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School Canyon-Tygh Creek Loop 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.
Ponderosa pine parklands on Tygh Ridge (bobcat)
View to Ball Point, School Canyon Trail (bobcat)
Black morel (Morchella elata) on the School Canyon Trail (bobcat)
The "Gnomes' Gallery" near the helispot (bobcat)
Elkhorns clarkia (Clarkia pulchella) on Tygh Ridge (bobcat)
Sketch of loop (not a GPS track!) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: School Canyon TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Tygh Creek Crossing
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 13.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3,240 feet
  • High Point: 4,900 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Late Spring through Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No
Snakes
Ticks

Contents

Description

While the School Canyon Trail attracts some traffic, the Tygh Creek Trail attracts almost none. This is a wonderful ridge loop on the far eastern edge of the Mt. Hood National Forest through ponderosa pine and Oregon white oak parklands. The wildflowers are at their prime in late May/early June, when the weather on this side of the divide is usually sunny and warm. One should note, however, that this loop is for experienced hikers only as some trails are not maintained.

WARNING: Because much of the forest here has been attacked by bark beetles, there is blowdown every year. Recent maintenance has ameliorated the situation, however. Tygh Creek Trail #460 can be lost in a couple of the meadows en route before the descent from Pen Point. Bear in mind that the true location of some sections of these trails have a variance of 50 to 100 yards between the topographical map and a GPS track.

From the School Canyon Trailhead, it’s a stroll through oak and ponderosa woodland, sometimes across open slopes blooming with balsamroot and bitter brush. The trail rises into the Ball Point Burn of 2007. Red miner’s lettuce carpets the forest floor. You may disturb a few cattle that graze in these parts. Keep up to an open ridge crest and saddle. A spur right leads to views of the surrounding country, including the Rock Creek and Pine Hollow Reservoirs. Hike west along the crest and then begin the traverse below Ball Point along a flower-strewn slope: death-camas, balsamroot, prairie smoke, woolly sunflower, yarrow, paintbrush are all here. Enter open ponderosa pine/Douglas-fir woods in an ascending traverse. Blooming arnica carpets the floor in the burn. The trail drops to the ridge crest where bracken forms the carpet. Traverse the south side of the ridge and leave the fiercest part of the burn. The trail drops in Douglas-fir/ponderosa woods and rounds a little boulder outcrop to enter a manzanita ponderosa parkland to reach the School Canyon-Little Badger Creek Trail junction.

Go right here and come to the junction with a signposted spur leading left to Helispot 122. A trail leads down to the left from the helispot to the rock formations over Little Badger Creek. There is a small maze of interesting crannies and perches to explore. Back at the main trail, head left past spurs leading left to campsites. The trail leads gradually upward in Douglas-fir/grand fir/ponderosa woodland. Reach a dry ridge forest with lots of blowdown. Hike in and out of a shallow gulley with snowberry thickets and then back up to the ridge crest. The trail levels in deeper woods and heads more steeply up to a crest, then levels again on a ponderosa ridge. Luina and paintbrush bloom here. Traverse the south side of the ridge, drop into a gulley, and wend up again, sometimes steeply. The trail here is more indistinct with lots of blowdown. Jacob’s ladder, sticky currant and rock cress are in flower in late spring. Eventually, reach the Little Badger Creek Trail-Tygh Creek Way Junction on an old road bed. You would keep left for Flag Point (See the Flag Point Add-on Hike), but to complete the loop, head right on Trail #460A: Tygh Creek Way.

Go right down this obvious road track. You will be walking in a scattered, disease-ridden forest with mountain hemlock, larch, Engelmann spruce, Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, grand fir, western white pine and some ponderosas. The trail drops further out of the mountain hemlock zone. Cross a creek in Englemann spruce woods, head up to a low ridge, and then hike down to Tygh Creek, another bridgeless crossing. The trail traverses up with the creek to the left in swampy woods. Enter an open, vole-tunneled meadow, the location of a late-melting snowbank. Trillium, stream violet, and Oregon anemone bloom here late in the springtime. There’s no definite path across the small meadow. Just keep straight and pass a spring that pours out on to the trail. Come to the Tygh Creek Way-Tygh Creek Trail Junction and go right.

The trail gradually drops and there could be some blowdown to negotiate. Note a large, old-growth larch in the forest off to the right. Orange flagging denotes a spur left to an area of springs for watering horses. Tygh Creek runs to the right. The trail heads over a rocky hump and then rises to a partially wooded crest. Lupine, white western groundsel, slender luina and larkspur decorate the slope. Pass through glade after forest glade. In the snow melt patches, dwarf hesperochiron and three-leaf lewisia bloom. Reach the unsigned, but flagged, junction with Trail #462, the Jordan Crossing Trail, which leads down to Jordan Creek; this trail has been maintained by a local horse group. The Tygh Creek Trail now leads along the northern boundary of the wilderness.

Head gradually up into a large area of parkland. The trail is hard to follow here. Pay attention as it heads right through a stand of young ponderosas and reaches a rocky, manzanita-cloaked slope. A rock outcrop to the right is a viewpoint down the valley. Hike over an open manzanita/balsamroot shoulder down into grand fir/Douglas-fir ponderosa pine woods. The trail continues in shady woods on the south side of the ridge. The path rises again gently in ponderosa parkland. On a grassy saddle, come to the junction with the Jordan Butte Trail #461.

Bear right across an expansive ponderosa parkland. The tread gets lost in the grass here: just keep straight. Pass a cairn and reach the top of Pen Point, from where there are views to the eastern expanses. The trail drops off Pen Point and heads steeply down towards a saddle. Bitter brush, frasera, balsamroot, lupine, woolly sunflower and swaths of elkhorns clarkia are blooming among the western junipers. The trail continues to drop steeply below Hootnanny Point in lovely ponderosa pine woodland, which turns to oak and juniper. The steepness lets up briefly and then resumes in a rather precipitous drop. Now the trail is shaded by Douglas-firs and ponderosas. Drop steeply down into a lush gully with big-leaf maples. The trail reaches the level of Tygh Creek and then begins to undulate up and down above its banks through brush. Washington lilies bloom in openings.

Arrive at paved Road 27 and the Tygh Creek Trailhead. Go right, crossing Tygh Creek. This road section is about 1 1/2 miles but it's pretty nice, with some views to the east. The road winds up, with burned forest to the right. There are small rocks from slides and lots of cow patties. Traverse into oak woods and then make a winding descent down and then up past more burned conifers. Drop once more and then head up to the parking area at the School Canyon Trailhead.

Note:

To emphasize, the area is remote and the trails are not frequently maintained. You may have blowdown to contend with. Turkey hunters frequent these ridges in late spring.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • none

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Flag Point, OR #463
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Barlow Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Columbia Wilderness and Badger Creek Wilderness
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • Adventure Maps: Hood River, Oregon, Trail Map

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Hiking Oregon's Mount Hood & Badger Creek Wilderness by Fred Barstad
  • Off the Beaten Trail by Matt Reeder (describes east section of Tygh Creek Trail)

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.