Little North Santiam River hike
I really enjoyed walking the Little North Santiam Trail, but being newbees, there were definitely things we figured out the hard way. First off, I would highly recommend starting from the east entrance. We first arrived at the west trailhead entrance, thinking it would be less crowded. We quickly realized that it wasn’t really a place we wanted to leave our car…and that maybe it was more of a local hangout for large trucks and those ready for a weekend of muddin’and drinkin’. Definitely a different crowd than we experienced at Opal the day before. It would, however, be a great place to leave a mode of transportation if you are just wanting to hike one way, since it is an out and back trail. It would be fun to have bicycles out there!
The west entrance road (not maintained) was hell to drive on and my poor little Jetta wasn’t made for back roads like that. The east entrance is much more welcoming and super easy to access. It is right near the campground too, so I was much less worried about leaving my little car there by its lone self. The trail is set up quite a bit different than Opal Creek, which I really liked. It is a straight out and back 4.2 mile trail with some nice, short one-way side trails.
The trail is cut into the hillside on the southside of the river, laying out a rocky, narrow path for hikers. The crystal clear river rolls along below, parallel to the path, meandering in and out of our field of vision. Campers and hikers were speckled sparsely along the trail, with their tents pitched just off the path. We read that campers can stay for up to 14 days along the trail and some of the sites definitely looked like they had been there for more than a few days. This would have been a much more ideal camping situation for us, but alas, we weren’t able to make it to the trailhead with enough remaining daylight the evening prior.
We ran out of drinking water so as we came across small tributaries, we drank and refilled as much as possible. Neither of us got sick from the water, so yay for that!
The Little North Santiam has a good run of late summer and winter steelhead. Sylvan brought his fly rod just for the fun of it and worked on his cast for a while. The side trails provide a nice place to take a break and enjoy the serene landscape.
I can’t get over how beautiful and crystal clear the water runs. And it is so so cold! I think it’s safe to say that the North Santiam Watershed is by far my favorite watershed in Oregon.
We decided to hike down a side trail at one point. Sylvan saw some concrete stairs across the way and we were really curious as to where they were/we were on the map. After hiking down and seeing the river view, we quickly realized that we arrived on the opposite side of Three Pools, which looks quite different, yet just as magnificent. It was still early, so no one had arrived yet to bask on the rocky shore of the opal pools.
Sylvan ran around some of the large rock and disappeared for a while. As I took in the amazing rock formations and sat mesmerized by the water bugs and reflections, I pulled out my phone camera and started to take a picture of the pretty green water — and BOOM! — Sylvan gave out a loud roar and jumped off a rock just as I clicked! I had no clue he was up there so it made for a very startled and surprised Jessica…And I even caught him in mid jump! My heart was pumpin’ so hard from the surprise!
From one direction, we had an amazing display of the crystal clear opal pools. From the other direction, a view of the Little North Santiam rapids cascading down over the rocky bottom. I wanted to sit there all day and soak in that view.
We had a great time on the Little North Santiam trail, and with the knowledge I’ve gained about the area, I feel that each trip there will be better than the last. I look forward to writing up more trail descriptions of the Opal Creek Wilderness!