Location: Opal Creek Wilderness, Williamette National Forest, Cascade Mountains, Oregon
Distance: about 7 miles
Opal Creek is about a 2 hour drive from Portland and is one of the last areas of large old growth forest. There was quite a bit of controversy over potential logging there in the 1980s-1990s, but it has now been set aside as a wilderness area. Some of the trees are around 8 feet in diameter, although we didn’t see them on this hike.
The hike we did was along a gravel road that is closed to traffic. The road goes to a very tiny town called Jawbone Flats. It originated as a mining outpost and currently has 11 residents. It is also a non-profit education center with workshops. The walk to town is about 3.2 miles. There are several hiking options in this area, but when we were there, 3-4 feet of snow was still on the ground and only the road was cleared for hiking without snowshoes. The Little North Santiam River runs along the road, and several creeks run into the river, some with very nice waterfalls. The water in the river and creeks was incredibly clear.