Part of what keeps this trail clear of hiking crowds is the simple fact that Central Oregon is full of scenic hikes. But I’d argue that Scout Camp is a special trail, stunning in the spring and offering amazing views of the wild rapids of the Deschutes River. I’d actually recommend tackling this hike in the mild months between the final edge of winter and the start of summer, as this trail is safest after the ice melts, and more comfortable away from the brunt of the mid-year sun.
At 2.3 miles round-trip, the Scout Camp Loop Hike is probably a little too short for most Portland-based adventurers to consider tackling as a one-off, so consider combining it with another nearby hike, such as Otter Bench, Steelhead Falls, or Smith Rock.
The trail starts off from the trailhead along a mostly flat plateau, with a nice blend of blooming balsamroot and wild desert flowers brightening the landscape. Juniper trees will keep you company as the trail heads up a steep incline you’ll ascend with the help of a series of switchbacks. At the fork, take a left and keep climbing past views of a canyon, the flow of the Deschutes River below, and some very groovy rock formations all around.
The trail dips down, swinging along to the edge of the river, coming close to the canyon bottom before flowing back up some switchbacks to the right. The trail becomes more challenging here, with elevation bumps and a rocky path. You’ll pass by what looks like an old campsite, duck under a narrow arch, and see rock inscriptions on the cliff walls above. Then the path flows down a series of scrambles through some brush to the river edge.
It looks like the trail dead-ends here as a 6-foot rock ledge, but it’s pretty simple to clamber over the rock and find the rest of the trail on the other side. You’ll stick close to the Deschutes River, and veer uphill for another half-mile. It’s hard work to ascend here, but there are amazing rock formations to keep you distracted from the tough trek. Across this section of the river you may see hikers or campers on the opposite shore – but don’t think of crossing. They’re on the Alder Springs Trail, and the Deschutes is too powerful to ford at this juncture.
You’ll hit a three-way junction, take the far left route, and continue uphill to the canyon rim. The trail finally flattens here at the end, with gnarled juniper trees providing shade. Take your picnic lunch here, and the return the way you came.
Scout Camp Loop Trailhead is located off Oregon State Highway 97, 13.5 miles east of the town of Terrebonne.
- Travel south on Hwy 97 for 0.5 miles
- Turn left onto NW Lower Bridge Way/Lower Bridge Market Rd and travel for 2.2 miles
- Turn right onto NW 43rd St. and travel for 1.8 miles
- Turn left onto NW Chinook Dr. and travel 2.4 mi.
- Turn left onto Mustang Rd.
- In 0.2 mi., turn right to stay on Mustang Rd
- Turn right to stay on Mustang Rd.
- In 0.4 mi., turn right onto SW Shad Rd.
- In 1.4 mi, turn right onto SW Peninsula Dr.
- After 3.2, turn left onto SW Meadow Rd.
- In 0.6 mi., turn right onto SW Scout Camp Trail Street. You will see the trailhead in 0.3 mi.
Learn more about nearby (and spectacular, but also more crowded during the peak season) Smith Rock State Park: https://www.shareoregon.com/things-to-do/en/listings/125153-smith-rock-state-park