Tag Archives: Elkhorn Ridge Trail

Throwback Thursday – Elkhorn Ridge Trail

Today’s Throwback Thursday hike is the last of the hikes we did prior to starting this blog that are currently not on our schedule of future hikes. On July 10, 2011 we made our second attempt to visit Phanton Bridge (post).

This hike wasn’t included in any of our guide books (we would discover why) and only came to our attention as I was researching possible routes to reach Phantom Bridge. On the Willamette National Forest website I noticed that it appeared possible to follow the Elkhorn Ridge Trail east to the natural bridge. The route appeared a bit longer than the others I knew of but the road to the trailhead was open unlike Forest Service Road 2223 which was closed by a washout at the time.

The shot up remains of a trail sign marked the beginning of the trail as it set off along a forested ridge line with views of Rocky Top and Henline Mountain.
Elkhorn Ridge Trailhead

Rocky TopRocky Top

Henline MountainHenline Mountain

The trail was a bit faint with occasional patches of snow remaining from an unusually late melting snowpak that year.
Elkhorn Ridge Trail

Snow along the Elkhorn Ridge Trail

As we continued to make our way along the ridge we spotted Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson through the trees.
Mt. HoodMt. Hood

Mt. JeffersonMt. Jefferson

The further along we went the fainter the trail got and we found ourselves relying on pink flagging to mark the way. We had a map but it wasn’t an adequate map and even if we’d had a proper topographic map we were not yet experienced enough to have been able to use it properly. We also didn’t have a GPS unit yet. Shortly after the trail emerged from the trees and began to drop along the north side of the ridge we wound up losing it.
Elkhorn Ridge Trail

After a couple of minutes searching from the next flagging we decided to call it and turned around. This was one of several outings in 2011 that really helped hammer home just how important having the proper tools and knowledge of how to use them was going to be if we were serious about this hiking thing.

We estimate that we only went a little over a mile of the approximate 3 miles to Phantom Bridge before turning back. I have no doubt that if we were to attempt this hike with the experience we have now we’d have no trouble reaching Phantom Bridge, but turning around that day was the right call. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Elkhorn Ridge Trail

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Throwback Thursday – Phantom Bridge & Opal Lake

This week were covering a 8/14/2011 visit to Phantom Bridge and Opal Lake located at the southern end of the Opal Creek Wilderness. Our main focus on this hike was to finally make it to Phantom Bridge. We had tried twice before having failed first in 2010 to find an alternate trailhead due to washouts along the roads to the trailhead we would use on this hike. A month prior to this hike we attempted to come from the west along the Elkhorn Ridge Trail, a trip that will be covered in a later throwback post.

The third time was the charm though as Road 2207 had been reopened and we were able to drive from Detroit, OR to the French Creek Ridge Trailhead.
French Creek Ridge Trailhead

The French Creek Trail extended to both the east and west from the trailhead. Phantom Bridge lay to the west so we crossed Road 2207 and picked up the trail at a downed trail sign.
French Creek Ridge Trail sign

We followed the trail for 1.3 miles to small forest Cedar Lake passing Dog Tooth Rock and views of Opal Lake and the Opal Creek Wilderness.
Dog Tooth Rock

View from the French Creek Ridge Trail

Opal Lake

Cedar Lake

Near Cedar Lake a connector trail from Road 2207 near Opal Lake was marked by a trail sign.
Trail sign for Opal Lake

We decided that on the way back we’d take that trail down to visit Opal Lake before heading back to our car. For now though we continued west on what had become the Elkhorn Ridge Trail.
Elkhorn Ridge Trail

We came to a second possible trailhead .7 miles from Cedar Lake on Road 2223. This trailhead just a quarter mile from Phantom Bridge the road has a reputation for being a nasty drive so the 2 mile hike from the French Creek Ridge Trailhead was preferable to us. Along this stretch wildflowers lined the trail and views extended from Mt. Hood to the Three Sisters.
Elkhorn Ridge Trail

Mt. Hood

Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack and The Three Sisters

Phantom Bride spanned a 50′ wide chasm to the right (north) of the trail.
Phantom Bridge

A short side path led out to the rock arch (on the right hand side in the photo below).
Phantom Bridge

I walked out onto the arch and took a picture looking back toward the side path.
Phantom Bridge

After admiring this geologic feature we returned to Cedar Lake and headed steeply downhill toward Road 2207 at the trail sign we’d passed earlier. The steep trail was rather brushy and we decided not to return up it after visiting Opal Lake opting instead to walk Road 2207 up to the trailhead. From the road Phantom Bridge was visible high up on the hillside.
Phantom Bridge form road 2207 near Opal Lake

Phantom Bridge

Blank signboards marked the half mile trail down to Opal Lake.
Opal Lake Trail

The trail was basically a runoff stream bed which made it rather rocky and uneven.
Opal Lake Trail

Opal Lake Trail

The brush rimmed lake was very pretty and it teemed with activity.
Opal Lake

Opal Lake

Swallowtail butterfly on a bog orchid

Lorquin's admiral butterfly

Dragonfly

Rough skinned newt in Opal Lake

After watching the butterflies, dragonflies and newts at the lake we returned to the road and followed it uphill to our waiting car. It was a fairly steep walk but not as steep as it would have been going back up to Cedar Lake and the road was lined with wildflowers which made it a little nicer than some road walks.
Paintbrush and penstemon

Happy Trails!

Flickr: Phantom Bridge & Opal Lake