Ochoco National Forest: Payten Trail to Big Ford
|Looking down into Black Canyon Wilderness|
After several trips out to Ochoco National Forest last summer I was determined to get back again this year. One of my favorite sections of the Ochoco Mountain Loop was down the Payten Trail to Big Ford. The relatively high starting point of the trail means that you will be walking downhill nearly all the way to camp, which is a blessing and a curse.
|Campsite near the Payten Trailhead|
|Lupine is everywhere in the Black Canyon Wilderness|
The Black Canyon Wilderness is an incredibly beautiful place and being that it is several hours from any major population centers, you will likely find yourself alone out here. Because we ended up going out on Memorial Day weekend, we came across two other backpackers and two local day hikers. It was only a short 4 miles or so down to Big Ford, so in the morning we weren't in a hurry. There was one other vehicle near the trailhead, but they didn't seem to be into hiking.
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 10.5 miles to the well marked trailhead on the left.
|Edward looking down the nearly flat start of the Payten Trail|
|The first glimpse of the Black Canyon|
|Edward and I near the Black Canyon Wilderness entry sign|
This trail is still only somewhat built and as you descend there are many wood stakes the were placed to mark the future trail. It seems somewhat tacky to leave them out for over a year and not finish the trail. There are some fairly steep and rocky sections before you reach the open switchbacks just above Black Canyon Creek.
|Lindsay looking at some of the wildflowers|
|View of the Black Canyon Wilderness on along the Payten Trail|
|Edward looking down Black Canyon towards the John Day River|
Once you reach the open meadows you're very close to the junction with the Black Canyon Trail, which bisects the entire Black Canyon Wilderness. It is 13.7 miles from Boeing Field Trailhead to the John Day River. Big Ford is a relatively shallow crossing of Black Canyon Creek, that provides access to the 5.5 mile long South Prong Trail. This trail is similar to the Payten Trail, in that it drops steeply into the Wilderness after a short flat portion. When we hit the junction with the Black Canyon Trail, we ran into the other two backpackers. They were as surprised to see us as we were to see them. Thankfully they had already set up camp several miles up Black Canyon Creek and were just exploring for the day.
|Big Ford along the Black Canyon Trail|
|Lindsay hanging out in camp at Big Ford|
|The view south near Big Ford along the Black Canyon Trail|
The remainder of the day we just wandered around in every direction from camp. There were many things to be seen, including wildflowers, large game and Paiute rock carvings.
|Looking east towards the John Day River|
|Indian paintbrush is also commonly found in the Black Canyon Wilderness|
|Looking north near Big Ford|
|Beautiful flowers abound in the Black Canyon|
|Kincaid lupine along the Black Canyon Trail|
|Park-like stands of ponderosa pine near Big Ford in Black Canyon Wilderness|
We sadly only had one night out, so we headed back to the Payten Trailhead in the morning. Clouds threatened rain briefly in the morning, but only produced a few sprinkles here and there.
|First trip with the new backpack|
|Caitlin, Edward, and Lindsay hiking up the Payten Trail|
Hike Distance: 8 miles round-trip
Hike Type: Out and back
Elevation Gain/Elevation Loss: 1,800 feet
Trailhead Elevation: 5,300 Feet
Difficulty: 4 out of 5
Difficulty: 4 out of 5