Here is a beautiful Sunday drive through the back country North Willamette NF that offers great scenery and has many hiking options. This drive requires 4WD for some portions and more when wet or snowy. The route overview is:
Take Sardine Road off Hwy 22 just past the Big Cliff reservoir dam
Follow to the top, take 520 for a short distance
Connect with 2223, follow it to the 2207 junction
Take 2207 over pass and down through Opal Creek recreation area.
Take 2209 back down the hill through Elkhorn and back to Hwy 22
The run up Sardine road parallels Sardine Creek for a bit. The first mile or two has many great photo ops along the creek.
The trail begins climb and in about 4 miles there is a junction; going left is a dead-end further up the valley with a few smaller waterfalls.
Going straight it climbs connecting with 520 just before Knutson Saddle. It’s steep, lots of water bars, some rocky sections and long stretches of young alders over growing the trail that normally requires 4WD.
When 520 connects with 2223 I like to go left first, following it to the end and hike to Phantom Bridge, a 50’ span natural rock arch. There are great views of Jefferson during the hike and the valley off to the west.
Then backtrack, follow 2223 down the hill. A short distance past the 520 junction is the hike to Tumble lake, Tumble falls and Dome rock which is still on my to-do list. About 1-2 miles before the 2207 junction is an area that has many spring only snow melt waterfalls. In the early spring you’ll need to come up 2223 /French Creek Rd, just before Detroit to view them because the top is impassable due to snow.
At the 2207 junction go left and head over the pass. This route finally reopened in Fall ’10 after a major landslide had it closed for a number of years.
The route up to the pass has views of the French Creek drainage and Jefferson peeks through the trees a few times. By mid-Nov you are normally unable to get over the pass due to snow.
Once over the pass, your next hiking option is Opal lake, another on my to-do list. 2207 follows the ridge above the Cedar Creek drainage then drops down into the Opal Creek recreation area.
2207 goes through the trees for a while then parallels Cedar Creek. Cedar Creek has a number of good photo ops. On the left a mile or so after starting to parallel the creek is Sullivan falls.
Continuing down 2207, on the left will be Three Pools, it’s a nice place to hike around. It can be crowded in the Summer, in the off seasons hardly anyone is there.
At the 2207 and 2209 junction, I like to go right for easy one mile hike to Henline falls, the trailhead is about a 1/4 mile on the left. I find the falls to be at its best in late Spring as the flow starts to slow down.
If you continue up 2209, it dead ends at the trailhead for Opal Creek which is normally a full day’s hike. My normal loop follows 2209 down the hill towards Elkhorn. When you come to the bridge stop at the turnout and walk across, there is a nice cascading view of Henline Creek on the right. After passing through Elkhorn the last stop is Salmon falls on the left. The gate is normally locked in off-season, I just park in front of it. There is a trail off to the left which takes you to the top of the falls.
In winter, the driving conditions can be challenging on the accessible parts of this route. Although the quiet beauty and different character it has draped in snow makes it worth visiting. Please be careful and well prepared if you do go in winter.
100 hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades