Opal Creek is a scenic old growth forest that allows cyclists to see what Oregon looked like before it was developed. Whether this area gets snow or not, fat biking is an easy and unique way to explore this route.
The Opal Creek Wilderness feels like trip into the Oregon past. You can see what it looked like long ago. It is the largest adjoining area of old growth forest left in Oregon. This area is so special, there is a non-profit called the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center to protect it. There are so many activities one can do to explore this area, but if it gets covered in snow, fat biking is a unique way to see the land. Riders will experience the ancient history of this area among the towering trees and the sounds of the Little North Fork of the Santiam River.
What Makes It Great
Biking is not allowed in all areas of Opal Creek, but the Gate to Jawbone Flats trail is fair game for anyone. This trail does not have continuous snow throughout the winter, so it is worth checking the area’s level of snowfall before raising your hopes. With or without snow, this area is gorgeous and riders can easily explore it on a fat bike because most of this trail is an old road. Being on a fat bike allows the rider to make this trip short while taking in the amazing scenery of this forest.
There is a lot to love about this trail including the high bridge over Gold Creek, abandoned mines and some of the oldest trees in the wilderness area. After about 2 miles on the trail, you will reach an old steam-powered sawmill and an old steam engine that was repurposed from a battleship. There is a side trail near here that will lead to a small waterfall. Continue back on the road for a little over a mile and it will lead to the historic mining town called Jawbone Flats. There are some old buildings here dating back to the 1930s that have been converted into an environmental education site that is run by the Friends of Opal Creek.
Who is Going to Love It
This trail in Opal Creek follows and old road, so it is very flat, with just 200 feet in elevation gain, and relatively wide, making it ideal for those new to fat biking or those who just want to opt for a short day. Whether there is snow on the trail or not, it can be a perfect place for a rider to test ride a fat bike out while enjoying the beautiful, ancient forest of Opal Creek. At right around 6 miles roundtrip, it is also an ideal length for a short day in the snow that leaves more time to explore, even on foot.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To get to Opal Creek from Portland, take Interstate 5 towards Salem. Take exit 253 for Highway 22 east toward Detroit for about 22 miles. When you reach the town of Mehama, there will be a yellow flashing light at North Fork Road and you should turn left. The trailhead is at the end of the road, about 20 miles. When the road turns to gravel after about 14 miles, you are on Forest Road 2209. After about 2 miles, you will see a turn off for Shady Pools, but should avoid that and keep left. Follow the road 4 more miles where you will find the Opal Creek/Jawbone parking area and trailhead.