Ochoco National Forest: Rock Creek Trail

Rock Creek from the Rock Creek Trail
Between Highway 26 and Highway 380 near the geographic center of Oregon rises a beautiful and unique mountain range. The Ochoco Mountains are unlike any other place in Oregon, there is a mix of forest and weather that is full of surprises. The Ochoco National Forest has the luxury of being far away from major population centers, which means you will often be alone while exploring. The Rock Creek Trail follows closely by Rock Creek until it reaches an old mining diversion ditch.



Caitlin checking out Rock Creek along the Rock Creek Trail

Western larch ( larix occidentalis)
Being a tree nerd I always love to see trees that aren't found in western Oregon, the western larch is one of those. This tree is a deciduous conifer, meaning that it bears cones and loses it's leaves (needles) every year. During the spring and fall they add another dimension of color to the forest. Once you reach the Waterman Ditch there is a small interpretive sign. Not long after starting to walk along the ditch you will come to the remains of a cabin. This cabin was likely used by some of those who built this ditch.


Trash from the old cabin along Rock Creek Trail


A portion of the cabin along Rock Creek Trail


Ax marks on an exposed portion of the cabin along Rock Creek Trail
There is a small stream crossing just before the cabin and it's possible to keep your feet dry. Camping could be done at the old cabin, though there seemed to be massive ants crawling everywhere. There is a small fire pit near the site. As you continue along the old mining ditch you have spectacular views of the Rock Creek drainage.
Remnants of the Waterman Ditch along Rock Creek 

Massive old-growth ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) high above Rock Creek

Densely forested Rock Creek drainage
We didn't really have a plan on where we were going to camp, we knew that there was a decent site in a saddle just before the start of the Rim Trail. We were shooting for that or something before it. We spotted a creek-side camp along Second Creek. The area was big enough for two tents and had plentiful firewood and an awesome spring-fed creek not far away.

Small strawberry lined camp on Second Creek

Another view of the campsite along Second Creek
 Despite the warm temperatures during the day it was still a relatively chilly morning, also it took quite awhile for the sun to hit this campsite. Sadly we only had one night, so we packed up and headed back to the Rock Creek Trailhead.


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: 13.5 miles according to Oregon Garmin 550

Hike Type: Out and Back

Elevation Gain: Approximately 700 feet

Highest Point:
5,500 feet

Usage:
Low

Difficulty: 1 out of 5

Fees: None



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