Three Forks


Forest Service Trail #3133

Why? Views plus relatively easy wilderness access.

Season: April through November

Ease: Moderate. It’s 3 miles and 1,500 feet down to the junction with the trail along Crooked Creek.

The Three Forks Trail is another of the Wenaha-Tucannon trails that I’ve liked ever since the first time I hiked it, even though the 3 miles it covers has a 1,500 foot elevation change, down going in and up coming out. The first time I hiked it, I was with a friend who definitely knew her flowers. That’s when I learned what a scarlet gilia looks like. Another year, I hiked it as part of an easy relatively early-in-the-year through hike. We started at Three Forks, then hiked down Crooked Creek and the Wenaha back to Troy. That trip was during high water. Crooked Creek was amazing, and a small bit of the Wenaha trail near it was under water. Both were brown with runoff.

But mostly what I like about the trail is the views of the wilderness you get as you hike down – of the breaks rushing down to Crooked Creek, of the landscape carved by the rivers that wind through the layers of the Columbia basalt flows that occurred millions of years ago. Our hot, dry climate also plays a part by limiting what can grow. The breaks, especially those facing south, are largely devoid of big trees, and we see their shape furred only with low plants and shrubs. It’s a landscape I love, and one that I think is unique to the area that also includes the Lewiston-Clarkston valley.

The trail starts on an old road, then heads off to the right after a few hundred yards, at the wilderness boundary sign. Then its switchbacks pretty much all the way down, at first in woods of Ponderosa pine with lots of underbrush and shade. As you walk, the underbrush gradually thins and the trees become more scarce. In a couple of spots the Wallowa Mountains to the South are visible. But the best views come when you're in the open, which happens fairly soon, and you can see the Crooked Creek valley below and the wilderness beyond.

The breaks look soft and rounded, rolling down to the sometimes visible creek. At times the trail in front of you is visible as it crosses open meadows carpeted with wildflowers in the spring, fuzzy brown in the summer and fall. Occasional trees, snags, basalt outcrops and vegetated north-facing draws provide relief.

Looking up, you can see Diamond Peak to the North with Monument Ridge jutting out to meet you. To the South you see the ridges on the other side of the Wenaha River, four miles away. To the West is tree topped wilderness -- miles and miles of it.

It is breathtaking and beautiful.

But a word of warning: this could be one hot hike up and out on a summer afternoon.

Trail Note: When hiking down, the sign indicating the junction of this trail with that along Crooked Creek is easy to miss, for only a small bit of the sign is visible and the trail to the south is almost invisible. The junction is after you enter the woods at the bottom end of the hike. If you miss it and reach the sign for Moore Flat, you're on the Crooked Creek Trail heading north.

Directions: The trailhead is on the road to Pomeroy from Troy, Ore. Drive 3.0 miles from Troy and turn right at the sign for Pomeroy and Grouse Creek. Take a hard left at the 4-way intersection 5.8 miles in, then a left onto Kessler Mill Road at 9.2 miles. The signed trailhead is on the left at 12.9 miles in.
The road usually is plowed during the winter, but the trail would be snowy then.

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

Maps: USGS Diamond Peak, Washington; Forest Service Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Map.

Connections: This trail ends at that along Crooked Creek. The latter can serve as an entry into the body of the wilderness in either direction.