Santiam Wagon Road: Mountain House to House Rock Falls


Normally I'm somewhat apprehensive about hiking on old roads, especially ones that run parallel to a modern road. But I also love to hike any longer trails in the area. The full length of the trail portion of the Santiam Wagon Road is approximately 21 miles, running from Fish Lake to Mountain House. Some of the trail is still on drivable road, but thankfully much of it is only open to non-motorized transportation.

Bridge across the South Santiam River

South Santiam River
 The hike starts out at a small pull out next to a gated bridge across the South Santiam River. The trailhead would hold about 5 cars, but I wouldn't expect to see many other people. Shortly after you cross the bridge you enter into an almost pure stand of Red Alder. I'm not sure what kind of disturbance caused this early successional forest, but it's beautiful. 

Dense Red alder (Alnus rubra) line the trail

Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) and Red alder (Alnus rubra) leaves cover the Santiam Wagon Road here
 After crossing a couple of step across fords you will notice the forest cover has shifted to an old growth Douglas-fir forest. Shortly after seeing a few impressive Douglas-firs you will come to a stream crossing that will require you to get your feet wet. After several days of heavy rain it wasn't more than half way up my calf.

One of the many small fords on the Santiam Wagon Road

Old growth forest along the Santiam Wagon Road

The only downside to this beautiful old growth setting is that you can still hear some road noise from Highway 20. This disappears around the 2 mile mark. Not having done my homework on where I was hiking this time, I wasn't even aware that House Rock Falls existed, but when I saw an arrow pointing towards the falls I had to check it out.

Sign to House Rock Falls along the Santiam Wagon Road

House Rock Falls along the Santiam Wagon Road
 Not having ever been to House Rock Campground I was definitely impressed by their riverside campsites. It's on my list of car camping spots for this upcoming spring. Though there wasn't a bridge across the South Santiam River one could ford it near the campground with relative ease.
House Rock Campground from the Santiam Wagon Road

House Rock Campground in the background, South Santiam river in the foreground

House Rock was used by travelers to keep out of the rain. It was a pretty massive rock and there was some dry ground under it, but there was also two small streams running under. Far from being one of four roadhouses along the Santiam Wagon Road, it served it's purpose as emergency shelter.

Entry to House Rock

Two streams run under House Rock
Sadly the trip back to the trailhead seemed much faster than the walk in. As I was crossing the bridge across the South Santiam river a light rain began to fall, it was a great end to an incredible hike. This would be a great hike to do in reverse after setting up camp at House Rock Campground.

Directions from Sweet Home:
Follow Highway 20 east for 25.5 miles, turn right into the small parking area. The turn is just after a gate along Highway 20.

Trailhead Elevation:
Approximately 1,424 feet

Hike Distance:
5 miles according to my Garmin Oregon 550 GPS 

Hike Type: Out and back with short loop to House Rock/House Rock Falls 

Elevation Gain: Approximately 300 feet

Usage:
Light 

Difficulty: 1 out of 5

Fees: None





 


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