You Must Hike to Jawbone Flats in Oregon Before You Die

The Little North Santiam, on the way to Jawbone Flats

Obviously, you’re never going to hike all the most beautiful places in Oregon before you die, but we can help you make a pretty good dent. Jawbone Flats is actually a beautiful historic company town off the Little North Santiam, and the road in makes it a truly unique hike as it’s not the typical trail you are probably used to. I recently hiked into Jawbone Flats, and it quickly became one of my favorite hikes in Oregon.

Along the hike, you will come across rusting vehicles, old mining equipment, and an ore mill among the restored cabins of the Ancient Forest Center.

Awesome old cars found in the parking lot of Jawbone Flats

When you first arrive at the Opal Creek Trailhead, you will be traveling along a gravel road. It’s rare you will be coming across any vehicles, as the roads are used by residents of Jawbone Falts.

The little town also offers cabins for rent for those who want to stay overnight.

Image courtesy of Ron Cooker / opalcreek.org

Looking down the slope you will see gorgeous, massive Douglas-firs which date back several hundred years. Upon crossing the Gold Creek Bridge, you will see the cascades and a pool in the chasm below. The road rises to the Whetstone Mountain-Jawbone Flats Trail Junction, which is a jeep track, formerly FR 2209-330, and leads up to the left.

You will cross “half-bridges” in a steep-sided canyon with the Little North Santiam far below, which have recently been redesigned. There will be several small creeks along the way, which make for a great place to cool off during summer.

Once you arrive at the  Battle Ax Creek-Kopetski Trail North Junction, you can make a loop back to FR 2209. In total, this hike is just under 7 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of about 360 feet. Visitors are allowed to bring their pups, as long as their furry little friends are on leashes.

 

Courtesy of opalcreek.org, we have provided directions below. We highly recommend carpooling when going, as this trailhead has become very crowded — especially during the summer. We got a very early start to ensure we avoided crowds, and trust me it was getting packed as we were leaving. Parking is very limited to 1/4 mile from the gate. You will also need to pay $5 at the gate, or purchase passes ahead of time at Forest Service offices and visitor centers, outdoor retailers, or online.

DRIVING TIMES

  • From Salem: 1.5 hour
  • From Portland or Eugene: 2.5 hours
  • From Bend: 2.5 – 3 hours

FROM I-5

  • Take Exit 253 for Hwy 22 (Stayton/Detroit).
  • At the end of the ramp turn east on Hwy. 22.  Continue for approximately 22 miles.
  • Turn left/north at the second flashing yellow light onto North Fork Rd. On the right-hand side of Hwy. 22 you will see the North Fork Crossing Restaurant. The Opal Creek trailhead is at the very end of this road, approximately 20 miles and 1 hour of driving time.
  • After 14 miles of pavement you will enter the Willamette National Forest where the road turns to gravel. You are now on Forest Road 2209.
  • After 1.5 -2 miles you will see a turn-off on the right towards Three Pools/Shady Cove. Stay to the left on Forest Road 2209.
  • Continue another 4 miles to the Opal Creek/Jawbone Flats parking area and trailhead.

FROM BEND VIA HWY 97 OR HWY 20

  • From either of these highways, follow Hwy 20 West to Hwy 22 West.
  • Follow Hwy 22 West to Lyons, OR. It is approximately 107 miles from Sisters to Lyons.
  • You will come to a flashing yellow light intersection with the North Fork Road, with the North Fork Crossing Restaurant on the left-hand side of Hwy. 22.
  • Turn right (north) onto the North Fork Rd. The Opal Creek trailhead is at the very end of this road, approximately 20 miles and 1 hour of driving time.
  • After 14 miles of pavement you will enter the Willamette National Forest where the road turns to gravel. You are now on Forest Road 2209.
  • After approx 1.5 -2 miles you will see a turn-off on the right towards Three Pools/Shady Cove. Stay to the left on Forest Road 2209.
  • Continue another 4 miles to the Opal Creek/Jawbone Flats parking area and trail head.

ALTERNATE DIRECTIONS FROM BEND DURING SUMMER MONTHS ONLY:

  • Approximately 96 miles from Sisters you’ll enter the town of Gates on Hwy. 22.
  • Turn North (right) onto Gates Hill Road, which is located across from the Gates General Store in Gates, OR.
  • Gates Hill Rd is a paved, approximately 3-mile road that lets out on North Fork Road, 9 miles up from Hwy. 22 (near Elkhorn Golf Course).
  • Turn right onto the North Fork Road and continue to the end of the road as listed above.
  • Please note: Gates Hill road is 16% grade both up and down, and is not maintained in the winter. Please drive with extra caution when using this road.

Claim Your Glass Drink