McCoy Creek Hike

Hike Rating: Moderate
Hike Length: 3.0 miles roundtrip (minimum)
Elevation Loss: 560’
Trailhead Elevation: 7,420’
Best Season: June and September, before and
                       after cows are in the valley
Driving Access: Any vehicle, once access
                  road is snow-free and dry

Plus Points
• A rugged, cross-country hike into a once-glaciated valley with a perennial stream
• This section of McCoy Creek is within a BLM Wilderness Study Area
• Very scenic hike at points, with expansive vistas up and down the U-shaped valley
• Valley bottom is a mosaic of open meadows, streamside willows and aspen groves
• Potential sightings of antelope in sage uplands and mule deer in valley bottoms
• Solitude is nearly assured in this seldom-visited valley

Minus Points
• Grazing cows dominate the valley from July to mid-August — a good time to avoid
• A short, steep scramble down into the valley, dropping 500’ in one-third mile
• Basic orienteering or GPS skills are needed to follow the best route into valley

Download (PDF, 535 KB): Photos of McCoy Creek Hike
Download (PDF, 580 KB): Topo Map for McCoy Creek Hike
Download (GPX, 4 KB): GPS Points for McCoy Creek Hike
Download (PDF, 656 KB): Road Map for McCoy Creek Hike

Trail Notes
Map of McCoy Creek Hike
The hike begins on a faint, double-track jeep trail that runs up a grassy swale to the east of the trailhead (GPS Point 1). For the next 0.7 miles, the route follows this jeep track east through the sage scrub, bearing toward the Kiger Notch on the horizon, until it ends just over the lip of the valley’s edge (GPS Point 2). From here, the route strikes off cross-country to the southeast, slowly descending the sage-covered hillside for about 0.2 miles, to a prominent juniper post on a rocky rim (GPS Point 3). Here, there are wonderful, sweeping views up and down the U-shaped valley of McCoy Creek. For the next 0.4 miles, from this juniper post to McCoy Creek, the route descends northeast down the steep, rocky hillside into the McCoy Creek valley at GPS Point 4.

Once at the valley floor, there’s ample opportunity to explore both upstream and downstream. The lower end of McCoy Creek is a diverse mosaic of open grassland, streamside willow thickets and isolated aspen groves — and it’s easy walking for about 0.9 miles downstream until one meets fenced private land. Heading upstream, there’s a good cow trail up the east side of the valley, if the creek level is low enough to cross safely. For over a half mile, this trail winds through thick, nearly continuous stands of aspen, interspersed with a few attractive wet meadows sporting wildflowers late into the season. Return along the same route as you came.

Road to Trailhead
The access road to the trailhead is an easy one that, if dry, is passable by any passenger car. On the Steens Mtn. Loop Road, drive about 0.4 miles west from the Fish Lake Campground or about 13.2 miles east from the Page Springs Campground. Turn northeast on a good dirt road and drive about 0.4 miles to where the road dips through a shallow, grassy swale. On the right (east) side of the road, there should be a “Wilderness Boundary” marker and a faint jeep track heading east up the swale.

Camping Options
For all campers: The nearest developed campground is the Fish Lake Campground, managed by the BLM. It’s located at 7,400’ on the Steens Mtn. Loop Road, about 17 miles west of Frenchglen and about 1 driving mile from the trailhead. This campground has 23 sites around a small mountain lake, some tucked away in aspen groves at the head of the lake and others more exposed near the lake’s outlet. All have gravel parking pads, tables and fire rings. There are vault toilets here, drinking water, trash cans and a small boat ramp (for motor-less boats only). The fee was $8.00 per night in 2012.

For tent campers only: The next nearest campground is the Jackman Park Campground, managed by the BLM. It’s located at 7,800’ on the Steens Mtn. Loop Road, 19 miles east of Frenchglen and about 3 driving miles from the trailhead. This campground is nestled within a small basin of aspen groves and wet meadows below a glaciated rim. There are 6 small sites for tents, though one of the sites can accommodate a small tent or travel trailer. Each site has a concrete picnic table and fire ring. The campground has a vault toilet, drinking water and trash cans. The fee was $6.00 per night in 2012.

Agency Contact: Burns BLM District, (541) 573-4411

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: 1/17/13