Directions: Drive I-5 South to exit 253. Take a left and get onto Highway 22 and drive for a little over 22 miles until you come to a blinking light intersection, go left onto North Fork Road. Drive about 15.5 miles and the road will turn from pavement to gravel (note: there is a short gravel section earlier but it quickly returns to pavement). The gravel road now become FR 2209 and you enter the Opal Creek Wilderness. Continue for over 5.5 miles (keep left at a split in the road) where the road ends at the trailhead. Warning: The gravel road has MANY potholes, some of them pretty large. We saw all different types of cars at the trailhead and only one (a Fiat) seemed to have a problem. Just be aware and decide how much you’re willing to put your car through. The road has changed a lot since the first time we were here three years ago.
To see our first post on Jawbone Flats click here.
This whole trail is a rarely used access road for the small town of Jawbone Flats, which is now an environmental center. For more information on Jawbone Flats click here. The trail roller coasters over easy hills most of the way into Jawbone Flats. There is a lot to see along the way as well. You will first cross a bridge over Gold Creek and then come to an old mining shaft. It’s dark and pretty wet during the rainy season. Next you will start to see old mining equipment off to your right. There is a short side trail that takes you through all the equipment and to an old shed that’s barely standing. Behind this old shed is a hard to see trail that leads to Sawmill Falls. It’s well worth the short trip.
Back on the main trail you will continue to see the Little North Santiam River and mining equipment occasionally. You will pass a trail junction with a bridge over the river, make sure you stay straight on the main trail though. Next there is another side trail that takes you to a natural rock waterslide that gets heavy use in the summer. Soon you will enter Jawbone Flats as you walk right down the middle of the tiny town. There are cabins on both sides of the trail and you will pass an information cabin. Cross Battle Ax Creek and follow the sign pointing you (right) towards Opal Pool.
You will pass by an old fire truck (complete with chains on the tires!) and a bunch of old cars, wood stoves, and appliances. Continue past the picnic table area and meadow as you get back into the woods and come to another sign pointing you right again, Opal Pool is just a short distance later. There is a bridge that crosses Opal Creek and plenty of places to sit and relax. The water level was really high this time around so we didn’t see the pools it was just a fast moving creek! However, it was a nice weekend (high 60’s) and we did see people cliff jumping, which was shocking since it was only the second of April :). This is the turn around point so head back out the way you came in.
This hike is pet and family friendly. There is a vault toilet at the trailhead and a compost toilet in Jawbone Flats. There is a $5 parking fee (NW Forest Passes are accepted).
We’re keeping our original Nalgene rating of 5. This place is great no matter the season!
Distance: 7 miles
Elevation: 380 feet
Pet Friendly: Yes
Good For: All Ages
Bathrooms: Yes. Vault toilet at trailhead and compost toilet in Jawbone Flats
Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass
Seasons: All but may close during snowy times.
Overall: We love this place. There is so much too see that you’ll want to plan a good chunk of time for this hike.