Here is an early season hike in the Crooked River National Grasslands to a canyon with some nice surprises. To find the trailhead, drive north of Terrebone on Highway 97 a short distance, go left on Lower Bridge Way, past the entrance to Crooked River Ranch, and several miles further to Holmes Road on the left. About two miles on Holmes Road, find Forest Road 6360 on your right. Follow the signs about 5 miles on a dusty road to the trailhead.
One of the first surprises is what great scenery you will find in this canyon–not just fine views of the Sisters, but some really interesting canyon features.
The next surprise is crossing Whychus Creek. It is mid-calf deep, cold, and fairly swift. I recommend taking along some sandals or water shoes and a pair of hiking sticks.
There are two good reasons to cross the creek. For one thing, that’s the only way to continue on to the Deschutes River. Another is the nice surprise you will find just on the other side–a little shady side stream with mossy rocks, yellow monkeyflower and columbine. Just to the right of the trail before the creek however, another little creek (springs?) flows down into Whychus and has similar water-loving flowers, so don’t feel you must brave the crossing if you are unsure.
The distance to this point is less than 2 miles, and continuing on to the Deschutes River is about another 1-1/2 miles.
The surprise for me was finding such a wide selection of desert wildflowers along the trail on the way down.
These photos were taken in mid-June of 2008, but spring was late that year. I would recommend going earlier than that in a normal year. I understand that the trail opens on April 1st, and I would expect a different selection of flowers from then until mid-June.
A mid-April trip in 2010 (another year with a cold spring), yielded lots and lots of sand lilies in full bloom, prairie star, and a bazillion gold fields, but not much else.