Length: 7 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 200 Feet
Trail Surface: Gravel road and hiking trail
The hike to Jawbone Flats is a very unique opportunity to walk into an ancient wilderness with trees that are centuries old. The trail is on a well maintained road that is only used by the operators of the Ancient Forest Center. Within a few hundred feet you feel like you have stepped into a different world.
To get to the trailhead drive to Mehama on highway 22. You will come to a flashing yellow light, this is the North Fork Rd, and you should see the North Fork restaurant on Hwy 22. Turn left/North; the trailhead is at the end of the road, approximately 20 miles. After 14 miles of pavement you will enter the Willamette National Forest and road turns to gravel, you are now on Forest Road 2209. After 1.5-2 miles you will see a turn-off on the right towards Three Pools/Shady Cove. Stay to the left on Forest Road 2209. Continue another 4 miles to the Opal Creek/Jawbone parking area. When you park at the trailhead a Forest Service Parking permit is required. This permit can be purchased at the trailhead for $5 per day if you don’t have an annual permit.
The hike is a very easy day hike although we choose to stay at the Ancient Forest Center for a couple of nights. If you spend the night the center hauls your gear to the cabins in a van so you only need to carry items you want for the hike in.
We spent two nights in one of the houses that are available to rent. The houses are rustic and very comfortable. While there we got to experience a bit of the wilderness experience. Electric power is provided by a Pelton Wheel hydro electric generation system and due to low river flows there were a number of power outages. With a gas stove for cooking and a woodstove for heat these didn’t cause us any problems. Each cabin has a bathroom including a shower with hot water.
The scenic beauty alone is reason enough to visit Opal Creek.
The forests have a wide variety of mushrooms, many of which are very delicious. Warning, if you don’t know for sure what a mushroom is don’t even consider eating them.
The area was the home of both mining and logging operations and as a result there are lots of old relics lying around. It was fun to investigate these and imagine what it was like to live in the area back when it was thriving.