Opal Creek is a trail that seems to take you back in time. A short distance into the hike you will come across Merten Mill, with some of it's rusting machinery from the Depression Era still visible. The mill still has a small building that remains, with a short path down to Sawmill Falls, lying behind it. Many natural rock slides and pools fill the narrow Little North Santiam River that runs along with Opal Creek, before meeting at Opal Pool. A large waterfall is viewable from a log bridge that spans over the pool and waterfall, making for a great viewpoint. Much of the trail winds through thick forest with huckleberries scattered along the path. The trail continues, and makes a loop as it goes through the small community of Jawbone Flats. The turn back the clock feel is due in part to it's 27 well preserved buildings that date back to 1929 - 1932. After passing through, the trail crosses back and finally makes a 7.1 mile loop. A very enjoyable trail with lots of wilderness to see, along with some history of the area.
Trail Info: Opal Creek is a 7.1 mile loop, with just 300 feet of elevation gain. The trail is rated as moderate, and has some roots and narrow sections with overgrowth.
Where: Opal Creek is about 110 miles from Eugene, located near Mehama.
When: Meet at Best Buy at 7:30AM. Leave before 8:00AM.
Directions: From I-5 North, take Exit 253 for HWY 22 - North Santiam Highway. Continue going on HWY 22 East for 23 miles until you get to Mehama's second flashing yellow light. Opposite the Swiss Village Restaurant, turn left onto Little North Fork Road for 15 paved miles, and an additional 1.3 of gravel. At a fork, veer left on Road 2209 and continue 4.2 miles to a parking lot and a locked gate. The trail starts at the gate. GPS coordinates for the Opal Ceek Trailhead are N 44. 50.370' and W[masked]'.
Details: I plan on leaving Best Buy by 8:00AM. After reaching the trailhead we will hike in to Sawmill Falls to take a short break and enjoy a snack. After enjoying our snacks and relaxing some, we will continue the loop and then enjoy some time at the natural rock slide. We will also take time to enjoy a lunch together on the flat rocks along the riverbed. After our fun on the rock slide and lunch we will continue on towards Opal Pool. We will set up camp along the river and grab our day packs and cameras for some exploring. Beyond Opal Pool is the turn back the clock community of Jawbone Flats, with old mill trucks and machinery lined along the path. After some exploring of the old community we can head back to camp for dinner. People can enjoy the rock slide some more or simply relax by an evening fire. Come morning we will enjoy a good breakfast together with a possible trip along the Battle Ax Trail. We can then head back, break down camp and head on home. Those with tight schedules can feel free to leave after breakfast, if needed.
Contact: Matt Howell - (541)[masked]
Forest Service: Detroit Ranger District - (503)[masked]
Requirements and Suggestions: Please pack for one night, with all of your gear. I recommend light and comfortable quick drying clothing, and dressing in layers. Durable, and water resistant hiking boots or shoes are highly recommended, as we will be near water on parts of the trail. A swimsuit and towel for the rock slides are also encouraged. Please remember to pack your 10 Essentials.
Compass (optionally supplemented with a GPS receiver)
Sunglasses and sunscreen
Extra food and water
Headlamp or flashlight
First aid kit
Carpooling: We will meet at Best Buy and set up carpooling. Since this is a bit of a longer drive than some of the other trips, I encourage carpooling as much as possible and those riding along to contribute between $10 and $20, if possible, for gas and wear and tear of the driver's vehicle. Please indicate in your RSVP if you need a ride or can provide transportation for others.
Parking and Regulations: Opal Creek requires a $5 day pass, or the annual Northwest Forest Pass. You can pick up a Northwest Forest Pass for $30 at REI and other local sporting goods stores. If you have one, please bring it. Even if you don't plan on driving.