Asotin Creek


Forest Service Trail #3125

Why? Year-round trail in a lovely basalt canyon inhabited by big horn sheep.

Season: Year-round. It’s a great winter hike.

Ease: Easy to moderate, depending on how far you hike. It’s about 4 miles from the trailhead to the clearing where the trail becomes single track.

The trail up Asotin Creek is one of my everyday ace-in-the-hole hiking spots. I go there when I want to get out and hike but don’t have lots of time. And I go there just because I want to, often in hopes of seeing the big horn sheep.

Luckily, familiarity does not breed contempt, for I always enjoy it.

Asotin Creek gives you almost infinite choice with respect to how far you walk, for it’s an out and back hike. The total one-way miles is 16, from the trailhead just off the road along the creek to the trailhead on the Lick Creek Road above. Most of us hike a whole lot less than that.

I’ve hiked the trail at all times of the year, though it’s usually a spring or fall favorite. One particularly magical hike was two days before Christmas, when there was frost on everything near the creek. It looked like a cloud had settled there. All I could hear was the still-rushing creek, a few small birds, and a hawk. The one white-tailed deer was seen, not heard.

One June, I took my older grandson there for a short backpack. We sat on a hillside in the morning at watched 30 or so bighorn sheep cross from one outcrop to another no more than 50 yards from us.

What you will see when you hike the creek depends. I’ve two friends who have heard what they are sure was a cougar, another friend who saw one – well, its tail – on a nearby trail. I’ve seen snakes, an assortment of birds and small rodents, deer, sheep and springtime ladybug clusters – hundreds upon thousands of ladybugs all in a knot, ready to head out and find bugs to eat.

There are basalt outcrops here and there along the trail – not as many or as fine as those along the Wenaha, perhaps, but still nice. I think of them as places where there ought to be a cougar, or at least a sheep.

There are ponderosa pine with their wonderful smelling big orange trunks. There are open areas with views to the top of the ridge, great places for spotting the ever-obliging rock and log animals. And if it’s summer, there’s lots of sun.

The trail along Asotin Creek is easy to follow, though it obviously gets less use the farther in you go. It starts as road, and in fact, when I first started hiking the creek, the first 4 miles or so was road, not trail. But a high water spring in the mid 90s washed out enough of it that repair wasn’t in the cards, so it became all trail.

The trail’s ups and downs are moderate until it heads up to the top of the ridge.

But the real beauty of Asotin Creek is that it's less than an hour from Lewiston, and it’s available most of the year. There are flowers in the spring plus beautiful breaks with green trees and red bushes and green or brown grasses, depending on the season. And it's a quiet hike, or has been for me even on weekends, even on Labor Day.

Directions: Turn right off Highway 129 just north of Asotin onto the road along Asotin Creek. In three miles, take the road to the right signed to Umatilla N.F. Take the road to the right at 14.6 miles (also signed for the Umatilla), and turn left into the parking lot at 15.5 miles in.

If you hike between December 1 and March 31, there will be a gate blocking motorized access to the road about ½ mile back from the parking lot. It protects elk winter range.

Information: Pomeroy Ranger District, UNF, (509) 843-1891.

Maps: USGS Pinkham Butte, Harlow Ridge and Potter Hill, Washington