Ochoco Mountain Trail: Cottonwood Creek to Boeing Field Trailhead

View into the park like Black Canyon Wilderness from the Ochoco Mountain Trail
Knowing that we would be climbing around 1,800 feet over about three miles we set a fairly slow pace out from Cottonwood Creek. At first the trail was easy to find as it went from steep to flat over a series of benches that were covered in large ponderosa pine. Route finding on this section of trail wasn't particularly bad, but there was a section where young Douglas-fir has encroached. Also be mindful of switchbacks, often game trails continue straight when the hiking trail does not. As you near the Cottonwood Creek trailhead the trail becomes incredibility steep, thankfully this section only lasts about 1 mile. Once we hit the Cottonwood Creek trailhead we took a well needed break. There was a couple of interesting historical signs at this well marked trailhead.

Finally the trail flattens out near the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead

24 miles down, only 18 to go!

Marker about the Payten Trail which is part of the Ochoco Mountain Trail

Marker about the Cottonwood Trail, which is part of the Ochoco Mountain Trail
After crossing FR 38 we began our decent into the Black Canyon Wilderness. The Payten trail once ran to an old homestead as mentioned above, but that route had run through private land for many years without a proper right-of-way. Now the trail switchbacks down a series of benches and at times follows the fence line of this property. There are rock cairns and some survey markers along the way, though the trail isn't completed yet. The Ochoco National Forest lists the Payten Trail as closed on their website, but that isn't the case. As we entered into the Black Canyon Wilderness we took a few photos and continued on to our next break spot, Big Ford.  

Myself at the entrance to the Black Canyon Wilderness

Lupine near

Ed near the stream at Big Ford along the Ochoco Mountain Trail
The hike from Big Ford up Black Canyon Creek was somewhat challenging given the large number of of down trees that at times obscured the trail. Knowing that it would be fairly warm day we tried to push through the large treeless sections relatively quickly. There are many stream crossing both of seasonal creeklets and of Black Canyon Creek itself before reaching the Boeing Field Trailhead. Numerous campsites dot the lush creek, some even having official signs.

Looking down Black Canyon from the Ochoco Mountain Trail

Along the Ochoco Mountain Trail in the Black Canyon Wilderness

Crossing the Wheeler County line in the Black Canyon Wilderness along the Ochoco Mountain Trail

Well built bench and stocked with firewood. Campsite along the Ochoco Mountain Trail in Black Canyon Wildernes

Shallow stream crossing along the Ochoco Mountain Trail in the Black Canyon Wilderness

Awesome camp along the Ochoco Mountain Trail in the Black Canyon Wilderness

Ed climbing under a relatively large down tree along the Ochoco Mountain Trail

 Despite having fairly extensive backpacking experience including about 5 months on the Pacific Crest Trail, I still make some basic mistakes. Ed and I were both nearly out of food about halfway through the climb out of Black Canyon still having over 10 miles back to the truck and a drive of about 50 miles to the nearest food. Thankfully there were plentiful wild onions along much of the hike. This definitely reminded me that not taking rugged terrain into consideration while planning a hike is a big growling mistake. Not to sound overly whiny, but the nearly five mile road walk on an empty stomach was pretty brutal. Large chucks of rock and FiveFingers never get along but after a few days hiking it was humbling. I would highly suggest stashing a bike at the Boeing Field Trailhead so that this road walk would be unnecessary.

The long road back to the truck

Overall this is a great hike and if you're looking to get out and hike some decent miles without seeing many (or any) people you'll love the Ochoco Mountain Trail.

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


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