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Scout Camp Trail Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

A hiker (red dot in the middle) going down Scout Camp Trail (romann)
Deschutes River from mid-way down the canyon (romann)
These pines are where Alder Springs Trail ends on the other side. However, the river is too fast and deep to cross here. (romann)
Desert wildlife (romann)
Map of the Route
  • Start point: Scout Camp TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Scout Camp Trailhead
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 2.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 700 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Year round, may get very hot in summer
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for kids over 8
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

This little gem is probably too short alone for most Portlanders considering a long drive to get there, but if you visit nearby Otter Bench Loop Hike, Steelhead Falls Hike, or even a little further away Smith Rock State Park, then this place is a must-see. This part of Central Oregon has a lot of hikes to offer, and Scout Camp trail rivals many in scenery. Keep in mind that this steep trail is not for icy weather (which is rare at this elevation), and that on a sunny summer afternoon the canyon gets very hot. In spring, it's probably one of the first places to look for blooming balsamroot and other desert flowers. Add untamed rapids on the Deschutes River, the views at deep canyons on three sides (the trail passes confluence of Deschutes R. and Whychus Creek), and even a little arch and you got a perfect mix.

The trail heads west on a flat plateau among juniper trees. Not 3/10 miles later, the trail heads steeply downhill over a series of small switchbacks. Soon, you come to a fork - turn left as directed by the sign - this direction makes sense since if you head right there's very steep descent on loose gravel. From now on, there are great views of the canyon, the river far below, and cool rock formations around you. The trail gradually leads most of the way down to the river, but just short of canyon's bottom it changes direction and switchbacks to the right. Here, the trail becomes rougher as it goes over and around the big boulders. You'll come to what looks like an old campsite right beside the trail (look up to see a narrow arch near the top of the cliffs above you) and some inscriptions on rock wall, dating back several decades. There are a few short scrambles to the left through the brush to get down to the river. Soon, the trail comes to a 6 foot tall rock ledge and seems to dead-end here, but it is easy to scramble up the ledge and you'll see the trail continuing on the other side.

The trail gets within 10 yards of Deschutes River, and suddenly picks uphill. For the next 1/2 mile or so, the climb is steep but the views of nearby rapids, a small pine grove on the other side, and surrounding rock formations only get better. Don't be surprised if you see hikers (and even campers) on the other side of the river - they got there via the Alder Springs Trail. The river is too fast and deep to cross here.

Once you climb back to the 3-way junction, turn left and continue short way up to the rim of the canyon. You'll appreciate the flat stretch at the end of the hike, and ancient juniper trees will give some shade.


Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • No pass required (managed by BLM)
  • Scout Camp Loop Trail is within the Steelhead Falls Wilderness Study Area which is limited to non-motorized use. Horses and mountain bikes are not allowed due to steepness; open to hikers only.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hiking: Bend and Central Oregon by Brittany Manwill
  • Bend, Overall by Scott Cook



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.