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Battle Creek Shelter Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Deep green pool on Elk Lake Creek some 3.1 miles from the trailhead (Matt Reeder)
Deep old-growth forest between the fords of Elk Lake Creek (Matt Reeder)
The second ford of Elk Lake Creek (Matt Reeder)


Hike Description

Remote and wild, the Elk Lake Creek Trail follows Elk Lake Creek through the Bull of the Woods Wilderness Area 8.9 miles to [[|Elk Lake (Bull of the Woods)|Elk Lake]]. While a 17.8 mile round trip hike is too much for most hikers to cover in one day, a shorter alternative to the site of the former Battle Creek Shelter near the confluence of Battle Creek and Elk Lake Creek makes an ideal day-hike destination. Be forewarned though; the trail beyond the Welcome Lakes Junction (2.2 miles from the trailhead) fords Elk Lake Creek twice and Battle Creek once and suffers from a lack of maintenance. Be prepared to get wet and climb over downed old-growth trees.

The trail begins in a reforested area but quickly climbs to an overlook of a waterfall and deep green pool on Elk Lake Creek. From here, descend slightly into deeper forest and cross into the Bull of the Woods Wilderness Area at the crossing of Pine Cone Creek. At 2.0 miles, cross first Knob Rock Creek then Welcome Creek. Note the two 10-15 foot waterfalls on Welcome Creek just above the trail. Shortly afterward, come to the junction with the Welcome Lakes Trail. Continue downhill (straight) and soon after, you'll be at the first ford of Elk Lake Creek. While the wide creek may appear to be only inches deep (in summer, at least), you'll soon find it is calf to knee-deep! The incredible clarity of Elk Lake Creek is truly astounding.

Continue on the far side of the creek and climb slightly into deep old-growth forest. If you pay close attention to the trees above you, you'll notice rings that once held telegraph wires. There are quite a few along the Elk Lake Trail. Also note how this stretch of trail suffers from a large number of downed trees, many of them quite big. You'll have fun climbing over downed trees, until you get tired of it and realize there are still more trees to climb over. 3.1 miles from the trailhead, come to a low bluff overlooking an incredibly deep and clear pool on Elk Lake Creek. Often it is possible to see fish swimming 10+ feet down in the pool. Marvel at the emerald color of the pool. This makes a great lunch and turnaround spot, but we're continuing towards the Battle Creek Shelter, so we'll be on our way.

Not long after the deep green pool comes the second ford of Elk Lake Creek. Once again, the water is stunningly clear and far deeper than it appears. This ford is slightly deeper than the first, but in summer and early fall should be easy enough for any adult. Remember to bring trekking poles or a hiking stick; you'll appreciate having an extra point of contact or two, as the rocks in the creek are large and quite slippery.

Back on your original side of Elk Lake Creek, the trail turns slightly uphill (note: while the trail gains a total of only 500 feet, there are many small ups and downs, and the constant climbing over downed trees can quickly sap your energy). Downed trees become more and more of a problem. At about 4 miles into the hike, the trail becomes difficult to follow as brush has overgrown the trail in several sections. Trust your instincts here and continue ahead, but not without first looking for blazes and sections of tread below you. The closer you get to Battle Creek, the more the trail suffers as it heads down into the bog that is the confluence of Battle Creek and Elk Lake Creek. The Elk Lake Trail is not always easy to follow here, but if you get away from the trail, STAY CLOSE TO ELK LAKE CREEK. Eventually, the trail comes to Battle Creek, which is just as wide as Elk Lake Creek and just as deep. Ford Battle Creek and negotiate the mess of downed trees on the other side, and you'll very quickly be at the site of the old Battle Creek Shelter, which collapsed under deep snow in 1988. This is an excellent spot for backpackers, as there is room for about 5-6 tents, easy creek access, two fire pits and often plenty of available wood. The former shelter site also marks the junction of the Elk Lake Trail with the Mother Lode Trail, which climbs up out of the Battle Creek canyon to Bull Of The Woods Lookout.

The Battle Creek Shelter site is an excellent spot to eat lunch, to explore the confluence of Battle and Elk Lake Creeks, and just to relax. On hot days a dip in Elk Lake Creek is a necessity. Return the way you came, but remember to exercise caution and take your time negotiating the downed trees and brush covering the trail between the shelter site and the second ford of Elk Lake Creek. If you lose the trail, retrace your steps carefully. If you get sidetracked, stay as close to Elk Lake Creek as you can. For obvious reasons, this is not a trail you should hike alone unless you are very experienced. The downed trees and creek fords are the price you have to pay for such solitude in such a beautiful setting.


  • Green Trails Maps: Battle Ax, OR #524
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, Bull of the Woods Wilderness, Opal Creek Wilderness, Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area
  • Geo-Graphics: Bull of the Woods and Opal Creek Wilderness Map
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Clackamas River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Most of the hike is within the Bull Of The Woods Wilderness Area. All wilderness area restrictions apply.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • None known

More Links


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.