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Rho Creek Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

This page is marked as a Lost Hike. The "trail" may be dangerous and hard to follow and is not recommended for beginning hikers without an experienced leader. Beginning hikers should check out our Basic Hiking Information page.
Rho Creek from the Rho Creek Trail (bobcat)
Through the old trees, Rho Creek Trail (bobcat)
Fadeaway Spring, Rho Creek Trail (bobcat)
Remains of the Rho Ridge Guard Station (bobcat)
Candy stick (Allotropa virgata), Rho Creek Trail (bobcat)
The route of the Rho Creek Trail #569 (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo

Contents

Description

The trail leading up Rhododendron Creek has been brought back from the dead by hard-working volunteers, and the Forest Service has even rewarded their efforts with new signage. While the trail does need to traverse a couple of clearcuts, it also rises through shady old growth and comes close to Rhododendron Creek on a couple of occasions. The signposts (without the signs) at the junctions with three abandoned trails can be seen along the way. An additional two features of interest are the large pool at Fadeaway Spring and the collapsed remains of the Rho Ridge Guard Station. The trail is not regularly maintained, so you may have to do some stepping over and around windfall, but you’re very likely to be the only one(s) out exploring it when you’re here.

Hike up in a shady coniferous forest of Douglas-fir, western red-cedar, western hemlock, and grand fir with a rhododendron understory. The trail ascends a slope north of Rhododendron Creek, which you can hear rushing to your left. Higher up, you encounter some larger Douglas-firs, perhaps 250 years old, as you hike along a moss carpet. Then the trail becomes very rooty and drops to an old growth bench to pass a small spring. Ahead you’ll see the confluence of Tumble and Rhododendron Creeks. There are three large trees down over Tumble Creek: the nearest one makes for a stable footbridge.

After crossing the creek, switchback twice up a dry slope. As the trail steepens, pass under a vine maple arbor and get a view of a talus slope across Rhododendron Creek. Reach an old clearcut, and make a traverse across it, crunching on the carpet of pinemat manzanita that has colonized the tread. In places, snowbrush also overhangs the trail. The trail levels as you leave the clearcut and enter shady forest to swish through bear-grass. Rhododendron Creek runs about 40 yards down the slope to your left. You’ll pass an old post at the former junction with the abandoned Tumble Creek Trail. As the trail comes close to the creek, you’ll see a clearcut on the south slope and then another cut above to your right. Ascend gently in a very mixed forest with silver fir, noble fir and even a few specimens of sugar pine and Alaska yellow-cedar. Then enter a dense young woodland and emerge at a tributary of Rhododendron Creek. The trail gets lost here in the huckleberries: swing left to cross the creek (You’ll see blazes on trees) and cross a small marsh-marigold bog. Hike up to the left along the edge of a clearcut and see the intriguing pool formed by Fadeaway Spring. The trail then angles up the slope in the clearcut to burst out on FR 4672.

Resume the trail 15 yards to your left, and pass another new trail sign as you ascend in woodland dominated by mountain hemlock and lodgepole pine. The trail drops through a bear-grass carpet, and you will find yourself stepping over numerous downed lodgepoles. Rise past an old signpost where an abandoned track, soon lost in the lodgepole forest, angles back sharply to the left in the direction of Rhododendron Meadow. Cross Rhododendron Creek in a lush bottom, and come to the unsigned Rho Creek-Rho Ridge Guard Station Trail Junction in the bear-grass.

To reach the ruins of the Rho Ridge Guard Station, go left here. Fifty yards from the junction, you pass above a lush glade with a small spring and blooming with shooting stars, marsh-marigolds, and montia in early June. The trail bears right here through a vanilla leaf carpet and then drops down the hill to the left, finally ending up at the ruins of the guard station, which was once a substantial building. A faint trail trace, sometimes, flagged leads on from here through a clearcut and on to the Graham Pass Trailhead. Also, if you feel inclined to find the remaining expanse of the once vast Rhododendron Meadow, now grown in by lodgepole pines, work your east from the guard station through the trees.

The Rho Ridge Guard Station is a worthy goal for the hike, but if you wish to “complete” the Rho Creek Trail, return to the Rho Creek-Rho Ridge Guard Station Trail Junction, and bear left. The trail heads up a wooded slope and switchbacks at an old post that marks the junction with an abandoned path that once led north to Jim Meadow and south past Fawn Creek. Make two more switchbacks to reach Bear Camp, which is occupied by hunters in the fall. At a crossroads in Bear Camp, follow the track leading south to reach FR 4672 and, across the road, the resumption of the Rho Ridge Trail.

If you’re very adventurous, when you return to the Rho Creek Trailhead, you can attempt to follow an abandoned track of the trail half a mile down to the Clackamas River. The trail is completely lost here, so you will be looking for blazes on old growth trees to find your way.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • none

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Rho Creek Trail (Off the Beaten Trail)
  • Green Trails Maps: Breitenbush, OR #525
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Clackamas River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region by Matt Reeder

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.