Opal Creek

Sawmill Falls

  • Easy (to Sawmill Falls)
  • 4.4 miles round trip
  • 100 feet elevation gain
  • Open all year

  • Moderate (to Opal Pool)
  • 7.1-mile loop
  • 300 feet elevation gain

Opal Creek’s ancient forest, on the edge of the Bull of the Woods Wilderness, was thrust to fame in the 1980s by controversy over Forest Service logging proposals. National television crews and thousands of visitors hiked to Jawbone Flats’ rustic mining camp and scrambled over a rugged “bear trail” to view the endangered old-growth groves towering above this creek’s green pools. By the time Opal Creek finally won Wilderness protection in 1998 an improved path had been built to make the area more hiker-friendly. The new trail shortcuts from the Little North Santiam River to Opal Creek, making possible a loop trip to Opal Pool’s gorge and Jawbone Flats.

Start by driving east from Salem on . . .

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To see more of Opal Creek, keep straight at . . .

This chapter is an excerpt from 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Central Oregon Cascades.