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Otter Bench Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Moderately steep Lone Pine Trail descends all the way to Crooked River (romann)
Crooked River Canyon as seen from Pink Trail (romann)
Pink Trail goes down a series of crude boulder stairs (romann)
Typical landscape on flat parts of the hike (romann)
  • Start point: Otter Bench TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Otter Bench Trailhead
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 9.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1700 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate with easy options
  • Seasons: Year round, gets very hot in summer
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for kids over 8
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

Otter Bench is a long, relatively narrow desert flat wedged 2/3 way up in Crooked River Canyon. The trails stay on the bench for the most part and there is very little elevation change, but two side trails (Lone Pine and Pink trails) go steeply down to the river bank. You will see typical high desert landscape, with junipers and sagebrush, and will see rimrock of the upper canyon edge most of the time. Occasionally, the trail gets close enough to the edge of a 370-foot vertical dropoff of the lower canyon, which is pretty impressive. When you go into the inner gorge (especially on Pink Trail), you'll get interesting perspective of being inside a deep and narrow chasm - it feels like a piece of Canyonlands taken to Oregon! There's almost no shade for summer hiking, but in fall through spring it's often a good place to escape from the rain in Portland area. This loop is open for hikers, horses, and bikes (except for the two steep trails which are for hikers only), but this area never gets crowded and you're likely to have it mostly for yourself.

Begin hiking southeast on Lone Pine trail - if you go straight through the gate, take right at the signed 3-way junction; alternatively, there's a shortcut from SE side of the parking lot. The trail follows the bench plateau for about 1/4 mile and then descends down into the inner gorge for 0.7 miles. There are a lot of views once you start descending into the canyon. With all the drop-offs, you'll wonder how this trail will get you down to the river bank, but while there are some steep and rocky spots, the trail is well graded overall. Unlike what trail's name suggests, there are no pines on Lone Pine trail (if you don't count a couple on the other side of the river). There is a fair amount of old juniper trees, fragrant sagebrush, and rabbit brush. Near the river, there are some huge boulders to rest on (and probably fish from), and large cottonwoods that will give a good shade. The river is large enough to take a dip, but probably too fast for a good swim.

Once you get back up to the trailhead, go past the gate again and keep straight at 3-way junction to stay on Horny Hollow Trail (if you get there between February 1 and August 31, this trail will be closed for wildlife protection, so turn left onto Otter Bench Trail). Horny Hollow Trail is a decommissioned dirt road and still looks like it. There are no views for the first part of this trail, but then start looking for unmarked paths branching off to the right. They lead to the inner gorge viewpoints - be careful as the drop-off here is a vertical 350-400 feet. The canyon views are quite impressive, especially good is a viewpoint at 1.5 miles from the trailhead, just before the next junction and some 50 yards off Horny Hollow Trail.

At the 4-trail junction (if you don't count a couple of unofficial trails - this maze is a result of main trail bypassing the viewpoints!), take a primitive Pink Trail to the right. It's rough and steep, but it's definitely interesting one to see. The trail begins switchbacking down, and then if that wasn't steep enough it follows straight down a dry wash on crude boulder stairs. Soon, the trail levels somewhat, goes through a section carved out of rock and then passes a couple of switchbacks on the way down to the river. Here, you're in the very narrow section of a lower canyon, and if the wind is at the right direction, it may be increased to gale force by the narrow passage, as was when I hiked there (you are protected from head-on wind until 2/3 way down). In the summer, this chasm may get brutally hot. If the weather cooperates, you will get one of a kind view of a deep, narrow slot canyon up and down the river.

After you climb back to the 4-trail junction, take Opal Canyon Trail on your right. The trail gets up then down as it traverses a narrow passage between the Otter Bench to the next flat desert bench. In the next 1/2 mile there's good views of the lower canyon and of cliffs of the upper canyon rim just above you. As the trail gets down to the next bench (Opal Bench?), it gets away from the edge of the lower gorge. The trail then splits into 2.3-mile loop and a sign directs you to keep right. There's only one fair viewpoint in the end of this small loop, so if you don't want more miles you may skip this part and turn back here. Once back at a familiar 4-trail junction, take 1.7-mile Otter Bench Trail back to your car. This gently rolling trail goes slightly higher than the Horny Hollow Trail it parallels, and has more open feel.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • No pass required (managed by BLM and state)
  • One of the trails is subject to seasonal closures, by-pass trail around closure area open year-round.

Weather

Maps

  • Satellite view map with route
Map of the route


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.