The canyons around Alder Springs and at the mouth of Squaw Creek are among the most impressive in the entire Deschutes River drainage. The multi-layered and varied-colored walls record over 7 million years of Central Oregon geological history. Ecologically, this area is in better condition than many of the agricultural lands surrounding it. The stream has good riparian vegetation and supports a native fishery.
The trail is moderately strenuous (due to the climb returning to the trailhead) and is 6 miles long with 950' elevation gain on the return if hiked all the way downstream to the Deschutes River. The trail is moderate and only 3 miles long round trip if hiked only to Whychus Creek. One must ford 15' wide Whychus Creek to continue hiking to the junction with the Deschutes River. High water from mid-winter to mid-spring can be difficult. The water usually calms down and the creek becomes shallower (mid-calf) as summer approaches. Plan on bringing light water shoes or hiking sandles if you plan to hike the full route. Depending on the time of year, as always in the High Desert, watch out for rattlesnakes!
In hot weather, do this hike early in the day, bring plenty of water and wear a shade hat and sun clothes as there is plenty of exposure to the sun. Most reviews of this hike that I've seen give it 4 or 5 stars out of 5. Just remember that the stream crossing, rocky trail and climb backout of the canyon can be a challenge for some people.
Note: The final several miles of road to access the trailhead are rough. A high clearance vehicle (Subaru or similar) with good tires is recommended.
Additional Information Regarding the Alder Springs Trail #855:
Alder Springs Hike (from nwhiker.com) - Trail description and map with numerous photos from along the trail.
Alder Springs Hike (from cascaderamblings.com) - Several photos of the hike, including a pic of the broad but shallow creek crossing.
Alder Springs-Lower Whychus Creek Hike (oregonhikers.org) - Good trip description, photos,links to additional trip reports and additional resources.
Additional Alder Springs Info - graciously provided by Stu Garrett, MD (High Desert Chapter NPSO)
Expect to find: Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides), sagebrush mariposa (Calochortus macrocarpus var. macrocarpus), desert paintbrush (Castilleja chromosa), mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius), red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), Deschutes monkeyflower (Diplacus deschutesensis or D. cusickioides), bottlebrush squirreltail (Elymus elymoides), Modoc sulfur buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. modocense), needle and thread grass (Hesperostipa comata), western blue flag (Iris missouriensis), basin wild rye (Leymus cinereus), fernleaf desert parsley (Lomatium dissectum var. multifidum), glaucous penstemon (Penstemon euglaucus), showy penstemon (Penstemon speciosus), Hood's phlox (Phlox hoodii), threadleaf phacelia (Phacelia linearis), mock-orange (Philadelphus lewisii), chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), and panicled deathcamas (Toxicoscordion paniculatum).
* During the spring of 2018, we'll endeavor to make a more comprehensive plant list for this hike which will be available for printing by the week before the 2018 NPSO Annual Meeting.
Alder Springs Trail #855: A list of common plants found along the trail (courtesy of Stuart Garrett, MD, High Desert Chapter NPSO).
Directions to Alder Springs (from Ochoco NF webpage: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/ochoco/recarea/?recid=38278)
From US Highway 97:
Just north of Terrebonne, Oregon exit west onto Lower Bridge Road and continue for approximately 12 miles, until it turns to gravel.
Turn left onto Holmes Road, which is paved.
(NOTE: Please watch for the turn off to Holmes Road. It is a common mistake to miss this turn from Lower Bridge Road onto Holmes Road but you will end up on private property with no driving route to the trailhead.)
Stay on Holmes Road for approximately 2 miles.
Turn right onto Forest Service Road 6360.
Continue along this road for five miles of bumpy dirt road travel. Be sure you have brought a high clearance vehicle (Subaru Outback or similar with good tires) as this section may be impassable for low clearance vehicles.
Turn right onto Forest Service Road 040. Stay on this road for about 1 mile until you come to the Alder Springs Trailhead parking lot.
From Highway 20:
At milepost 8 between Sisters, Oregon and Bend, Oregon turn north onto Fry Rear Road and head toward OR Highway 126.
Cross the highway then stay straight to merge onto Holmes Road. Holmes Road makes a sharp right at the "T" intersection, so be sure to stay on Holmes Road and continue onto milepost 7.
At milepost 7 turn Left onto Forest Service Road 6360.
Continue along this road for five miles of bumpy dirt road. Be sure you have brought a high clearance vehicle (Subaru Outback or similar with good tires) as this section may be impassable for low clearance vehicles.
Turn right onto Forest Service Road 040 and continue about a mile until you reach the Alder Springs Trailhead parking lot.
There is a gate located on Forest Service Road 6360 that is closed and LOCKED from December 1st through March 31st every year to help protect winter range for the local deer populations. Hiking and biking are welcome beyond the gate during the closure, but please respect this motorized closure.