Guano Creek Hike

Hike Rating: Moderate
Hike Length: 6.2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 240’
Trailhead Elevation: 5,220’
Best Season: September, when days are cooler
          and eagles have fledged from their nests
Driving Access: High-clearance vehicle

Plus Points
• A cross-country hike along a “linear oasis” of grass and isolated water pools
• Guano Creek is a cow-free Research Natural Area and BLM Wilderness Study Area
• Part of the canyon has vertical basalt walls, with golden eagle aeries (stick nests)
• The water pools in the canyon host a tiny endangered fish, the Sheldon tui chub
• Old growth junipers (partially cut years ago by the Shirk Ranch for fenceposts)
• The return hike is along an old wagon road (used to transport the juniper posts)

Minus Points
• There is no established trail, but walking is easy along the creekside grasslands
• Rattlesnakes are a possibility throughout the canyon, so caution is advised

Download (PDF, 669 KB): Photos of Guano Creek Hike
Download (PDF, 475 KB): Topo Map for Guano Creek Hike
Download (PDF, 607 KB): Road Map for Guano Creek Hike

Trail Notes
Map of Guano Creek Hike
The hike begins where Guano Creek crosses the main Guano Valley road and follows the south bank upstream through a narrows. Look for roosting short-eared owls here in the willow tree thickets. The canyon soon widens and, for the next mile, the route is along the creekside ribbon of grass and sedges, past occasional water pools. The canyon then bends sharply to the southwest, below exposed “badlands” of white volcanic ash, and begins to narrow and deepen. For almost a half mile, the creek bed is incised between vertical, 50’-high walls of basalt, with colorful yellow-green and orange lichens.

Look for golden eagle nests here, made of sagebrush sticks, on ledges high up the canyon walls. Within the incised canyon, the route also passes some deep water pools that likely persist year-round. Look here for tracks of pronghorn antelope and mule deer, which are dependent on these remnant water holes until late into the fall.

As the hike continues up the creek bed, the rock rims get lower and lower until, at about 5,300’ elevation, the creek is on top of the basalt layer and the canyon becomes an open basin. Here, one sees the first juniper trees and more scenic cliffs of white volcanic ash. The canyon then bends sharply again to the southwest and for the final half mile is increasingly choked by big junipers and boulders. Proceed only as far as you feel comfortable. Look for signs of logged junipers here, cut years ago by the Shirk Ranch for fence posts, and look for bighorn sheep on the high rims above the canyon.

To return, the easiest route is to backtrack down the creek bed a half mile to the open basin, then look for a faint wagon road climbing northeast out of the canyon from the northernmost bend in the creek. Follow this wagon road up through the sagebrush to the ridge top above the white ash cliffs. From this ridge, the wagon road then descends southeast back down through the Guano Creek canyon, crossing the creek at one point, before meeting the main Guano Valley road just south of the trailhead.

Road to Trailhead
From Adel in the southern Warner Valley, drive about 28 miles east on paved Hwy 140, to a wide dirt road with a stop sign joining the highway from the north. This road is about 0.6 miles east of Milepost 49. Don’t be confused by the sign and road for Guano Lake, which turns north about one mile west of the main Guano Valley road you’re looking for.

Please note the Guano Valley road is passable only by high clearance vehicles and ONLY when dry. The road has many deep holes and ruts, which can easily be driven over and around when dry, but are mud traps when wet and boggy. Only single-axle trailers are advised, with a maximum length of about 16’. This area is remote and not often visited, so extra caution and self-responsibility are required.

Heading north, the first 2 miles to the Barry Ranch have the worst ruts, as this section is driven in wet weather by the ranch traffic. But once past the fenced holding pens of the Barry Ranch (leave all gates as you find them here), the road is generally flat and smooth for the next 10 miles to the Shirk Ranch — though one has to skirt deep holes and ruts in places, plus negotiate a few rocky spots. Travel time for the full 12 miles from Hwy 140 to the Shirk Ranch was about 2 hours for us, pulling a small travel trailer.

Camping Options
There is no developed campground in the Guano Valley and dispersed camping is the only option, with one's own water, sanitation and trash removal. The most attractive camping area is about one mile north of the Shirk Ranch buildings, just before the road crosses the dry bed of Guano Creek. East of the road here, between the road and the dry creek bed is a grassy flat that can accommodate almost any camping setup — a tent, tent trailer or small travel trailer. The grass here is tall, thick and highly flammable, so campfires are not advised at all in this area.

Agency Contact: Lakeview BLM District, (541) 947-6399

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