Turbulent Waters and Wonderful Colors

Mileage (Roundtrip): 5.4 Trail Conditions: Light hiking boots recommended.
Hike #: 22 Scenery (1 "Meh" to 10 "Amazing, Wow"): 10
Sullivan Hike #: 28 Difficulty (1 "Easy" to 5 "Difficult"): 1
Hike Name: Metolius River Region: Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Driving Directions: From Sisters, take Highway 20 towards Salem for 9 miles. Turn right (north) onto Road 1419 and continue for 4.8 miles until Road 1420 (ignore the right-hand fork after 2.5 miles). Continue on Road 1420 for 3.3 miles and turn right at a sign for the Canyon Creek Campground and the West Metolius Trailhead.

Bring: A camera.

Other Things to Know: It is possible to start this hike at the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery and to hike upstream towards the Canyon Creek campground. This trail is absolutely stunning in the Fall. Best to avoid this trail on summer weekends.

During the year or so that Angelique and I were transitioning from living in the Bay Area to living in Bend we must have had at least ten conversations with people about the Metolius River. We repeatedly heard some variation of the following statements: (1) the Metolius River is the most scenic river in Oregon, (2) the Metolius River is a great place to take the dog for a mellow hike (we often had Zoe with us when the topic of the Metolius River came up), and (3) the Metolius River is a great place to go trail running. While I have yet to go trail running along the Metolius River, I can confirm that the Metolius is indeed magical and the 5.4-mile roundtrip hike described in Sullivan’s guidebook (from the Canyon Creek campground to the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery and back) is a great hike with or without your dog.

Originating from the base of the imposing Black Butte west of Sisters, Oregon, the crystal clear waters of the Metolius River race for 29 miles to Lake Billy Chinook, a tributary to the Deschutes River. Along the 2.7-mile stretch of the river covered by this hike, there are several impressive rapids, an 80-foot long spring that gushes out of the river bank, and a few protected coves/pools where dogs (and their owners) can cool off in the chilly waters, including a quiet pool near the Canyon Creek campground. There are also wonderful Ponderosa pines, wildflowers galore (in June), and evidently an impressive number of birds for birdwatchers to enjoy (we enjoyed the bird song along the Metolius but only saw robins and hawks during our hike).river, rapids

Beginning at fish hatchery (instead of the campground), one is immediately impressed with the impossibly blue water just south of the roadway bridge. Take time to enjoy the rapids here and be sure to take some pictures so you don’t feel left out (this is arguably the “money” shot along this hike). Heading south from the bridge, the trail enters a shady forest and soon arrives at a series of small waterfalls (referred to as Wizard Falls in Sullivan’s guidebook). Soon the trail begins a gentle climb to a bench 30 or so feet above the river. Over the next half mile or so the trail ambles up and down and generally veers away from the river before entering a narrow canyon. After a short climb the trail quickly drops down to the river’s edge where it will remain for the rest of the hike.

Hiking next to the gushing river is mesmerizing but keep your eyes on the trail as it is rocky and muddy in spots and it is easy to take a tumble (no harm done). There are several impressive rapids located in this narrow canyon (they seem to be begging to be kayaked) and some enormous trees that provide welcome shade. At 2.4 miles from the fish hatchery, one arrives at the 2nd highlight of this hike – a spring gushing out of the opposite bank of the river. Take some photos of the spring and either turnaround here or continue for a few minutes (.3 miles) to the campground.springs

The fish hatchery is worth a quick visit before or after your hike – the concrete ponds are positively teaming with tiny trout and salmon. During our most recent visit we enjoyed watching Zoe react to the feeding frenzy every time tossed fish pellets into the large pond near the river’s edge.

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