Even those who think they’ve overturned every Oregon wilderness treasure might have missed Boca Cave.
A cavern may seem like an odd reward for hiking up through miles of the Mount Jefferson Wilderness, but there’s a strange allure to encountering a dark entrance into the heart of a mountain after clambering over its exterior. Not to mention, the views from the summit are hikers’ rewards enough.
You’ll find the trailhead for this hike off of McCoy Creek Road, about a mile east of Idanha on Highway 22. Expect to traverse about four miles of pavement, and another five miles of gravel before you hit the well-marked trail entrance.
The hike begins with a moderate 1.5 mile incline, then becomes steeper as it ascends a northwest slope of the peak via a few short switchbacks. Here’s where you’ll spot your first mountain view – a close-up snapshot of a basalt formation jutting up into the sky. That’s Spire Rock, so feel free to stop and catch your breath as you take in the rock formation.
Head onward to the summit plateau of Triangulation Peak, where there’s a very obvious – but unmarked – trail junction. You can follow the right-hand trail up to a viewpoint that used to be a fire lookout. Today no evidence of the lookout building remains, but there’s still an unimpeded view of the Cascades, including Mount Hood, Three-Fingered Jack, Mount Washington, and the Three Sisters, to enjoy.
Trek back down to the junction and try the left-hand trail towards Boca Cave. You’ll pass several unofficial campsites before the trail grows faint. From here on the path is not maintained, but there is a boot trail heading along the northwest slope through the forest. Helpful hikers have scrawled arrows pointing to the cave in trees on the way up. It’s a steep and rocky hike that winds north to a giant rock formation. Head just a bit further, and you’ll realize it’s the cave.
The trail leads straight to Boca Cave’s entrance, which gapes about 70 feet wide. Approach with caution (wild animals may be taking refuge here), but feel free to explore the shallow cave with a headlamp. It’s a wide, vaulted room, and the view outside perfectly frames Mount Jefferson. This is a beautiful place to take off your hiking boots and eat that lunch you were smart enough to pack, before heading back to the trailhead the way you came.
Note that this trail’s level of difficulty is season-dependent. Fallen trees do lie across parts of the trail, and in the wintertime snowdrifts join them. Because the trail to Boca Cave is unmarked, it’s strongly advised that only experienced, prepared hikers make the journey up. The final scramble up is short, but does require a level of energy and endurance.
The trail is dog-friendly, but canine hikers are to be kept on their leashes. This is a beautiful hike – please remember to follow the Leave No Trace principles, especially in Boca Cave.
Driving directions: One mile past Idanha on Highway 22, turn left on McCoy Creek Road (Forest Service Road No. 2233) and follow for eight miles. Turn right at poorly marked four-way intersection, then continue for 1 mile. Then turn on Forest Service Road No. 635. You will immediately see the trail head.
(Come prepared with a map and cross-reference directions to be safe – the roads are marked differently on three maps I checked.)