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Bridge Creek Wilderness 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. Carry detailed maps of the whole area and/or a GPS unit and compass.
View to Gable Creek Meadow from Point 6607, Bridge Creek Wilderness (bobcat)
Alpine prickly currant (Ribes montigenum), North Point Road, Bridge Creek Wilderness (bobcat)
Looking to White Butte from North Point, Bridge Creek Wilderness (bobcat)
White-rayed wyethia (Wyethia helianthoides), Bridge Creek Wilderness (bobcat)
View to Pisgah Meadows from the Bridge Creek Trail, Bridge Creek Wilderness (bobcat)
The cross-country routes in the Bridge Creek Wilderness (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Bridge Creek Trailhead
  • Ending Point: Point 6607
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Cross-country loop + in and out
  • Distance: 4.5 miles
  • High Point: 6,607 feet
  • Elevation gain: 720 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Late spring into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids who like off-trail
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

The tiny 5,400-acre Bridge Creek Wilderness comprises an ancient volcanic upland that is incised by the upper reaches of Bridge Creek, which flows through a series of lush meadows near the trailhead. There are no maintained trails in the wilderness, and a 2008 forest fire consumed much of the standing timber. There are two short routes that can be more easily explored by visitors. The first takes you up, or parallel to, an old jeep road to a couple of viewpoints on a rim that offers expansive views north to the Painted Hills and west to the Cascade peaks. Be aware that there are numerous downed snags and the only “trail” is an indistinct jeep track: good off-trail skills are required. The second option also begins at the Bridge Creek Trailhead and follows the only trail that once existed here: the Bridge Creek Trail has been abandoned and unmaintained for 35-40 years. However, despite the fact that Bridge Creek is the municipal water source for the town of Mitchell, cattle have used the tread across the clay sagebrush slopes, and you will be able to pick up remnants of the path in the open areas. Once you enter the woods lower down on Bridge Creek, however, deadfall and an increasingly obscure trail will probably make you want to turn back.

From the trailhead, you can first descend to the road and explore the pond on Bridge Creek. This is a stock pond created by the damming of Bridge Creek by the road, but if you are camped out near here, the pond’s frogs will provide a lusty chorus all night!

There is no particularly clear way to get to North Point, the first viewpoint, even though it is only a mile away. Follow the abandoned jeep track from the trailhead up a hillside churned up by gophers and blooming with desert-parsley, Brown’s peonies, and wild onions in late spring. As the jeep track, which once led to a lookout post, enters a copse of trees, it becomes littered with deadfall. The best way to circumvent this is to descend to the meadow along the creek that parallels the track. This lush expanse supports dense congregrations of false hellebore and is boggy in places. Follow the west side of the meadow up as far as you can go, probably startling a few deer, before returning to the road. Sometimes it is easier to leave the road bed, but as you ascend this gradual slope, it opens up more, and there are large patches of low sagebrush (Artemisia arbuscula) which are generally clear of dead wood. Regular lines of stones are water bars arranged across the old jeep track. Keep rising, and you should eventually fetch up at the grassy prominence and cairn on the rim reef known as North Point. Conical White Butte is below, and the drainages of Gable and Thompson Creeks flow into Bridge Creek as it wends it way through the Painted Hills to the north. Look south to the lookout tower on Mt. Pisgah, which is manned in the summer months.

North Point is neither the highest nor the most interesting prominence on the rim, however. To the west, the rocky unburned promontory of Point 6607 juts out. You can easily hike across to this along the rim, dodging most of the downed snags. On Point 6607, copses of gnarled mountain mahogany trees stand out among the sage, and the views are stupendous: Even on a slightly hazy day, you can see the snowy crest of the Cascades from Mount Adams in the north to Diamond Peak in the south. Right below you are a couple of interesting lava ridges: Like the rim itself, these are part of an early Miocene lava flow.

To return to the trailhead, take the easy cross-country route. Simply walk southeast from Point 6607 from one sagebrush meadow to another. You’ll generally avoid downed trees and eventually emerge at the western end of the open slope above FR 2630. You can either descend to the road or walk across the slope to the trailhead.

To follow the remnants of the Bridge Creek Trail, again take the jeep track up the slope from the trailhead. A few yards up this open expanse, however, you may notice the indentation of an old path branching off to the right on the clay slope. Below you, a patch of white-rayed wyethia blooms in late spring. You will soon lose this tread, but cross the lush creek east of the trailhead below the line of trees, and descend a little to pick up the tread again. This is the Bridge Creek Trail. The trail generally keeps above the trees on the sagebrush slope on the north side of Bridge Creek. Mountain mahogany and western juniper grow in scattered fashion on this incline. You’ll soon drop to Bridge Creek itself as it runs through a verdant and boggy meadow. Here, Engelmann spruce, grand fir, and lodgepole pine shade the stream. Traverse the open slope again, and cross another creek in a stand of conifers. The trail continues along the slope, generally staying well above the creek and offering views back to the Mt. Pisgah Fire Lookout. Wild onion, desert-parsley, paintbrush, and lupine bloom on the trail tread itself. Drop to cross a perennial creek bed, and find a trail trace continuing along the hillside. Soon, you’ll step over a third creek and reach the woods, where an obstacle course of dry fallen snags and new vegetation will make going difficult.

Others have entered here and found great difficulty following the path. A goal might be to try and reach Bridge Spring, but the trail becomes totally obscured among the debris. Somewhere in here, there is a manmade ditch, perhaps a miner’s trench or an irrigation channel.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Abandoned trail, very faint: experienced off-trailers only; expect lots of downed trees
  • Clearance required for trailhead access

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mill Creek Wilderness, Bridge Creek Wilderness, Black Canyon Wilderness
  • 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

  • Eastern Oregon Wilderness Areas by Donna Ikenberry Aitkenhead
  • Oregon’s Wilderness Areas by George Wuerthner
  • Atlas of Oregon Wilderness by William L. Sullivan

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.