We woke up at Wiley Camp on Labor Day and got ready to head back to the Hummingbird Meadows Trailhead. Our plan for the day was to drive back to Salem via Highway 138 and stop at the Boulder Creek Wilderness, one of the five remaining Oregon wilderness areas we had yet to visit (post) and one of Sullivan’s featured hikes.
It was the least smokey morning of the weekend which made for a pleasant 2 mile hike back to our car.
Buck Canyon Trail
View from the Buck Canyon Trail
Hummingbird Meadows Trail
West Fork Muir Creek
We drove back to Diamond Lake (post) from the trailhead then took Highway 138 toward Roseburg to milepost 55. There we turned right onto Medicine Creek Road and made an immediate left onto Soda Springs Road following it for 1.3 miles to the Soda Springs Trailhead.
From the trailhead we took the Soda Springs Trail which ducked beneath a large steel pipe diverting water from the North Umpqua River to a nearby power station.
The trail began climbing immediately after passing under the pipe and quickly arrived at a signed junction where the North Umpqua Trail forked to the right.
The trail continued to climb through previously burned woods to another junction .4 miles from the trailhead.
This was the Bradley Trail onto which we turned left following pointers for Pine Bench.
This trail climbed over 650′ in the next mile before leveling out along the broad plateau of Pine Bench. There was an increasing presence of poison oak along the trail which we kept our eyes out for. It was especially bad along the hillside after we entered a more recent (2017) fire scar.
Bradley Trail passing below some cliffs.
A lot of the poison oak was turning color which made it easier to spot.
Entering the 2017 fire scar.
Bradley Trail arriving at Pine Bench.
It was a hot climb in the exposed sun so reaching the forest atop Pine Bench was a nice reprise from both the heat and the vast majority of poison oak.
Rock formation visible from the Bradley Trail.
A little over a mile and a half from the Soda Springs/Bradley Trail junction we arrived at the Boulder Creek Trail.
We turned right here looking for a side trail to a spring near a campsite.
Common wood nymph
Illahee Rock Lookout
We passed the campsite after .4 miles but we didn’t take the unsigned spur trail down to the spring due to the GPS map showing the trail further off.
Spur trail to the left.
We quickly realized that the trail we had seen must have been the one we wanted but decided to continue on for now. From the campsite the trail continued to Boulder Creek after 1.7 miles. We were seeing very little poison oak and it was a nice day on the bench so we opted to do Sullivan’s longer described hike to the creek. The trail made a few unexpectedly steep up and downs and it grew fainter with a few downed snags but it was passable and there were signs of recent brushing/trail maintenance.
Just over half a mile from the campsite we passed the very faint Perry Butte Trail.
Trail maintenance and ripe blackberries.
Looking up the Boulder Creek Valley
Looking down at the trail across a side drainage.
Looking across the Boulder Creek valley.
Small fall on Boulder Creek
Final drop down to Boulder Creek.
We took a short break on the rocks along the creek before turning back.
The continuation of the Boulder Creek Trail on the far side of Boulder Creek which reportedly becomes even fainter and more wild.
After cooling off a bit we started the process of climbing back up to the campsite and the spur trail to the spring.
When we made it back to the spur trail we turned down it for 100 yards to a wide open area with madrone trees.
The spring was just below some rocks on the left but there wasn’t much water flowing this time of year.
After another short break we continued back to the Bradley Trail junction. We stayed straight here following the Boulder Creek Trail downhill through the 2017 fire scar. While there had been a good deal of poison oak along the Bradley Trail this trail put that one to shame. It was all avoidable but it was thick along the trail as it switchbacked downhill. There was also one switchback near the top where we were forced to walk down a large downed tree.
Fern tree along the Boulder Creek Trail.
This log was the trail.
Another switchback with poison oak on all sides of the trail.
The bright side of going down this way was there was a wilderness sign, or at least most of one (we hadn’t seen one on the other side).
After a approximately 1.5 miles we arrived at a junction with the North Umpqua Trail where we turned left on an old roadbed.
We followed the road another tenth of a mile or so to a gate blocking the road at the Boulder Creek Trailhead.
Not too far from the gate we came to a pair of boulders blocking the road meaning the actual trailhead is inaccessible via car although there was room to park at the boulders. We continued down the road which brought us close to the North Umpqua River near the power station.
We stopped at the far end of the Soda Springs Day Use Area to read the interpretive signs before returning to our car.
We headed back to Salem and when we were back in cell range began receiving alerts about a hazardous wind event. By the time we made it back to Salem strong dry winds from the east had pushed the Lionshead and Beachie Creek Fires into the valley. Later that evening/night those fires would explode along with numerous other new fires up and down the West Coast. A slightly smokey but wonderful Labor Day Weekend turned into a nightmare for thousands. The fires continue to be a huge danger to many but the winds have shifted and rain is in the forecast so hopefully some relief is coming. Happy Trails and stay safe.
Flickr: Boulder Creek Wilderness