Riley Creek / McClellan Mountain Trail

Riley Creek Trail, Malheur National Forest

Hike Rating: Moderate
Hike Length: 5.5 miles roundtrip (variable)
Elevation Gain: 1,000’
Trailhead Elevation: 4,700’
Best Season: June through September
Driving Access: Any vehicle, with care

Plus Points
• The lush, cool oasis of Riley Creek contrasts with the dry uplands
• Douglas fir forest at streamside, with understory of red ossier dogwood
• Mature ponderosas on lower slopes; juniper and mountain mahogany higher up
• Sound of burbling water throughout the stream canyon
• Well-designed and well-graded trail makes for easy walking
• On upper trail, sweeping views of open hillsides and high rock ridges
• Potential bighorn sheep sightings on McClellan Mountain (take binoculars!)

Minus Points
• Best views are found 500' to 1,000’ above creek (though trail is well-graded)

Download (PDF, 583 KB): Photos of Riley Creek Trail
Download (PDF, 564 KB): Topo Map for Riley Creek Trail
Download (PDF, 648 KB): Road Map for Riley Creek Trail

Trail Notes
Map of Riley Creek / McClellan Mtn Trail
For the first mile, the trail parallels the east bank of Riley Creek, staying 20’ to 50’ above the stream and its lush douglas fir forest. At one mile, the trail fords the stream (no footbridge, but downed logs are handy) and continues down the west bank. At 1.5 miles, on a dry bench high above Riley Creek, it turns into the McClellan Mtn. Trail.

The trail then leaves the Riley Creek canyon and climbs gradually northwest into the side canyon of Packsaddle Creek. At 2.0 miles, the trail crosses Packsaddle Creek and starts a gradual ascent through open pine forests (in the wetter draws) and juniper and mountain mahogany (on the drier hillsides).

Soon, there are sweeping vistas of McClellan Mountain to the west. Here’s a chance to take out your binoculars and search its high rocky slopes for big horn sheep. The trail continues on for miles along the shoulders of McClellan Mountain, but a rock ridge at 2.7 miles (about 5,600’) provides great views back up Riley Creek—and can make a good lunch destination and hike turnaround.

Road to Trailhead
The entire 5 miles of Road 2190 is in decent shape and accessible by any passenger car. However, there are a few rutted and rocky spots where extra care is needed.

One caution: Unless you have four-wheel drive, it’s best to park at the junction of Road 2190 and Road 589 (where Umatilla Creek meets Riley Creek), and walk the last quarter mile to the trailhead. There are some very deep mudholes in this last quarter mile, which can trap the unwary driver. Better to be safe than sorry in this case.

Camping Options
The closest developed campground is the Oregon Mine Campground, about 12 miles from the trailhead, west down the Murderers Creek canyon off paved Road 2170. This is a small campground, sandwiched between Murderers Creek and the paved road. There are four free sites, with a vault toilet but no drinking water.

Dispersed campsites are common along Murderers Creek.
If self-contained, with your own sanitation and drinking water, there are at least 8-10 nice dispersed camping sites along paved Road 21, where it parallels the north bank of Murderers Creek. There are also a few nice dispersed sites off Road 2170, along the stream above the Oregon Mine Campground. The USFS has officially sanctioned many of these sites with gravel drives and camping pads.

Agency Contact: Malheur National Forest, Blue Mountain District, (541) 575-3000

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to contact local federal land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 12/21/11