Opal Creek Trail

Oregon's Western Cascades

Opal Creek - August 2011

Opal Creek

Several trails follow the pristine Opal Creek — named for Opal Elliot, wife of US Park Service ranger Roy Elliot — for a relatively easy hike through ancient Oregon forests. Representing one of the most beautiful in Oregon, the creek is located within the boundaries of the Willamette National Forest on the Willamette Valley side of the Cascade Range south of Mt. Hood. It's also notable for being the largest uncut watershed in the state.

Due to the efforts of the members of the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center (formerly the Friends of Opal Creek), the 35,000+ acre Opal Creek Wilderness and Scenic Recreation Area has been federally protected since 1996.

Word has gotten out about Opal Creek so you can expect to see quite a few people, especially on weekends. The first couple miles are along a wide gravel service road that accesses Jawbone Flats and the Forest Center. You can proceed straight to the Forest Center or cross the creek and hike through some incredibly beautiful old-growth forest to Opal Pool.

At the bridge just above the pool, you can hike to Cedar Flats, proceed east to Battle Ax Creek Trail, or loop around through the Forest Center for your return trip.

No trace camping is allowed outside the fifteen acres owned by Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center and their facility at Jawbone Flats.

  • Details
  • Getting There
  • Trail Map

Permits & Passes: $5 day use fee.

Distance: From the trailhead, it's 6.25 miles roundtrip to Jawbone Flats. At about 2.2 miles from the trailhead, cross the bridge and hike to Opal Pool. After crossing the bridge above Opal Pool, you can hike an additional 1.8 miles south to Cedar Flats or turn left and hike WNW to loop back to Jawbone Flats and return to the trailhead.

Elevation gain: 300 ft.

Level of difficulty: Easy

Season: Open year around.

From I-5 near Salem, drive east on Hwy 22 to milepost 23. (The Swiss Village Restaurant is noted on most directions ... it's now closed but still standing and will be on your right.) Turn left on North Fork Road (marked Little North Santiam Recreation Area) and continue 14 miles. When you run into gravel road, you will be on Forest Service road (FSR) 2209. After a mile and a half, you will come to a fork in the road. Take the left fork to continue on FSR 2209 for four miles to reach the Opal Creek trailhead.

For accurate, up-to-date information, visit the ranger station at Detroit Lake for Forest Service maps.


Related links

Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center— OCAFC mixes exploration with education. Workshops include diverse programs from mushrooming to fly fishing for adults and summer activities for teens. Their base of operations is located at Jawbone Flats, an old mining town that has been repurposed and is completely off grid.

USDA Forest Service Information— Information for Opal Creek Trail is posted at the Forest Service website.