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Black Canyon from Boeing Field Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Descending from Boeing Field, Black Canyon Wilderness (bobcat)
Wyethia meadow, Boeing Field (bobcat)
Heart-leaf arnica (Arnica cordifolia), Black Canyon Trail, Black Canyon Wilderness (bobcat)
Mountain lady slippers (Cypripedium montanum), Black Canyon Trail, Black Canyon Wilderness (bobcat)
On the Coffee Pot Trail, Black Canyon Wilderness (bobcat)
The western route into the Black Canyon Wilderness (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Boeing Field Trailhead
  • Ending Point: Black Canyon Meadow
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 7.1 miles + 1.8 miles for Coffee Pot Trail
  • High Point: 5,905 feet
  • Elevation gain: 1365 feet + 420 feet for Coffee Pot Trail
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Mid spring into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No
Snakes

Contents

Hike Description

Perhaps the most popular access point to the Black Canyon Wilderness is from the Boeing Field Trailhead, a wide open saddle meadow over a mile high. You’ll take the Owl Creek Trail to connect with the Black Canyon Trail, so just about every step on your return journey will be uphill. Unfortunately, you’ll begin the hike in a burn, but once on the Black Canyon Trail, you’ll enter the shady forest that characterizes the upper reaches of Black Canyon Creek. There are no expansive views from the trails, but this is a highly recommended hike for wildflower lovers in late spring/early summer. You can add another 1.8 miles to this hike by exploring a different habitat on the rarely-hiked Coffee Pot Trail.

The Boeing Field Trail has been renamed the Owl Creek Trail #820A. Before or after your hike, it’s worth exploring this mile-high flower meadow on a saddle near Wolf Mountain. The area is named for the ill-fated February 1942 flight of a B-18A Bolo bomber on a flight from Sacramento to Spokane and then northward, perhaps to Alaska. The plane cleared Wolf Mountain but hit the tall trees on its summit ridge and shattered on the slopes below. The crew of four had last radioed from northern California, so that is where the unsuccessful search was concentrated. It wasn’t until seven months later that an Ochoco shepherd, Rhys Humphrys, saw the wreckage glinting below and alerted the fire lookout on Wolf Mountain, about a mile away from the current trailhead. Unfortunately, the Boeing Field label is a misnomer: the B-18 bomber was a product of the Douglas Aircraft Company!

Walking around the plateau here in late spring-early summer is a feast for the eyes of even the most jaded wildflower enthusiast. There are large displays of both white and yellow mule’s ears (Wyethia) as well as blooming paintbrush, desert-parsley, larkspur, balsamroot, and lupine. When you’re ready to hike, walk past the sign and a kiosk (which may or may not be erect) to descend to the tree line. There is a wilderness sign here, but the forest below is a charred display of blackened tree trunks and fallen snags from the August 2008 Black Canyon Fire. Not surprisingly, fireweed has sprouted here in abundance as have currant bushes. The trail sometimes become lost as it heads down the slope, but it will skirt the north edge of an open balsamroot meadow. Soon, you’ll cross Owl Creek and head fifty feet up the slope to the signed Black Canyon-Owl Creek Trail Junction.

Make a left here, and pass through a patch of false hellebore. Larkspur, stickseed, heliotrope, and fleabane also bloom along the trail here. Use stepping stones to cross a lush spring meadow and enter an unburned forest of Douglas-fir, western larch, grand fir, and ponderosa pine. You may have to negotiate some blowdown if the trail has not been maintained recently. Owl Creek plunges through a narrow ravine down to your left, and you pass across a series of dry meadows. Switchback down to cross a trickling brook; then gradually traverse down a shady huckleberry-verged path. Owl Creek issues from its narrow defile, and you’ll see a spur trail heading left across the creek to a small campsite. Pass through a lush thicket where springs run across the trail. Soon, make a second crossing of Owl Creek. If you’re here in the month of June, keep your eyes peeled on this next section of trail for the dozens of mountain lady slipper orchids that come into bloom at that time.

Soon cross Black Canyon Creek, and begin your descent along that stream. Here, the “canyon” is rather gently sloped and still quite forested unlike its lower reaches. The creek itself is hidden under thickets of red osier dogwood and mountain ash. Hike up a slope in shady forest with taller ponderosa pines and lupine blooming alongside the trail in early summer. White diamonds on a pine designate the Black Canyon-Coffee Pot Trail Junction.

If you’re interested in exploring the once-abandoned Coffee Pot Trail, make a left here. In 2014, AmeriCorps volunteers began redigging the trail bench, but the path is still so little-used that wildflowers bloom with abandon on the new tread. Eighteen switchbacks will take you up into the very different environment of the upper canyon: grassy juniper-ponderosa-mountain mahogany slopes blooming with balsamroot, wild onion, lupine, and clarkia. After 0.9 miles and 420 feet in elevation gain, you’ll come to the end of the switchbacks, where the Americorps effort seems to have terminated. Turn back here, but if you're really curious and have the time, you should still be able to follow the white diamonds another 400 yards or so to the rim, and then it’s a short flat walk to the FR 3800-440 spur road and the Coffee Pot Trailhead.

On the Black Canyon Trail, it’s worth continuing only a little farther if you’re just out for a day hike. Soon a lush meadow, which blooms with bog saxifrage and western polemonium in summer, appears below you. You can follow the trail above this green expanse until the meadow ends, but the path gets a little brushy in these parts. If you continue on the Black Canyon Trail to its eastern trailhead, you’ll be crossing and recrossing the creek several times as you descend the canyon.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Optional trail registration
  • Expect downed trees; trails indistinct in a couple of places

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Black Canyon Wilderness (USFS)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mill Creek Wilderness, Bridge Creek Wilderness, Black Canyon Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Ochoco National Forest & Crooked River National Grassland

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Eastern Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Atlas of Oregon Wilderness by William L. Sullivan
  • Eastern Oregon Wilderness Areas by Donna Ikenberry Aitkenhead
  • Hiking Oregon by Donna Lynn Ikenberry
  • Hiking Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Hike America: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Hiking Central Oregon & Beyond by Virginia Meissner
  • Oregon’s Wilderness Areas by George Wuerthner
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

More Links


Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.