The Trapper Creek Trailhead lies 78 miles east of Cottage Grove (just over 1 1/2 hours drive time) and hiking here makes an excellent day trip. I had the pleasure of exploring this trail with a friend and her dog in mid-August 2012.
This trail follows Trapper Creek for about 1 1/2 miles. Usually, it runs above the creek, and you get to look down into the creek’s clear rushing waters. As my friend said, “this is what a mountain creek is supposed to look like.” It twists, it turns, it is clear and sometimes deep, and it is often lined with tree trunks and other debris from spring flooding. In fact, I think it would be interesting to see this creek in the late spring when it is filled with water. The trail itself is fairly wide and well maintained, and although there is a rise, it is never steep.
Located within the Diamond Peak Wilderness Area (part of the Deschutes National Forest), this trail is at higher elevation (about 5,000 feet), and the forest is more open than we typically get around Cottage Grove. The day we were there temperatures within the forest ran in the low 70’s (perfect for hiking) yet were in the low to mid 80’s in Cottage Grove.
This late in the summer I was surprised to find a number of wildflowers — usually tiny ones tucked among the forest floor, but also this intriguing find which we often saw along the trail. As near as I can tell, this is a Monotropa hypopithys, commonly called “Pinesap.”
I must give credit to William Sullivan for recommending this trail in his book, 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades. He recommends turning around at a spot where you look down about 100 feet into the Trapper Creek gorge. I suggest hiking on for about 15 to 20 or 25 minutes. After the trial turns away from Trapper Creek, the landscape changes and it feels like you enter another “zone.” It is drier, feels higher (though there is no drastic change to the slope of the path) and I get a sense of it being more “central Oregon” than along Trapper Creek. Although there is the caveat that by continuing on, there is not a clear turn-around point.
Getting there: to reach this highly recommended trail, drive north from Cottage Grove on I-5, taking exit 182 to Creswell. Turn right onto Cloverdale Road and take a scenic drive through fields and pasture land for about 6.5 miles. At the stop sign, turn right on Highway 58. For the next 61 miles drive up into the Cascade Mountains passing the towns of Pleasant Hill and Oakridge. Just after passing Willamette Pass, turn right to west Odell Lake (and Shady Cove Campground) continue for about 2 miles, turning right into the parking lot for the trailhead. After parking, you need to cross the railroad tracks. Be sure to register before hiking into the National Forest. You’ll want to take the trail heading toward “Diamond View Lake”.