From rich meadows and sagebrush flats, to old-growth forests and icy-capped mountains, the Malheur National Forest makes for terrific outdoor experiences. The Myrtle Creek Trail is a sweet little hike in this area that showcases a nice mix of unspoiled wilderness with well-maintained paths. Sitting just past the five mile mark roundtrip, and with only a few steep patches, this is a great trail to explore if you are looking for a gentle introduction to this section of Oregon.
The hike starts off as a relaxing walk alongside a stream canyon, shaded by willows and groves of ancient ponderosas. There’s some gradual incline here, as the trail lifts above the stream long a small ridge, then drops back down to the water level. Around the half-mile mark you’ll see more marshy meadows interspersed with trees, watered by the ever-changing stream levels. Spring wildflowers grow in abundance here, and some even last through the drier summer months.
At mile one it’s time for a river crossing, but no need for waders or wet shoes – there’s a tidy footbridge guiding hikers across Myrtle Creek. The trail continues along the north bank of the creek, wandering along flat stream terraces and under patches of ponderosas. Look at the skies above the wet meadows here and see if you can spot ospreys, herons, or bald eagles.
The two mile mark signals the trail junction with West Fork Myrtle Creek. The path continues on the other side of the water, and here’s where you’ll want to consider stripping off shoes and socks for a dicier crossing via a set of natural stepping stones. The water level is usually reasonably low and crossable, but be extra careful in the spring when the creek swells.
The trail continues another six miles from the crossing along a streamside path, until it ends at private land. Along the way are numerous side hikes through meadows and woodland patches, which the adventurous can explore. Small groves of trees make for excellent picnic and resting spots to take advantage of before heading back to the trailhead.
Note that a Northwest Forest Pass or a $5 parking fee is required to use this day use area, available at the trailhead parking lot.