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Buck Creek Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The Buck Creek ford on the Buck Mountain Trail near the junction with the Buck Creek Trail (bobcat)
Sulphur lupine (Lupinus sulphureus sulphureus), Buck Creek Trail (bobcat)
Basalt dikes above the Buck Creek Trail (bobcat)
Little wild rose (Rosa gymnocarpa), Buck Creek Trail (bobcat)
The Buck Creek Trail keeps to the north bank of Buck Creek (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Buck Creek Trailhead
  • Ending Point: Buck Creek Overlook
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 6.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 835 feet
  • High Point: 3,115 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Spring into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes, part of the way
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

In its original incarnation, the Buck Creek Trail apparently had at least 30 crossings of the creek on its 3 ½ mile route to join the Lake Creek Trail, which then heads up to Buck Mountain (A 13-mile loop can be fashioned by descending the Buck Mountain Trail back to the Buck Creek Trailhead). However, a number of years ago, the Buck Creek Trail was rerouted to stay above the north bank of the creek until it crosses Buck Creek in the Lake Creek drainage. That said, the trail has not been maintained in its upper reaches, and this description takes you about half a mile short of that crossing. The route is snow free at the beginning of spring, and the first couple of miles is a good family hike.

Hike in from the trailhead kiosk about 90 yards to the Buck Creek-Buck Mountain-Ninemile Ridge Trail Junction. The only sign here in 2018 was a damaged Buck Mountain Trail plaque on your right. To see Buck Creek at trail level, go right to reach the ford of the creek by the Buck Mountain Trail. Then return to the Buck Creek Trail, which is the middle path of the three.

Hike in a southeasterly direction above the creek under a canopy of Douglas-fir, white fir, and ponderosa pine with an understory of Douglas maple, thimbleberry, snowberry, and wild rose. The trail rises but then descends to a lush bottomland before heading up an incline again to get an open view of the north slopes of Buck Mountain. The shrubbery here includes orange honeysuckle, Pacific ninebark, thimbleberry, and bitter cherry. Drop to cross a dry creek and reach a Douglas-fir bottomland. Then undulate above the creek, of which you will only catch glimpses. Descend once more to a shady flat along the creek vegetated lushly with cow parsnip, wood fern, and Solomon plume. Continuing on, you will notice more ponderosa pines before you burst out on an open rocky slope that blooms with cluster lily, stonecrop, buckwheat, and buckbrush in late spring. Notice the tall cottonwoods rustling down at Buck Creek.

The trail turns in under an imposing rock battlement and crosses a talus slope. Keep rising to pass through another steep meadow, and continue on to plow through more overhanging thimbleberry. Step over another dry creek, traverse, and then reach another seasonal watercourse. Traverse a grassy slope where you can look up to see a basalt dike jutting up against the skyline. Pass a family of small eroded pinnacles just above the trail, and cross two more creeks before emerging to get a view down to Buck Creek. This is a good turn around point; if you continue, you’ll be reentering the woods to encounter increasing brushiness and more blowdown across the trail.


Fees, Facilities, etc.

  • Information kiosk
  • The port-a-potties behind the gate at the trailhead are for the Buck Creek Kiwanis Organization Camp. Use the facilities at the nearby Umatilla Forks Campground (drinking water also available).
  • Share trail with horses

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Walla Walla Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Umatilla National Forest

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Oregon's Ancient Forests: A Hiking Guide by Chandra LeGue
  • Eastern Oregon Wilderness Areas by Donna Ikenberry Aitkenhead
  • Oregon’s Wilderness Areas by George Wuerthner
  • Atlas of Oregon Wilderness by William L. Sullivan
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

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.