We never know what kind of weather to expect in November when we are penciling out our hiking schedule so we typically play it fairly safe by picking a hike on the coast or along a lower elevation river or creek. This year we selected House Rock along the Old Santiam Wagon Road which was established in 1865 as a main route from the Willamette Valley to Central and Eastern Oregon for many years. As it turned out the weather was not a concern and it was a beautiful day for a hike.
The wagon road originally extended from Lebanon, OR all the way to Ontario, OR on the Oregon – Idaho border. For our hike we started at a trailhead just east of the former Mountain House Restaurant (a long time rest stop along the route) on Highway 20 between milepost 52 & 53. From the small parking area a footbridge led across the South Santiam River to former road.
After checking out the bridge we made our way to House Rock. There really wasn’t a good way to get a picture that adequately showed the size of House Rock and the opening beneath it. A small stream flowed through the wide cavern where there was enough room for several people.
We left House Rock and continued on the loop heading toward House Rock Falls. A tree had recently fallen creating a bit of an obstacle but we were able to make our way over it.
I emailed the Sweet Home Ranger District when we were home just in case they weren’t already aware of it.
House Rock Falls was just as difficult to get a good picture of. Boulders and logs partly obscured the view from the trail and the wet rocks made scrambling down to the base an adventure. Even then the curve of the river combined with the rocks made it impossible to get a clear view without wading out into the river. It was just cold enough that I didn’t feel like trying that so I settled for the obstructed view and called it good.
We headed back to the loop and then continued up to the wagon road where we turned left once again. Our goal was a viewpoint near the 5 mile marker. After another 1.1 miles we met FS Rd 2044 where we followed signs to the continuation of the wagon road. In the next couple of miles the trail briefly left the old road and passed through an ever-changing forest where there was a seemingly endless variety of mushrooms on display.
We arrived at the 5 mile marker and took a short trail on the right to the viewpoint.
It was a nice place to take a short break and have a snack. The view wasn’t anything spectacular but Jump Off Joe Mountain was across the a valley while Iron Mountain, which we had hiked on July 4th, rose up in the distance.
We returned the way we had come following the wagon road back past the House Rock loop and ultimately to our waiting vehicle. It had been a wonderful November day for a hike. Happy Trails!