32. Tygh Creek
Distance: 5.6 miles out and back
Elevation Gain: 1,700 feet
Season: April – November
Best: May – June
Pass: None needed.
Map: Flag Point (Green Trails #463)
Hike: The Badger Creek Wilderness is a paradise for the solitude-seeker. With mile after mile of un-crowded trails and spectacular scenery that straddles the transition zone between lush western Oregon and arid eastern Oregon, there are many fantastic hikes to be discovered here. One of the best is the steep climb up to the ridge above Tygh Creek on the eastern edge of the wilderness. Here you will see an almost sublime melding of west and east and be treated with views from Mount Hood to the Three Sisters. The price for this awesomeness is steep though – or rather, the middle third of the hike is one of the steepest stretches of trail in this book. Bring trekking poles!
Begin by following Tygh Creek for the first half-mile. Given the name of the trail, you would expect to continue following the stream – instead, reach a vague trail junction at 0.5 mile. Here you should bend to the right uphill (going straight will lead you to a dead end at the creek) and begin climbing. The uphill begins gradually but soon intensifies into some of the steepest, dustiest trail in the Badger Creek Wilderness. In the summer this dry, south-facing slope can be quite hot, so be sure to pack lots of water and rest when needed. On the flip side, this slope also hosts an impressive variety of flowers, among them balsamroot, lupine, paintbrush, larkspur and yellow fawn lilies. Be on the lookout for juniper trees here, at the far western end of their habitat in Oregon, as well as several impressive groves of ponderosa pines. After 1.4 miles and 1,450 feet of ascent, reach the top of the ridge. Behind you, central Oregon stretches out into the horizon. To the south, Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters loom in the distance over nearby Ball Point. This is an impressive spot!
Rather than stopping, however, crest a small ridge and reach a junction with a user trail on the left. Turn here and 100 feet later reach a large, rocky meadow that is sometimes used as a helispot. Ahead of you looms Mount Hood over the crest of the Badger Creek Wilderness. While this makes for an excellent rest spot, you have only hiked 2 miles; if you wish to continue I encourage you to do so.
After only 0.2 mile, reach a junction with the Jordan Butte Trail to your right. This seldom-used path continues 2 miles to a trailhead on an obscure side road. Instead, continue straight on the Tygh Creek Trail. The way climbs over downed trees and meanders through grove after grove of huge ponderosa pines. The trail here is often quite faint but should not be difficult to follow as there is almost no undergrowth. After another 0.7 miles, look for a spur trail darting off to your left – hike this out 100 feet to a rock garden with a view up to Mount Hood. As this is the last viewpoint for many miles, you should return the way you came. The Tygh Creek Trail continues another 3.5 miles to the Flag Point Road, about 0.5 mile below the lookout (see Hike 31).
2014 update notes: The trail has become very faint in spots. Hikers with navigational skills will have no problem but many will find this trail difficult to navigate. This trail needs some friends – it is very beautiful and is worth the long drive and steep hike. There is no longer a sign at the trailhead.
Here’s a map: