Bear Creek


Forest Service Trail #1653

Why? Easy hike available early and late, up a clear mountain stream.

Season: April through November for the first 5 miles, to the Dobbin Creek Trail.

Ease: Moderate. It’s 4.3 miles and less than 1,000 feet up to the Guard Station, a bit farther to the Dobbin Creek trail intersection.

It would be hard to find a Wallowa hike that doesn’t have great rocks, and Bear Creek is no exception. In fact, for Bear Creek, I think they are the highlight.

Not that walking the creek is negative. It’s a fine walk in the woods, with the sounds of the creek for company. Sometimes, through the trees, you can see the backside of Huckleberry Mountain (hike 20), but until you reach the Dobbin Creek Trail intersection, that’s about it.

The rock highlight was Washboard Ridge, across the creek from the trail. It’s well named, tracing a rough and bumpy outline against the sky. It’s visible from the open areas on Bear Creek at the Dobbin Creek trail crossing. William O. Douglas mentions hiking a trail along the top of Washboard in his book Of Men and Mountains, a trail I’d like to check out one day even though his description of hiking it in bad weather was somewhat terrifying.

In actual fact, most all my scenery on this hike came at that spot, when I walked out to the creek bank, to the place you’d have to ford it in order to hike the various trails along ridges and rivers to the west, including that along Washboard.

Just down river from there I saw a slender waterfall tracing a delicate path along a sheer rock face. I saw it not as a waterfall at first, but as movement when I was framing a picture of Washboard. Of course, movement always makes me hope for wildlife – but in this case, I was happy to see the waterfall. It reminded me that there’s always something to see, even on a hike that otherwise hasn’t offered a lot of views.

Directions: In town of Wallowa, Oregon, stay on First Street at the sign for Bear Creek, when Highway 82 goes to the right. Turn left on Bear Creek Road 0.3 miles later. The trailhead is at the end of this road, a total of 8.0 miles from where you left 82. There are a lot of turns in the first couple miles of this road.

Information: U.S. Forest Service Wallowa Mountains Visitors Services, Joseph, OR, (541) 426-5546.

Maps: USGS Fox Point, Oregon; Imus Geographics Wallowa Mountains, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon.

Connections: The trail up Goat Creek to Huckleberry Mountain is 4 miles up the trail from the trailhead. The trail up Dobbin Creek connects with the trail from the Bearwallow Trailhead. The trail up Bear eventually reaches the Bowman Trail just west of Wilson Pass.