Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Dome Rock

In July of 2010 we made our first attempt to hike to Phantom Bridge (we finally made it in 2011 on our third try). A washout had closed access to the most popular trailheads and the trailheads shown in our guidebook, the Phantom Bridge Trailhead and the French Creek Trailhead – West. This left us looking for an alternate route to the natural arch and while I was doing some research on the Willamette National Forest website I came across the French Creek Trailhead – East. I was able to find a photo at the time online of a sign at this trailhead along Forest Road 458.

It was going to make the hike quite a bit longer than necessary but we were obsessed with seeing the Phantom Bridge. From Detroit, OR we followed the directions from the Forest Service website to FR 480. The road was narrow and exposed with steep drop-offs which made it one of the more nerve wracking drives to date. The road conditions weren’t as bad as some we’ve driven but the scare factor was high. We watched the odometer but when we had gone the correct distance we saw no sign of the trailhead. After finding a place where we could turn around (the road was blocked by a small rockslide beyond) we slowly backtracked looking for any signs of a trail.

Instead of continuing to search for a trailhead that we now weren’t even sure existed anymore we decided to get down off the scary road and try something else. When we were back down to safer roads we consulted our guidebook and discovered that just 2.3 miles west of Detroit along Highway 22 was the Tumble Creek South Trailhead. A 10.3 mile hike from this trailhead would take us to the former lookout site atop Dome Rock and back.

The thought of a trailhead that didn’t require any more driving on Forest Roads was too tempting to pass up so we drove west of Detroit on Highway 22 and parked on the north shoulder at a gated road bed nest to Tumble Creek. The actual trail started .4 miles up the closed road at a small trail sign.
Tumble Ridge Trail

The trail climbed steeply uphill making several switchbacks. Occasional views could be of Detroit Lake and several Cascade peaks.
Mt. JeffersonMt. Jefferson

Detroit LakeDetroit Lake

Mt. Washington and the Three SistersMt. Washington and the Three Sisters

Mt. Washington and the Three SistersMt. Washington and the Three Sisters

Park Ridge and Mt. JeffersonMt. Jefferson

The trail passed through a brushy area at an old road bed near the Margie Dunham Spring approximately 3 1/4 miles from the old road bed along Tumble Creek.
Tumble Ridge Trail

From there the climb became more gradual as it passed a couple of interesting rock formation including one dubbed “Toilet Rock”.
Toilet Rock

About a mile from the Margie Dunham Spring we came to the junction with the trail up to Dome Rock. Here we turned right climbing a final .5 miles to the old lookout site. The view was great from the summit and included the top of Mt. Hood to the north and Tumble Lake below to the NW. It was also our first good look at the distinctively flat topped Coffin Mountain (post).
View from Dome Rock Coffin and Bachelor Mountains in front of Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, and The Three Sisters

Tumble LakeTumble Lake

Mt. HoodMt. Hood

Mt. JeffersonClose up of Mt. Jefferson

After admiring the view we returned to the Tumble Lake Trail. We briefly considered continuing to Tumble Lake but it was another 1.7 miles just to get to the lake meaning 3.4 additional miles in all plus we would lose around 800′ of elevation going down to the lake and we had already climbed over 3250′. Maybe next time. Instead we retraced our steps down to Highway 22 and headed back to Salem. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Dome Rock

Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Phantom Bridge & Opal Lake

This week were covering a 8/14/2011 visit to Phantom Bridge and Opal Lake located at the southern end of the Opal Creek Wilderness. Our main focus on this hike was to finally make it to Phantom Bridge. We had tried twice before having failed first in 2010 to find an alternate trailhead due to washouts along the roads to the trailhead we would use on this hike. A month prior to this hike we attempted to come from the west along the Elkhorn Ridge Trail, a trip that will be covered in a later throwback post.

The third time was the charm though as Road 2207 had been reopened and we were able to drive from Detroit, OR to the French Creek Ridge Trailhead.
French Creek Ridge Trailhead

The French Creek Trail extended to both the east and west from the trailhead. Phantom Bridge lay to the west so we crossed Road 2207 and picked up the trail at a downed trail sign.
French Creek Ridge Trail sign

We followed the trail for 1.3 miles to small forest Cedar Lake passing Dog Tooth Rock and views of Opal Lake and the Opal Creek Wilderness.
Dog Tooth Rock

View from the French Creek Ridge Trail

Opal Lake

Cedar Lake

Near Cedar Lake a connector trail from Road 2207 near Opal Lake was marked by a trail sign.
Trail sign for Opal Lake

We decided that on the way back we’d take that trail down to visit Opal Lake before heading back to our car. For now though we continued west on what had become the Elkhorn Ridge Trail.
Elkhorn Ridge Trail

We came to a second possible trailhead .7 miles from Cedar Lake on Road 2223. This trailhead just a quarter mile from Phantom Bridge the road has a reputation for being a nasty drive so the 2 mile hike from the French Creek Ridge Trailhead was preferable to us. Along this stretch wildflowers lined the trail and views extended from Mt. Hood to the Three Sisters.
Elkhorn Ridge Trail

Mt. Hood

Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack and The Three Sisters

Phantom Bride spanned a 50′ wide chasm to the right (north) of the trail.
Phantom Bridge

A short side path led out to the rock arch (on the right hand side in the photo below).
Phantom Bridge

I walked out onto the arch and took a picture looking back toward the side path.
Phantom Bridge

After admiring this geologic feature we returned to Cedar Lake and headed steeply downhill toward Road 2207 at the trail sign we’d passed earlier. The steep trail was rather brushy and we decided not to return up it after visiting Opal Lake opting instead to walk Road 2207 up to the trailhead. From the road Phantom Bridge was visible high up on the hillside.
Phantom Bridge form road 2207 near Opal Lake

Phantom Bridge

Blank signboards marked the half mile trail down to Opal Lake.
Opal Lake Trail

The trail was basically a runoff stream bed which made it rather rocky and uneven.
Opal Lake Trail

Opal Lake Trail

The brush rimmed lake was very pretty and it teemed with activity.
Opal Lake

Opal Lake

Swallowtail butterfly on a bog orchid

Lorquin's admiral butterfly


Rough skinned newt in Opal Lake

After watching the butterflies, dragonflies and newts at the lake we returned to the road and followed it uphill to our waiting car. It was a fairly steep walk but not as steep as it would have been going back up to Cedar Lake and the road was lined with wildflowers which made it a little nicer than some road walks.
Paintbrush and penstemon

Happy Trails!

Flickr: Phantom Bridge & Opal Lake