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Jawbone Flats Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Company store, Jawbone Flats (bobcat)
The road to Jawbone Flats (Matt Reeder)
The Little North Santiam, on the way to Jawbone Flats (bobcat)
Parking lot, Jawbone Flats (bobcat)
Ancient Douglas-fir near Gold Creek, Jawbone Flats Road (bobcat)
The route to Jawbone Flats along gated FR 2209 (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Opal Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Jawbone Flats
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and back
  • Distance: 6.6 miles round trip
  • High point: 2,130 feet
  • Elevation gain: 360 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All, but check conditions in winter first
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

Although the beginning of this hike is not a trail, after visiting here you may consider it one of the most scenic roads you will ever walk upon. You will travel through magnificent old growth, gaze upon the dazzling turquoise waters of the Little North Santiam, and view part of the mining history and artifacts of Little North Santiam Mining District. Your destination the historic company town of Jawbone Flats, now part private environmental education center and part outdoor museum, where you can see rusting vehicles, old mining equipment, and an ore mill among the restored cabins of the Ancient Forest Center.

For the first part of this hike, you will be traveling on a gravel road. The tracks is used by the residents of Jawbone Flats only, so it is not likely that you will encounter any vehicles. Head past the gate at the trailhead and walk along the road in an ancient forest of Douglas-fir, western red-cedar, and western hemlock. Salal and Oregon grape form the understory as the road drops. Look down the slope for massive Douglas-firs several hundred years old. Cross the Gold Creek Bridge and view the cascades and pool in the chasm below. The road rises to the Whetstone Mountain-Jawbone Flats Trail Junction, the former a jeep track, formerly FR 2209-330, leading up to the left.

The road bed drops passes along the recently redesigned “half-bridges” in a steep-sided canyon, the Little North Santiam rushing way below. Pass an old adit as the road levels and then rises. At the top of the rise, a spur leads right to an overlook. Descend and the trail levels to cross several small creeks. A road turnout leads right into the area where equipment from the Merten Mill lies abandoned. Look for relics of the mining era, such as a boiler and smelter, and walk past a picnic table. Before a decrepit wooden shed, take a short trail that leads to the river and the Cascada de los Ninos (or Sawmill Falls). Back on the main road, the tread rises. There are more cascades on the Little North Santiam to the right. Pass an outhouse. The road levels again, and a sign indicates the Kopetski-Jawbone Flats Trail Junction.

Continuing on the FR 2209 road bed, get more views of the Little North Santiam, including low Slide Falls. Then pass two shallow adits and enter Jawbone Flats. This is the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center and private property, so stay on the main track as you pass through and make sure your dog is leashed. You can cross the bridge over Battle Ax Creek and go past the Pelton Shed, which generates their electricity. Opal Pool is less than a quarter mile to the right after you pass some ore carts, old appliances, and a line of rusting vehicles to reach a meadow with a covered picnic table and composting toilet. The remains of the old ore mill dominate the meadow here. From the Battle Ax Creek-Kopetski Trail North Junction, which is signed for the Opal Pool, you can make a loop back to FR 2209 (See the Opal Pool-Cedar Flats Hike).


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • 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: Willamette National Forest: Detroit Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Willamette National Forest
  • Pacific Northwest Recreation Map Series: Willamette Cascades

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass required at trailhead
  • Dogs on leash in Jawbone Flats
  • Respect private property in the Jawbone Flats area: keep to the main road and walk your bike
  • The gravel road/trail to Jawbone Flats is not wilderness, but trails north and east of the mining area are, so all normal wilderness rules apply: no groups larger than 12, no bikes, and leave no trace.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region by Matt Reeder
  • 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades by William L. Sullivan
  • Hiking Oregon's History by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon by Douglas Lorain
  • 50 Hikes in Oregon by David L. Anderson
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • I Heart Oregon (& Washington) by Lisa D. Holmes
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • Best Old-growth Forest Hikes: Washington & Oregon Cascades by John & Diane Cissel
  • 50 Old-Growth Hikes in the Willamette National Forest by John & Diane Cissel (map)
  • Wild in the Willamette edited by Lorraine Anderson with Abby Phillips Metzger
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Best Short Hikes in Northwest Oregon by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Best Dog Hikes: Oregon edited by Falcon Guides
  • Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest by David L. Anderson
  • A Hiker's Guide to Oregon's Hidden Wilderness (Central Cascades Conservation Council)

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.