DeGarmo Canyon Hike

Hike Rating: Moderate
Hike Length: 6.2 miles roundtrip (variable)
Elevation Gain: 1,550’
Trailhead Elevation: 4,850’
Best Season: June through September
Driving Access: High-clearance vehicle

Plus Points
• A very scenic canyon hike, with colorful basalt rims and outcrops
• Now cow-free, the canyon is served in part by an old cattle drive trail
• A noisy, rushing stream in spring with small, picturesque waterfalls
• Lots of wildflowers, including paintbrush, penstemon, delphinium and Rocky Mtn. iris
• Bald eagles and red-tailed hawks can be seen cruising overhead
• Potential bighorn sheep sightings on the high rims of the upper canyon

Minus Points
• Access to upper cattle drive trail requires a half mile of steep hillside scrambling
• Rattlesnakes are a possibility in summer, so caution is advised
• The half-mile access road requires a high-clearance vehicle (but it can also be walked)

Download (PDF, 582 KB): Photos of DeGarmo Canyon Hike
Download (PDF, 785 KB): Topo Map for DeGarmo Canyon Hike
Download (PDF, 680 KB): Road Map for DeGarmo Canyon Hike

Trail Notes
Map of DeGarmo Canyon Hike
Within 100 yards of the small trailhead parking area, one enters a narrow slot canyon and encounters a dangerous stream crossing above a small waterfall. Don’t cross here, but stay on the righthand (south) bank for another 50 yards, climbing over rocks and through willows, to an easier and safer crossing upstream. For the next 0.6 miles, the route follows an easy trail along the north bank of the stream, under spectacular red basalt outcrops, to a 35-foot waterfall cascading over a canyon cliff.

The lower trail ends here, but one can access the higher cattle drive trail by scrambling up the steep hillside north of the waterfall and climbing around the waterfall’s cliffs. The route then follows the creek for another half-mile upstream, where there’s another cliff blocking the canyon. By scrambling around the north side of this cliff in the same manner, then angling uphill for another 500’, one soon intersects the broad cattle drive trail.

Once on the cattle drive trail, it’s easy walking for the next 2 miles into the scenic upper canyon. The trail passes through groves of quaking aspen, a few small meadows and stands of large ponderosa pine. Eventually, the trees give way completely to open hillsides of bunchgrass and low sage, making the last pine trees a good hike destination. For the return hike, one can follow the high cattle drive trail west all the way out of the canyon, with sweeping views westward of the Warner Valley wetlands. On the return, the cattle drive trail ends on a hillside high above the trailhead — but the parking area below is visible at this point and it’s an easy, half-mile scramble down the sage-covered slope and across the creek to one’s vehicle.

Road to Trailhead
On the road to the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge (paved Road 3-12), drive about 10.0 miles north from the town of Plush, or about 5 miles south from the Camp Hart Mountain campground. On a straight north-south stretch of highway, just south of the DeGarmo Creek crossing, look for a small dirt road to the east. Follow this road for about 0.5 miles uphill, keeping right at the 0.2 mile point and left at the 0.3 mile point, to a small parking area near DeGarmo Creek. This road is rough and rocky and requires a high-clearance vehicle — but one can always park at the highway and walk it, if necessary.

Camping Options
The nearest developed campground is Camp Hart Mountain, an old CCC camp located in the Warner Valley about 5 miles north from the trailhead and about 15 miles north of Plush on the road to the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge. This campground has 9 free campsites that will accommodate any size camping rig, vault toilets and drinking water. It has a camp host during the summer and is managed by the USF&WS.

The next nearest developed campground is the Hot Springs Campground up on the refuge, about 18 driving miles from the trailhead and about 4 miles south of the Refuge Headquarters. It has 30 free sites of various sizes, from small tents to large RVs, plus a vault toilet and an enclosed public hot springs. There is no drinking water at this campground, but it can be obtained at the Refuge Headquarters. The campground has a camp host in the summer and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Agency Contact: Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge, (541) 947-2731 or (541) 947-3315

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: 1/16/13