Tag Archives: Jawbone Flats

Jawbone Flats (Autumn 2018)

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: We have been to this trailhead many times and the gravel section is always hit or miss. Some years it was in good condition, some it was horrible with huge potholes. You can call the nearest ranger district for more up to date info on road conditions.

The trail you hike in on is actually a rarely used access road for the small town of Jawbone Flats. We did encounter one car on our hike in, as well as some large construction equipment that was doing trail updates. The trail is wide, well maintained, and rollercoasters the whole way into Jawbone flats.

      

There is a lot to stop and look at along the way which is great. You’ll see an old mining shaft fairly early on and old mining equipment scattered about along the whole trail. When you come to a section with large mining equipment and a picnic table take the side trail right next to the table and it quickly drops you down to Sawmill Falls. It’s a very pretty waterfall and the blue/green waters of the North Fork Santiam River is worth the stop as well. We were sad to see the old shed had collapsed but not surprised as it was leaning heavily the last time we were here.

      

Continuing on the trail you will continue to get great views of the river and continue to see mining equipment as well. This was our first time here during autumn and it was quite a treat to see all the color! You will soon come to Jawbone Flats, there are year-round workers here and some cabin rentals. Please make sure you respect peoples privacy and leave the cabins alone.

      

As you walk through Jawbone Flats you will cross Battle Axe Creek and see where the town gets its electricity. Continuing on you will come to an open grassy area with a few picnic tables and a composting toilet. This makes a great place to stop for lunch or to take a short break and check out all the old cars that are along the trail.

      

About a 1/4 mile past the picnic tables you will see the marked turnoff for Opal Pool, this short trail takes you to a bridge with a view down into a narrow gorge and Opal Pool itself. This is the end of the hike, head back out the way you came in.

      

This hike has seen a major uptick in visitors over the last several years. Please be respectful of this beautiful area and follow the 7 principles of Leave No Trace.

Distance: 7 miles (moderate)

Elevation: 380 (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: At the trailhead and the composting toilet in Jawbone Flats.

Parking Fee: NW Forest Pass required

Seasons: All but check for winter closures

Popular: Very popular during the summer months and somewhat popular on weekends during the off months.

Warnings: The road in can have a lot of potholes.

Jawbone Flats (Spring)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Difficulty: Moderate

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.

Popular: Yes

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.

Jawbone Flats (Summer 2013)

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 a little over 5.5 miles (keep left at a split in the road) where the road ends at the trailhead.

The entire trail is a old Jeep road so it’s relatively smooth but dusty. This hike is packed full of things to do and see. About half a mile past the first bridge, on your left is an old mine shaft and not too far past that on your right, just off trail is lots of old mining equipment. Not long after you’ll come to an old shack. Follow the trail behind it and to the right (no signage) down to Sawmill Falls. There’s a little bit of a rock scramble to get down to the water’s edge.

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Between the shack and Jawbone Flats you will come across a small waterfall with a rock water slide with an area of calm water that’s good for swimming. There are also a few viewpoints and lots of Huckleberries along the way. Opal Creek Trail meets up with the Jeep road along this stretch. You can take Opal Creek Trail to Opal Pool and then Jawbone Flats, instead of just staying on the Jeep road and going to Jawbone Flats first.

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Jawbone Flats is an old mining town that was built between 1927 and 1932. There are currently only 9 permanent residents and it is also an interpretive center. The trail takes you right down the middle of the town and you pass by cabins (some of witch you can rent) and a small store. You continue on, across Battle Axe Creek, and follow the road to the right. You’ll pass old trucks and more equipment. On the left there is a picnic shelter and on the right is a composting toilet (little advice: you’ll need good aim and a strong stomach for this toilet).

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About a half mile past the picnic tables you will come to Opal Pool. Take the side trail down a few feet to the bridge where there are many options to hang out and cool off.

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Head back out the way you came in.

 

Distance: 7 miles (moderate)

Elevation: 380 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: NW Forest Pass required

Seasons: All but may be closed if there is snow.

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None