South Fork Wenaha River Trail

Hike Rating: Easy
Hike Length: 6.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation Loss: 850’
Trailhead Elevation: 4,700’
Best Season: July through September,
       after Spring runoff has subsided
Driving Access: Any vehicle

Plus Points
• Pleasant hike into a moist, north-facing basin with lush forests and scenic views
• The trail is cow-free and entirely within the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Area
• Pristine groves of old-growth grand fir, up to 5' in diameter, with luxuriant understory
• Dramatic basalt bluffs and palisades in the lower canyon, with wilderness vistas
• South Fork Wenaha River is a perennial stream with a strong flow into late summer
• A well-built trail on a good grade makes for easy walking

Minus Points
• No footbridge at river crossing, so hikers must get their feet wet

Download (PDF, 953 KB): Photos of South Fork Wenaha River Trail
Download (PDF, 820 KB): Topo Map for South Fork Wenaha River Trail
Download (PDF, 741 KB): Road Map for South Fork Wenaha River Trail

Trail Notes
Map of South Fork Wenaha River Trail
From the trailhead on the north end of the Timothy Springs Campground, the trail descends through a pure stand of western larch in the first quarter mile to a creek crossing, where one has to scramble across on logs and rocks. This moist meadow is lush with ferns and wildflowers into late summer. The trail then climbs out of this creek canyon, before beginning a long, gradual descent down the South Fork Wenaha watershed. The river can be heard throughout this section, but not seen.

Past the creek crossing, the trail wanders downhill for about 2 miles through a pristine forest of mostly grand fir, with a few douglas fir and larch. The trees here have never been logged and one encounters specimens up to 5' thick. Alternating with the forests are thickets of multi-branching alder and open meadows covered with coneflower. At 2.3 miles, the trail arrives at the South Fork Wenaha River and, unless hikers make this a turnaround point, there is no choice but to ford the calf-deep, 20'-wide stream.

Past the river ford, the canyon quickly changes from a wide, moist basin into a deep, steep-walled chasm. The trail contours along the west wall of this canyon, through stands of small fir, with the river 200' below. At about 3.0 miles, the trail rounds basalt outcrops and one has long views down the canyon into the heart of the wilderness. The cliffs here are dramatic, rising 150' to 200' above the trail. At 3.2 miles, the trail contours through a shady grotto with a small stream and cottonwoods. This can be a nice lunch and hike turnaround point — though those with more ambition can walk a mile further (dropping down 450') to the confluence of the South Fork Wenaha River and Milk Creek.

Road to Trailhead
From Hwy 204, 1.2 miles east of Tollgate, turn north onto Road 64. Follow Road 64 for about 13 miles to a junction with Road 6413, about 1.8 miles past the turnoff for Jubilee Lake Campground. Bear left at this junction (staying on Road 64) and drive 2.2 miles north to a prominent "Y" in the road. Take the right fork here onto Road 6415 and drive about 3.5 miles east to the Timothy Springs Campground on the left. The trailhead is found at the north end of this campground, past the vault toilet and old guard station.

Road 64 is paved for the first 3.5 miles from Tollgate, then is graded gravel all the rest of the way to the "Y." Road 6415 to Timothy Springs is also a graveled road, with just a few rough spots in the last half mile. The entire route is passable by any passenger car or camping trailer. A Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at the trailhead.

Camping Options
The nearest camping area is right at the trailhead in the Timothy Springs Campground. There are no designated sites, but it has about 4 spaces for small camping trailers and room for tent campers in the trees and in a meadow below the historical guard station. There is a vault toilet, but no drinking water. Fees were $5.00 per night in 2013 or a Northwest Forest Pass.

The next nearest camping area is the Mottet Campground, 1.3 miles on Road 6403 off Road 64, then 0.2 miles left on Road 250, and about 6 driving miles from the trailhead. This is a pleasant campground with 3-4 sites for trailers and 1-2 sites for tents. There is a vault toilet and piped spring water. Fees were $8.00 per night in 2013. Be forewarned that the 1.3 miles of Road 6403 is very rocky and rutted, requiring a high-clearance vehicle. With care, one could get a small camping trailer down this road, but there are easier alternatives.

Finally, for large trailers and general camping, there is the Jubilee Lake Campground, off Road 64 about 8 driving miles from the trailhead, on the shore of a forested, man-made lake. This is a very popular camping area on summer weekends and sites tend to fill up quickly. There are 53 sites suitable for a variety of camping styles, plus 5 flush toilets, 4 vault toilets, drinking water and a boat ramp. Fees were $17.00 per night in 2013.

Agency Contact: Umatilla National Forest, Pomeroy District, (509) 843-1891

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: 11/22/13