Ochoco Mountain Trail: Rock Creek to Cottonwood Creek

Along the Ochoco Mountain Trail near Spanish Peak
Recently a few friends and I made the drive out to backpack on the Rock Creek Trail. When we arrived at the trailhead there was a map posted that showed a trail I had never heard of, the Ochoco Mountain Trail. The mileage wasn't listed and I wasn't sure what the terrain would be like, but it sparked my interest. Fast forward a few weeks, two of were back at the Rock Creek Trailhead to hike the 42 mile loop.

Rock Creek Trailhead Start of the Ochoco Mountain Trail
After a short first day we made it to the campsite that we had used on our out and back hike of the Rock Creek Trail. We planned to hike anywhere from 15-20 miles per day, but didn't really have any particular site in mind for the next campsite. So we set out early towards Spanish Peak. After missing the junction with the Rim Trail we ended up walking along the Waterman Ditch for an extra mile before stopping for a map check. This set us back slightly, but wasn't a huge deal. Keep in mind that if you have hit the campsite in the saddle you need to backtrack to find the trail to Spanish Peak.

Saddle campsite lupine and ponderosa pine abound

The sign we missed...

Rock Creek Lake high above on the Ochoco Mountain Trail

Rock Creek Drainage from the Ochoco Mountain Trail
As we made our way up the fairly steep Rim Trail some fairly nasty looking clouds started to move in. We knew there was a 20 percent chance of rain, but didn't anticipate the snow that started to fall near Spanish Peak. We decided before getting completely soaked that we should make a shelter and have some lunch.

Ed looking towards Spanish Peak

Our makeshift lunch shelter under a western juniper

Rain falling to the south of the Rim Trail near Spanish Peak
Knowing that the weather would clear before night and that we could dry out in the morning if need be, we set out again towards Spanish Peak. The trail marking across much of the area seemed unnecessary, but when it was needed it was nowhere to be found. Having a GPS, and two different maps of the area greatly reduced the amount of time we spent looking for the trail. In some of the meadow areas near Spanish Peak it was fairly difficult to find. 

Junction with the Mascall Trail

Near Spanish Peak on what may or may not be the trail

Quaking aspen grove east of Spanish Peak

Delicious wild onions were everywhere along the Rim Trail
We planned to camp along Back Creek, but upon arrival we were disappointed in the lack of a good flat area. So we filled up in the somewhat slowly moving and warm creek that had a large amount of cow pies nearby. This stream may dry out by late summer, so I wouldn't count on it. If you're planning on collecting any wild onions be sure that they aren't death camas, it looks somewhat similar, but lacks the onion-ish smell. Our campsite was in a dry area that was somewhat level, but was riddled with cow pies and while sitting near the fire I had a tick crawl on my leg. There was ample western juniper for firewood, but the lack of water made this site less than desirable. Knowing that in the morning we would be walking downhill until the year-round Cottonwood Creek we didn't conserve water for our dinner and breakfast. One of my favorite parts of summer backpacking is how early the sunrises, we ended up leaving camp by about 7am. The descent to Cottonwood Creek was fairly easy and well graded, after a morning snack and a water break we set out for the toughest section of the hike.

Ed next to a massive ponderosa pine

Cottonwood Creek along the Ochoco Mountain Trail

End of the Cottonwood Trail
The next section of the Ochoco Mountain Trail from Cottonwood Creek to Boeing Field Trailhead on the west side of Black Canyon Wilderness was some of the toughest but most incredible hiking I've done in Cascadia. My GPS track from this hike can be download if you click on the map below.

Directions from Paulina: Follow Highway 380 for 3.5 miles, turn left onto Beaver Creek Road, follow for 7.5 miles, merge onto FR 42 for 1.5 miles, merge onto FR 3810 for 6.5 miles to FR 38, turn right, follow FR 38 for 3.5 miles to the well marked trailhead on the left.

Trailhead Elevation: Approximately 5,500 Feet

Hike Distance: 42 miles according to Oregon Garmin 550

Hike Type: Loop

Elevation Gain And Loss: Approximately 7,200 feet

Highest Point:
6,500 feet


Difficulty: 4 out of 5

Fees: None

First glance of Black Canyon

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