Willamette National Forest
Opal Creek Wilderness
Distance: 5-7 miles
Elevation Gain: minimal
Location: Opal Creek Wilderness, east of Salem
Just two hours from Portland, a hike into the old-growth groves of Opal Creek is like a walk back in time - to Oregon as it was before logging and development. Trees up to 250 feet high and 1,000 years old can be found here, as well as rare wildlife and beautiful waterfalls. This amazing area is home to a tremendous diversity of fish, wildlife, and plants, including elk, black bears, and the endangered northern spotted owl. In addition to wildlife, hikers exploring Opal Creek can marvel at the sight of dozens of waterfalls, several lakes, and massive cedar and Douglas fir trees that were already ancient when Lewis and Clark first explored Oregon 200 years ago.
Though the rare old-growth forest and pristine waters of Opal Creek are today preserved as Wilderness, in the 1990s the region was the center of intense controversy over plans by the U.S. Forest Service to allow logging in this unspoiled area. The efforts of Oregon Wild and other conservation groups helped stop the logging and win Wilderness protection for Opal Creek in 1996.
From Salem, drive east on North Santiam Highway 22 for 23 miles to Mehama’s second flashing yellow light. Turn left on Little North Fork Road for 15 paved miles and 1.3 gravel miles. Go left at the fork onto Road 2209 and continue 4.2 miles to a locked gate and park.