- Trip Name: Alder Springs Trail
- Trip Length: 5.6 miles, out and back (plus 0.6 mile side trail to old bridge site)
- Best time to visit: Spring and Fall (Summer okay but very hot and dry)
- Difficulty rating: 6 (Steep in places, hot with little shade)
- Views: 7
- Wilderness experience: 4
- Recommended activities: Day hike, backpacking (bikes and horses not allowed)
- Best for: Hikers, backpackers, dogs (leash highly recommended), families
- Restroom: none available
- Permit: n/a
- Recommended map: Central Oregon hiking Trail Map by AdventureMaps.net
- Click here to download our FREE topo trail map
- Click here to download this Trail Guide as a PDF
- Click here to purchase the GPS file for this hike ($3)
- Check out more photos from this trail here
Trip Technical Data
- Trailhead: Alder Springs Trailhead
- Trailhead Elevation: 2,598 feet
- Elevation Loss: 470 feet to the Deschutes River (Elev. = 2,128 feet)
- Trip Time: 2.5 - 3 hours
Directions to Trailhead:
Travel Time: About 1 hour
From Bend head West on Highway 20 towards Sisters. Travel 10.5 miles and turn right on Fryrear Road. Follow Fryrear Road for 5.6 miles to its intersection with Route 126. Continue straight across Route 126 onto Holmes Road. After 7.0 miles turn left onto NF-6360 (National Forest Road), marked by a sign to Alder Springs Trail. From here to the trailhead you will be on a pretty rough gravel road. Although a higher clearance vehicle is recommended, most cars will be able to travel this road. Follow the NF-6360 for 4.0 miles to another Forest Road on the right marked by a sign pointing to Alder Springs Trail. Continue on this road for 0.8 mile to its end at the trailhead.
Starting high above Whychus Creek (some maps will call this Squaw Creek) on the high desert plateau you have a great view across the juniper and sage brush dotted landscape in all directions all the way out to the Cascade Range. From here you will also notice hundreds of dead and burnt trees from a wildfire that swept through the canyon in 2011. Mother Nature is already making her return as evident by the many types of wild flowers starting to take hold on the burnt landscape. As you head out on the trail you will shortly come across a side trail down to where an old bridge crossed the canyon to its north side. There is no evidence of the bridge remaining. This trail is only about 0.3 mile and drops down 183 feet to the creek below. Once down at the creek you instantly notice how the life blood of the water dramatically changes the desert landscape into a lush green oasis. This side trail gives a nice early glimpse of Whychus Creek but if you don't feel like climbing down and back up you can skip it since you will be at the creek once again shortly.
From the side trail intersection make your way across the top of the canyon, about 0.8 mile, to small drainage just above Alder Spring. As you continue just past the drainage you can see off to your left where, when running, this drainage will create a spectacular waterfall into Alder Spring. This is also where the main elevation loss starts. Over the next 0.3 mile you will drop 180 feet down to Whychus Creek, passing Alder Spring to the left in the low scrub brush at which point you will have to cross through the creek. Always use caution when crossing any body of water and use your best judgment as to whether the crossing is safe for everyone in your group.
Once through the creek, at 1.3 miles from the trailhead, you will be in a large meadow at the edge of the creek. This is the first of two great spots for camping if you choose to make this an overnight trip. This is also a good spot to stop and spend some time if you are making this a day trip.
After passing through the meadow you ascend slightly above the creek for a ways before dropping back to the side of the creek. The trail generally follows the creek from here to the end 1.5 miles from the creek crossing and 2.8 miles from the trailhead. About a hundred yards from the end of the trail, Whychus Creek empties into the Deschutes River. Once at the end there is a sign marking the end of the maintained trail near a rock outcrop which is a perfect spot to sit and watch the river. This is the second place I would recommend for an overnight campsite but please, as always, keep in mind the Leave No Trace Principles when locating you camp.
After you enjoy the Deschutes River from the rocks and are ready to head back to the trailhead simply turn around and follow the same trail back out.