Granite Creek Trail

Hike Rating: Easy
Hike Length: 7.2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Loss: 350’
Trailhead Elevation: 4,370’
Best Season: June through September
Driving Access: Any vehicle

Plus Points
• Scenic day hike into the heart of the North Fork John Day Wilderness Area
• Granite Creek is a perennial stream, with eye-catching basalt cliffs throughout canyon
• A pleasant hike destination awaits on the banks of the North Fork John Day River
• Big ponderosas on south-facing slopes; thick fir and larch on north-facing slopes
• One is in touch with the burbling stream, either visually or aurally, throughout hike
• Overall, a well-built trail on a good grade, with footbridges at each stream crossing

Minus Points
• In the first mile, the trail has a few narrow, rocky sections that require caution
• Black bears frequent the trailside berry bushes in Fall, so be alert for them

Download (PDF, 902 KB): Photos of Granite Creek Trail
Download (PDF, 707 KB): Topo Map for Granite Creek Trail
Download (PDF, 760 KB): Road Map for Granite Creek Trail

Trail Notes
Map of Granite Creek Trail
For the first mile, the trail contours around the hillside through open grassy slopes and ponderosa groves, staying about 200' above Granite Creek. A few stretches of trail in this section are narrow, with loose rock, so be cautious. At about 1.0 miles, the trail crosses Indian Creek, then descends 0.3 miles further to the Wilderness boundary. Once in the Wilderness, the trail follows the north bank of Granite Creek west for about a half-mile, with nice views of the stream corridor, to the first footbridge at the 2.0 mile point.

Past this first footbridge, the trail hugs the south bank of the creek, through thick thimbleberry, wild rose and streamside alders. Look for bear sign here in late summer. Across the creek are dramatic basalt cliffs and talus fields on the canyon walls. At 2.9 miles, the trail crosses Lake Creek on a log footbridge, then descends for the next 0.5 miles through mixed stands of douglas fir, true fir and larch, past the muddy seeps of Snowshoe Spring. At 3.4 miles, one crosses a third footbridge back to the north bank.

Just 0.2 miles past this third footbridge, the trail enters a wide grassy flat at the confluence of Granite Creek and the North Fork John Day River. This is a natural spot for a hike destination, as one can relax along the river or explore the old mining cabin foundation and diggings. For more attractions, one can cross the steel truss footbridge over the river, then walk 0.3 miles downstream to where the canyon narrows between steep rock walls. There are colorful basalt cliffs here and deep pools, which invite a cold river swim.

Road to Trailhead
From the town of Granite, drive 1.3 miles west on paved Road 24, to a junction where dirt Road 1035 branches to the right (north). Follow Road 1035 along the north bank of Granite Creek for about 4.6 miles to a signed turnoff on a spur road (Road 010) to the left. Follow this spur road for about 0.2 miles to the prominent trailhead sign.

This trailhead is easily accessible by any passenger car. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.

Camping Options
The nearest developed camping area is the USFS North Fork John Day Campground, about 8 miles north of Granite on paved Hwy 73 and about 14 driving miles from the trailhead. Located next to the highway in a lodgepole pine forest above the river, there are 20 sites for tents, trailers and RVs. This campground has three vault toilets, plus picnic tables and fire rings at each site. There is no drinking water or garbage pickup, but it has a volunteer camp host in the summer months. Fees were $8.00 per night in 2013.

The next nearest developed campground is the USFS Olive Lake Campground, 12 miles east of Granite on gravel Road 10 and about 15 driving miles from the trailhead. This is a popular recreation area, with 28 sites for any type of camping setup, spread out on the hillside east of the lake. It has 7 vault toilets, a boat ramp and two docks, plus tables and fire rings at most campsites. There is no drinking water or garbage pickup, but it has a camp host in summer. Fees were $12.00 per night in 2013.

Finally, for those with their own water and sanitation, there are a few dispersed camping sites for tents or small camping trailers along the last 1.5 miles of Road 1035 before the trailhead. These are located off short, rough spur roads leading south to Granite Creek or to grassy benches above the stream.

NOTE: The only publicly-available drinking water in the area is at Gold Center Spring, 7.4 driving miles south of Granite on Hwy 73. This is a piped, free-flowing spring at a wide pullout east of the highway. Gas and supplies are available at the store in Granite.

Agency Contact: Umatilla National Forest, North Fork John Day District, (541) 427-3231

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 public land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 11/19/13