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Twin Pillars Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The Twin Pillars, Mill Creek Wilderness (bobcat)
Lustrous copper (Lycaena cuprea), Twin Pillars Trail, Mill Creek Wilderness (bobcat)
Above Desolation Canyon, Twin Pillars Trail, Mill Creek Wilderness (bobcat)
Through the snow brush, Twin Pillars Trail, Mill Creek Wilderness (bobcat)
The hike to Twin Pillars in the Mill Creek Wilderness (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: North Twin Pillars Trailhead
  • Ending Point: Twin Pillars
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 6.0 miles
  • High Point: 5,850 feet
  • Elevation gain: 1035 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Mid-spring into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

Much of the Mill Creek Wilderness encompasses the caldera of a 40 million-year-old volcano, of which the jagged 200-foot spires of the Twin Pillars are the signature feature. The pillars are actually composed of rhyolite, an intrusive rock, but appeared over the eons as the surrounding terrain eroded away. Another feature of this short hike from the north end of the wilderness is the rugged rim of Desolation Canyon, offering views to the remote heart of the area. A third feature, and perhaps not quite as prepossessing, is the fact that most of the area over which you will be hiking, including at your destination, was savagely burned by the extensive Hash Rock Fire in August, 2000. The recovering forest is mostly lodgepole pine, but there are stands of original ponderosa pine parkland as well as lush meadows and bubbling creeks.

First, you can explore the stock pond and Bingham Prairie just to the west of the campground. In early summer, bistort, penstemon, groundsel, and lupine bloom in the lush prairie. Bingham Spring is just below the trail a few yards in. The path soon enters a regenerating lodgepole pine woodland as you pass the wilderness boundary sign. Cross a verdant meadow, where the trail may be indistinct – see the post at the other end and make for it. Go right to cross a creek, and traverse more open meadow. After stepping across Desolation Canyon Creek, you’ll head up a slope, drop a little to hop a small creek, and then ascend gradually through lodgepole pine and western larch regrowth. Pass rocky prominences above Desolation Canyon, and then arrive at the Desolation Canyon Viewpoint on the lip of a rimrock reef. The canyon itself was scoured by the 2000 fire, but you’ll be looking down into the remote and rarely traveled heart of the Mill Creek Wilderness. Ponderosa pines and some Douglas-firs stand out on the rim, which blooms with shrubby penstemon and snow brush in early summer.

The trail levels and enters an unburned parkland where you might encounter some deadfall across the trail. After passing through a shady glen, you’ll hike through a sea of young lodgepole pine and larch with a carpet of wild strawberry. From a ridge crest, descend to enter an intact ponderosa pine/grand fir/Douglas-fir woodland, and switchback to the left. Wind down through some large trees that have been fire-scorched, and pass through a snow brush thicket. You’ll get your first view of the West Pillar and its attendant outcroppings through the trees. Watch for bluebirds and woodpeckers flitting through the burned snags here. After reaching the saddle to the north of Twin Pillars, you have to continue descending the slope to loop around through post-fire snow brush thickets to arrive just south of the prominences and get a splendid view up to both Twin Pillars.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Optional trail registration
  • Trail sometimes indistinct in meadows; expect downed trees

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Mill Creek 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: Prineville Ranger District, Ochoco National Forest
  • 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

  • Day Hiking: Bend and Central Oregon by Brittany Manwill
  • Eastern Oregon Wilderness Areas by Donna Ikenberry Aitkenhead
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Eastern Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Hiking Oregon’s Geology by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Bend & Central Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Best Hikes Near Bend by Lizann Dunegan
  • Hike America: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Hiking Central Oregon & Beyond by Virginia Meissner

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.