viewpoint we passed the upper end of the cutoff trail coming up from the Creek Trail.
We were now on the Meadow Trail which we followed for 1.5 miles (ignoring a signed trail to the left at the 0.5 mile mark). We were still spotting different flowers and wildlife on this stretch.
Trail sign in the distance for spur trail to the Santiam Wagon Road.
Sagebrush false dandelions
Mountain bluebird pair
unidentified little songbird.
Second type of lizard
Just before reaching the trailhead the trail joined the Santiam Wagon Road at an interpretive sign.
This wasn’t the first time we’d been on this historic 400 mile route between the Willamette Valley and Eastern Oregon (House Rock, Iron Mountain, Fish Lake, Sand Mountain , ) but it did mark the eastern most portion we’d been on.
We turned right on the Wagon Road for a few steps and were back at the trailhead where there was now a second car. We were surprised there weren’t more considering how nice a hike it had been. We logged just a little over 5 miles on our GPS and were now ready to head to our second stop of the day at the Alder Springs Trailhead.
This was another chance to visit Whychus Creek but unlike Whychus Canyon we had done the hike at Alder Springs before (post). That hike had been almost 10 years prior having taken place on 8/3/2011. Two things stand out about that first visit. Most notably we only did the Alder Springs hike because our Plan A, Benson Lake/Scott Mountain Loop, was still under too much snow (also the mosquitos were horrendous). It has been quite some time since there has been that much snow that late in the year, yes climate change is real. Secondly it was a really nice hike but August probably wasn’t the best month for it. It’s been on my list of hikes to revisit at a different (better) time of the year. The road to the trailhead is seasonally closed (typically 12/1-3/31) so April or May seemed the best time to catch wildflowers and cooler temperatures.
Another difference between Whychus Canyon and Alder Springs is the access road. While the former is almost entirely paved with a short stretch of good gravel the latter is not far removed from a 4×4 jeep track. Rocks, washouts, and dried mud holes await for most of the final 4.7 miles to the rather larger parking area which we were surprised to find nearly full at 10:15am. At first we couldn’t figure out why there were so many
cars SUVs and trucks here while it was just us and one other car at the preserve then it hit us, you can camp here. That realization came from overhearing a large group saying something about having to make two trips down and “the beer”.
Looking back up the dirt access road to the North Sister, Mt. Washington and Black Butte
The trailhead signboard.
This time we didn’t take the side trip down the 0.4 mile Old Bridge Trail but otherwise it was the same route as we had taken nearly 10 years before. The big difference was the number of wildflowers in bloom and the number of people we encountered, mostly on the way back to the car. The scenery was stunning and the ford at the 1.5 mile mark refreshing.
Purple cushion fleabane
Blue mountain prairie clover
Haven’t id this one yet.
The Three Sisters, Belknap Crater and Mt. Washington with some dancing clouds.
Whychus Creek Canyon
Love the different rock formations in the canyon.
Pretty sure this side creek was dry on our previous visit.
Whychus Creek at the ford.
We’ll get into a little more of the history of Whychus Creek when we cover our Memorial Day hike but we noted that the water level seemed about the same as it had on our previous crossing and that the water was surprisingly warm given the source of the creek is the glaciers and snowfields of Broken Top and the Three Sisters. After a bit of thinking it dawned on us that higher up near Sisters water is diverted to irrigation ditches and other uses.
A clarkia, possibly Lassen
Creek dogwood and a beetle covered in pollen
Rose with crab spider
We took a break at the end of the trail along the Deschutes River before hiking back just as we had done on the previous visit.
Confluence of the Deschutes (left) and Whychus Creek (right).
Butterflies and birds were out in force on the hike back.
The hike here came in at 6.4 miles and 650′ of elevation gain giving us a little over 11.5 miles and 1120′ of climbing so far on the day.
We had one more quick stop planned for the day. Our first hike had been on Deschutes Land Trust land and the second in the Crooked River National Grassland managed by the Ochoco National Forest and our final stop at the Huntington Wagon Road was on BLM land. The hike here was of particular interest to me as the trailhead is only 2 miles from where I lived from 2nd grade until leaving home for college and yet I had no idea it was there. The BLM has created a 1.2 mile long interpretive trail along a section of a route that was built to haul supplies from The Dalles to build Fort Klamath.
Trailhead on McGrath Road.
There is a lot to see along the trail as far as scenery goes. It’s mostly sagebrush and juniper with some lava formations mixed in. The history is what makes this hike interesting, and the dozens of lizards scurrying about.
A 300+ year old juniper named an Oregon Heritage Tree
Sagebrush, juniper and lava – my childhood 🙂
Ruts along the wagon road.
Skipper on Showy townsendia.
Post marking the relic fence line and turnaround point.
An old fence post and barbed wire.
Junipers are some interesting trees, they come in all shapes and sizes.
In total we hiked 14 miles with 1150′ of elevation gain. We got to see two sections of Whychus Creek and Canyon as well as parts of two historic Wagon Roads. We ended the day by enjoying some homemade lasagna at Heather’s parents place. Not a bad way to start a holiday weekend. Happy Trails!
Flickr: Whychus Canyon Preserve, Alder Springs, and Huntington Wagon Road
One reply on “Whychus Canyon Preserve, Alder Springs, & Huntington Wagon Road – 05/29/21”
[…] on Memorial Day. We had started the weekend with two hikes along Whychus Creek east of Sisters (post). On Monday we stopped at the Whychus Creek Trailhead 4.2 miles west on Elm Street (Forest Road 16) […]