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Clear Creek to Keeps Mill Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View up Clear Creek Canyon, Camas Trail (bobcat)
Camas Creek in Camas Prairie (bobcat)
Deer's-head orchid (Calypso bulbosa), Clear Creek Ditch (bobcat)
Trail segment to Keeps Mill, Clear Creek Canyon (bobcat)
Tall western white pines hugging Douglas-fir, Clear Creek Traill (bobcat)
The trail from Clear Creek Crossing to Keeps Mill (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Clear Creek Crossing TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Keeps Mill Trailhead
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 9.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1650 feet
  • High Point: 3,210 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Mid-spring into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

Just north of the McCubbins Gulch ORV Area at the eastern edge of the Mt. Hood National Forest, the Clear Creek Trail #487 and Camas Trail #490A are virtually unknown to hikers. They are, however, known to mountain bikers, but unless it's an event day, you are not likely to have numerous encounters. The trail takes you into lush meadows and under some old-growth trees before running along the rimrock above the Clear Creek Canyon. The hike ends at Keeps Mill Campground, where you can dip into the trailless Lower White River Wilderness.

The trail heads across Clear Creek, just south of the campground, on a footbridge. Pass along a lovely meadow that blooms with violets and cinquefoil in late spring. The Clear Creek Trail then bends left along the creek. It’s two miles to the junction with the Camas Trail #490A and five miles to Keeps Mill. Enter the woods in a boggy area full of skunk-cabbage and much blowdown. Boardwalks keep your feet dry. Douglas-fir, Engelmann spruce, grand fir, western hemlock, and western red-cedar form the woodland here. Red osier dogwood and willow line the creeks, and little calypso orchids bloom in abundance in May/June. You'll see a flood gauge on the opposite bank of Clear Creek. A few large old-growth Douglas-firs dominate the canopy. Walk through another soggy skunk-cabbage bottom, and then rise along the slope above the creek to swing uphill at a sign. Switchback twice before the path levels. Ponderosa pines enter the mix as you enter secondary forest with a few old-growth trees scattered about. Pass two big western white pines “hugging” a Douglas-fir. Then walk by an old trail junction and step over a cattle trail. Cross an old road bed and see the FR 2120-240 road to the right. Keep walking to a campsite and cross FR 2120-240 to the lush meadow at Camas Prairie.

This meadow is protected by a pole and rail fence and has a corral. Camas Creek winds through the green expanse and the false hellebores stand tall. Camas lilies bloom here in June, and the marshes also harbor a breeding population of the rare Oregon spotted frog (Rana pretiosa). Soon you'll reach the unsigned junction with the Camas Trail #490A and Clear Creek Ditch Trail #490 (If you go right here on the latter trail, you'll pass through a stile and cross Camas Creek in an open meadow on a creative set of boards and stumps. Look for insectivorous sundews sparkling in the bog. Pass through another stile and hit an old road bed in Douglas-fir woods. Mountain bikers have built little rises over the fallen trees. The trail rises up in Douglas-fir, hemlock, cedar and grand fir woods, reaching the Clear Creek Ditch and going right on the ditch bank to end at FR 2130. This diversion adds about 2.5 miles to your trip).

To reach the Keeps Mill Trailhead and campground go left at the junction and head uphill. At another junction, also unsigned, go right and then downhill to hike along shady Camas Creek. This is a quiet bottom, but there are a road and clearcuts above. You'll notice more large old-growth Douglas-firs down here. The trail rises to paved FR 2120-240. Go right on the road and cross the creek to pick up the signposted trail leading down to the left. You'll notice a ponderosa pine plantation across the creek to the left. The trail keeps on a level contour as the creek drops below. Then you'll be walking along the edge of another ponderosa plantation. Snowbrush and chinquapin form an understory and spurred lupine blooms trailside in late spring. A rusted pipe runs along the trail. Pass across an open boulder field with a view across the Clear Creek Canyon. Then, cross a talus slope, with sections of the pipe littering the rocks above and below. The trail heads back into the woods and skirts the edge of a clearcut. There are glimpses of Mount Hood through the trees, and you'll get several open viewpoints from the rimrock down into the canyon. The trail passes a campsite and drops to the dirt road (FR 2120) that services Keeps Mill Campground. Make a left onto the road and hike down a few yards to pick up the trail. The path switchbacks down twice before crossing a large talus slope and then switchbacks twice again down in the woods before traversing and switchbacking one more time in ponderosa/grand fir/Douglas-fir woods. Hit the road and go down to the Keeps Mill Campground on the right. Find the confluence of Clear Creek and the milky White River raging through its own thicketed and forested canyon.

You can bushwhack a short distance down the White River Canyon from here, reaching a talus slope and the remains of a wooden flume that serviced Keeps Mill, but the going is often brushy and soon you'll have to turn back.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Mountain bikers share the trail

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Clear Creek Trail #487 (USFS)
  • Camas Trail #490A (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Mt. Wilson, OR #494
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Barlow Ranger District
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks

  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • Mountain Biking Oregon: Northwest and Central Oregon by Lizann Dungeon

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.