I was so excited to hike Opal Creek wilderness with Fransizka from Hike Oregon. She had been here two years ago so it was great to hear her perspective on how the winter weather has forever changed the trail. Opal Creek Wilderness homes the largest old-growth forest of the Western Cascades, with Douglas Firs and Cedars up to 1,000 years old. Historically, Opal Creek and Jawbone Flats held home to a steam powered saw mill in 1943.
We left Eugene at 8am to make it to the Opal Creek trailhead by 10. Took us a bit longer than expected because the amount of pot holes and landslides on the road in. This year was quite snowy and we had read that the snow had melted in mid-march. We still saw quite a bit on the ground.
Opal Creek is a very busy trail in the summer despite the 7.4 mile loop. In the summer, Opal pool swarms with people wanting to swim in the beautiful blue water. Which is why I enjoy hiking crowed creeks in the off season to enjoy the nature as is.
The hike starts out on a gravel road where you walk for 3.7 miles to Jawbone Flats. Jawbone flats is an off-grid non-profit that hosts youth backpacking trips all summer long for youth. The trail will take you through the small old mining town, follow signs to Opal Pool (1/4 mile). When you reach the fork for the Kopetski trail, you can follow that up to the left to see two small waterfalls, we took it to the right to follow the loop through the woods, this sign reads opal pool.
You will meet a bridge that takes you across to Opal Pool, which is the popular swimming area in the summer. After you cross the bridge over Opal Pool there is a great ridge of rocks to stop for lunch, which is what we did. If you don't want to make your hike longer, you can turn back around where you came from at this point and go back through Jawbone Flats.
Continue on the trail through the woods giving you different views of the North Fork Santiam River. You will see old Cedar and Douglas Fir trees as you reach the bridge to take you back across the river. This then closes the loop and you will walk about 2.5 miles back down the gravel road to your car.
Where we stopped to have lunch after passing the bridge
Bridge crossing after seeing opal pool
Jawbone Flats area gives you the chance to see old machinery and abandon cars:
Franziska of Hike Oregon got this beautiful photo of me at Opal Pool, check out her page for detailed videos and hiking blogs.
Directions from Eugene: Take the I-5 North to Salem, exit on 253; North Santiam Hwy 22. Watch for signs for Elkhorn Recreation Area, just after seeing a sign for Silver Falls State Park. At the second flashing yellow light turn left onto Little North Santiam Fork Rd. Take this 16 miles until you reach a fork in the road; stay on the left. This road becomes unpaved this point, and is full of potholes; take another 6 miles until you reach a gate for the trailhead. You will easily know that you reached the right spot as this trailhead is typically full of cars, especially in the summer.
Fee: Northwest Trail Pass or $5 at trailhead
*Disclaimer: the mileage, difficulty rating, directions depicted on this website are never 100% accurate. Always hike at your own risk, using your own equipment, common sense and knowledge.
Logan Dralle/ Her Oregon Life are not responsible if you or anyone in your party gets injured or lost while attempting one of the hikes featured on this page.