Alder Springs is a Little Known Central Oregon Hike


Hike Alder Springs Ideally in Fall or Spring

The hike to Alder Springs outside of Sisters limits motorized access from December 1st through March 31st to protect the winter rangeland of the local deer populations. However, access to the trail head is on rough dirt roads for which 4 wheel drive and high vehicle clearance is recommended. Directions to the official trail head can be found on the USDA website. The “unofficial” route involves travel on Locust Street (Camp Polk Road) in Sisters 3.1 miles north from East Cascade Avenue. Take this to Wilt Road, staying on Wilt when the pavement ends 4 miles. Past Rimrock Ranch the road is less maintained. Travel another 2.2 miles until you see a sharp unmarked turnoff to the right onto a rough dirt road. Travel on this past a gate until you reach a picnic area next to Whychus Creek which provides for a water crossing during dry times of the year. There is a beautiful mesa above the crossing and signage for a Native American archaeological site.

Alder Springs Alder Springs Mesa

The unofficial trail parallels Whychus Creek for over 3.5 miles from the picnic area down the western side of Whychus Canyon eventually dropping to Alder Springs. The trail has some sections which are difficult to locate and other areas where the tract comes close to the canyon rim and the steep drop to the creek. In the summer the exposure with limited trees would make the hike very warm; hikers should be careful to bring plenty of water. Alder Springs is where the “official” trail crosses Whychus Creek and hikers using this trail need to wade across the stream to go any further; in April the water is cold.

Whychus Canyon Alder Springs

Hikers can enjoy the shade from the many trees and the water bubbling up from rocks at Alder Springs, eventually flowing into Whychus Creek. Or they can continue down Whychus Creek another 1.5 miles to the confluence of the creek with the Deschutes River. This section of the hike has far more vegetation which creates more shade, but also more obstacles to push aside, walk around or over. Close to the confluence is a stone cliff from which a spring flows creating a lovely waterfall. Access to this involves stepping around shrubs and trees to see it and as the vegetation grows later in the spring, many hikers will probably miss the waterfall as it will be hidden from the path.  At the confluence, a large rock formation provides the perfect space for lunch and enjoyment of the flowing water and towering rock formations.

Alder Springs Waterfall Deschutes River and Whychus Creek Confluence

All in all, traveling the unofficial route will take more time, but the beauty of the high desert is very much displayed during the hike. Just over 1000 feet of elevation change, 11+ miles, and keeping feet dry make this unofficial route to Alder Springs a wonderful spring or late fall hike.


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