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Bates State Park Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Bridge Creek and Bates Pond, Bates State Park (bobcat)
Big-pod mariposa lily (Calochortus eurycarpus), Bates State Park (bobcat)
View over campground to Middle Fork John Day River, Bates State Park (bobcat)
Hot rock penstemon (Penstemon deustus), Bates State Park (bobcat)
Bates State Park Trail system: The loop suggested in yellow; other trails in orange (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Bates Trailhead
  • Ending Point: Bates Viewpoint
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 2.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 140 feet
  • High Point: 4,210 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: May 1st to October 31st
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The land for this new state park on the site of a lumber mill was purchased in 2008. The Bates Mill had operated from 1917 to 1975, and an entire company town grew up here. Once the mill shut down, the buildings were razed, and the major feature that remains is the old mill pond. The log pond was filled in to create the campground area, and the park opened to the public in 2011. Unfortunately, the wide open, shadeless campground does not make the park a very appealing place to doss down for the night unless you have an RV. However, there are two short loop options for those who want a stroll here: one on the east side and the other on the west side of Bates Pond. This description follows the latter, which takes you past the pond into a ponderosa pine upland blooming with a myriad varieties of wildflowers in the late spring/early summer.

Walk back along the park road to a restroom, and turn right onto a gated gravel road. Pass the junction with the North Fork Trail, and keep right to continue on the road. This was the route of the mill railroad that carried logs to be dumped in the pond. Hike above the eastern shore of the pond. Cattails here shelter warbling blackbirds and marsh wrens. At the junction with the South Fork Trail, go right and cross a footbridge over Bridge Creek. Get views to Psyche Butte, Black Butte, and Vinegar Hill. Turn left on the Bridge Creek Trail, and start heading upstream under shady ponderosa pines next to alder-shrouded Bridge Creek. Otters do frequent the creek although you’d be lucky to spot one. Switchback up from the creek on a slope of ponderosa pine where wildflowers such as mallow, lupine, collomia, buckwheat, Oregon sunshine, mariposa lilies, and wild onions bloom in early summer. Chipmunks scuttle through the grass at your approach.

Come to a trail junction, and go left on the Dixie Trail, which follows an old vehicle track. Come to the crest of the ridge and and pass a fence corner marking the boundary with Forest Service land. Head down throuogh a blooming meadow and pass the dynamite shed, the only structure remaining from the mill days. Go left at a junction with a gravel track, proceed 20 yards, and then head right up a slope from a green gate. Switchback to a view of Bates Pond. Switchback again to a spur that leads right through bitterbrush to the Bates Viewpoint, where you’ll get a view of the campground and the Middle Fork John Day River valley. A log pond used to be situated at the north end of the campground, connected to Bates Pond by a flume. The sawmill was where the current picnic area is, and the Bates Hotel, where some of the single male workers stayed, was situated where the campground host now parks an RV. There was also a dance hall nearby.

Return to the main trail, and at the junction with the Meadow Trail, make a left. After the meadow, the trail breaks off to the right in an area of slash piles. Lupine blooms on the floor of these ponderosa/larch/lodgepole pine woods. The trail winds down, and you’re as likely to spot deer track as human footprints. make three switchbacks down and reach a gate on a road, where you’ll go right. Follow the road track and cross Bridge Creek on a bridge. Head back to the day-use area along this road, passing interpretive signs about the health of natural rivers.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Open May 1st to October 31st
  • Day-use open 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • Picnic area, information kiosk, interpretive signs, campground
  • Dogs on leash


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Eastern Oregon by William L. Sullivan

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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.

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