If you walk on the Trout Creek trail at certain times of the year, you’ll probably see golden eagles soaring over the rimrock bordering the Deschutes River. This easy trail is located northwest of Madras, Oregon and the trail head is located in a nice Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campground. There is no fee for parking and hiking there.
The trail follows an old railroad track route. As I mentioned in a previous post here, there were two railroad companies competing to work their way south so for a while, there were two tracks. This rails-to-trails conversion serves hikers well. The trail heads west from the campground for 7.6 miles. On a recent hike there we hiked for two miles and then turned around. There’s an outhouse there and a good grass-covered area along the river for a lunch break.
We saw some interesting wildlife on our hike in April. Common mergansers were seen all along the route. The female and males have such different coloring and form you might think they are two distinct species. We saw ospreys on a nest and soaring overhead. Golden eagles and turkey vultures were seen in several places. Double crested cormorants were seen a few times. An unusually silent Townsend’s solitaire songbird did its best to make me think it was something else. See my post here about solitaires. Swallows circled and swooped over our heads. This area does look like it would get hot later in the year so keep a watch out for snakes as temperatures increase.
There are colorful growths of lichen on the rimrock cliffs that border the riverside trail. At one point I saw a huge “O” created by fluorescent green lichens. Were there some University of Oregon ducks out there influencing Nature?
Wildflowers were just starting to come out on our spring hike. I spotted a single beautiful delicate yellow bell flower along the trail. The mock orange shrubs were just starting to leaf out but later in the season their fragrance must fill the air. I saw the biggest bitterbrush shrub I have ever seen along this trail – about 12 feet tall.
Trout Creek Hike Geology
The hike is framed by the cliffs rising above the river far below. You can see basalt and tuff from different geological time periods reflected in these formations.
The columnar basalt cliffs make this a popular destination for rock climbers. Climbers can try out over 130 routes there. Some consider this area to offer some of the best desert crack climbing around. For more details on climbing there, click here to read a post by climber Jeff Wenger or here to read a post on summitpost.org. Wenger explains how various groups got together with the BLM to implement a seasonal closure to protect nesting golden eagles – as opposed to a year-round closure. The cliff nesting area is closed to rock climbing temporarily from January 15 – August 15. It may open as early as May 15 but the hiking trail is open year-round.
To get to this trail head you have to go on a somewhat circuitous route so look at directions here under “Getting There.” You will pass through a one-lane tunnel at one point so make sure you have a loud horn. 😉