Three Forks Trail

NOTE: The Three Forks Trail burned in Grizzly Bear Complex Fire of September 2015. It may be a few years before this area recovers for recreational use.

Hike Rating: Moderate
Hike Length: 6.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation Loss: 1,600’
Trailhead Elevation: 3,960’
Best Season: June through September
Driving Access: Any vehicle

Plus Points
• A scenic hike that starts on the rim and ends on the banks of Crooked Creek
• The hike is cow-free and entirely within the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Area
• Sweeping, panoramic vistas up and down the rugged Crooked Creek canyon
• Trail traverses both dry, south-facing slopes and forested, north-facing slopes
• Perennially-flowing Crooked Creek makes a cool, shady hike destination
• The trail is seldom used, so solitude is likely

Minus Points
• Hike can be brutally hot in mid-summer, so plan to start in early AM on hot days
• Rattlesnakes are commonly encountered throughout the summer, so be aware

Download (PDF, 801 KB): Photos of Three Forks Trail
Download (PDF, 755 KB): Topo Map for Three Forks Trail
Download (PDF, 655 KB): Road Map for Three Forks Trail

Trail Notes
Map of Three Forks Trail
The trailhead is about 50 yards west of the turnaround parking area, back up Road 246. The trail starts downhill through a mixed forest of fir and larch, then starts switchbacking down the steep hillside through open stands of ponderosa pine with a grass understory. Within the first mile, one gets glimpses through the trees of the rugged canyon below. At 1.2 miles, the trail switchbacks south across a rocky point, where one has breathtaking, panoramic vistas over the Crooked Creek watershed and the deeply-incised topography of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness to the north.

From this viewpoint, the trail begins a long descent to the south, across hillsides with sparse bunchgrass on the dry, south-facing slopes and thick shrubs (spirea, maple and thimbleberry) in the moist drainages. In late summer, look for bear sign in these thickets. At 1.6 miles, the trail switchbacks north again and begins a gradual, mile-long descent into Crooked Creek. Along the way, the route passes through mixed douglas fir and larch stands on the northern exposures and scattered ponderosa pine and even juniper on the dry, southern exposures. There are scenic basalt outcrops in this section.

At 2.8 miles, the trail begins its final descent into the creek bottom, through large firs and ponderosas and past the turnoff for the Crooked Creek Trail heading south. Once on the canyon bottom, the route goes north upstream along a high terrace for 0.2 miles, under big ponderosas, to a small rock cairn and a trail sign to Moore Flat. Turn left (west) here and follow this trail for about 200 yards to the river crossing. There are many nice spots along the floodplain to relax, have lunch, and enjoy the stream corridor.

Road to Trailhead
In the town of Troy, OR, turn north onto signed Bartlett Road. Drive 5.6 miles, switchbacking up out of the Wenaha River canyon, then driving northwest up along Bear Creek, to a prominent road junction. Branch left here (west) onto signed Reynolds Lane and follow it west for about 0.8 miles, then north for about a mile, then east for another mile and finally north again for about 0.6 miles to Kessler Mill Road on the left. This intersection is just past on old homestead house on the left.

Drive west on Kessler Mill Road for 3.1 miles to a cattle guard at the Forest boundary, where it becomes Forest Road 4039. Drive 0.4 miles on Road 4039 to Road 246 on the left, just past the Three Forks Picnic Area and vault toilet on the right. The trailhead is 0.2 miles down Road 246, about 50 yards before the parking area at road's end. Though the access route is a bit circuitous, it is all on good gravel roads from Troy, driveable by any passenger car in nearly any weather. A Northwest Forest Pass is required at the trailhead.

Camping Options
For tent campers: There are several nice dispersed camping spots under big ponderosas near the junction of Road 246 and Road 4039, just 0.2 miles from the trailhead. A vault toilet is located at the Three Forks Picnic Area just down the road, but no drinking water.

For all campers: The nearest developed camping area is at Grizz Flat, on the Wenaha River floodplain just south of Troy, and 14 driving miles from the trailhead. It is managed by Oregon State as part of the Wenaha State Wildlife Area. There are no designated campsites, but there's room for everything from large travel trailers
to tents. There is a vault toilet, but no drinking water and no fees. Be aware this camping area is taken over by hunters in October (it even has a shooting range). Drive south from Troy on the river road, across the Wenaha bridge, and in 0.2 miles look for a signed turnoff on the right (west). Follow this gravel road as it contours around the hillside for 0.5 miles to the riverside flat.

Other public camping sites are available about a mile east of Troy, along the Grande Ronde River, just off the paved river road. These are campsites in an open grassy meadow along the river, managed by Oregon State, across the road from the headquarters of the Wenaha State Wildlife Area. There is a vault toilet, but no drinking water and no fees.

Drinking water, showers, laundromat, gas, propane, groceries and other supplies are available at the Shiloh Resort in downtown Troy, which is open Wednesday through Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday). Contact them at (541) 828-7773 for details.

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: 11/25/13