- Your Public Lands
Umatilla National Forest (Walla Walla Ranger District), North Fork Umatilla Wilderness
- What To Do
Enjoy a steady climb over 3.5 miles through the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness. Lick Creek Trail (#3070) connects to Grouse Mountain Trail (#3081) as well as Buck Tie Trail (#3076), which provides access to North Fork Umatilla River Trail (#3083) , Nine Mile Ridge Trail (#3072), Buck Creek Trail (#3073), and Buck Mountain / Buck Rim Trail (#3075). The trails that connect via Buck Tie Trail have other trailheads, but it is possible to connect to all of those trails via Lick Creek Trail. Likely, the most popular route is staying on Lick Creek Trail either to its end or connect with the Grouse Mountain Trail.
Umatilla Forks Campground is not far down the road if looking for a campground to extend your visit and explore other trails. There are also spots to dispersed camp near Corporation Trailhead noted by the fire rings near the parking area as well as along the South Fork Umatilla River. Grouse Mountain also offers dispersed camping if interested in breaking up the out-and-back hiking trip. If opting to dispersed camp, don't travel more than a few miles past Umatilla Forks Campground as the road becomes quite challenging.
How To Get There
Please do not solely rely on Google Maps as their route might not always reflect what is maintained. Directions to the Lower Trailhead: Take HWY 11 for 21 miles to Athena, Oregon and turn left on Pambrun Road. Travel five miles and enjoy the farmlands as you enter the Umatilla Indian Reservation (Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla). Turn left onto Spring Hollow Road and go six miles. This road winds down the steep canyon and makes tight turns but offers a great view. After you cross the Umatilla River, turn left onto Bingham Road/ County Road 900, cross the railroad tracks, and follow Bingham Road/ County Road 900 for 13 miles.
A few miles after exiting the Umatilla Indian Reservation, you will reach the Bar M Ranch and the road becomes gravel. The road is fairly smooth with a few rough patches that all vehicles can pass. The Corporation Trailhead is 2.5 miles ahead with a parking area on your right. See the What To Expect section for more details. Note that we are working with Google Maps to reflect the correct city despite accurate location.
Consider using the Umatilla Forks Day-Use Area, which is located across the road from the Umatilla Forks Campground. The North Fork Umatilla Trailhead is located at the end of the cul-de-sac. The Buck Tie Trail connects the North Fork Umatilla River Trail with Lick Creek Trail. We suggest this starting location as the day-use area has a vault toilet and much more parking. The day-use area is less than a mile from the Lick Creek Trail prior to crossing the first bridge.
Directions to the Upper Trailhead: From Walla Walla, take HWY 11 south through Milton-Freewater, OR. Travel another five miles and turn left on Winn Road. Follow this little backroad for two miles and then turn left to connect with HWY 204. Just past mile post 14, turn right on McDougall Road. Travel three miles on this gravel road to its end, which is Zig Zag Springs Trailhead.
When To Go
Access this trail starting in the spring from Corporation Trailhead (lower trailhead) and hike until the snow is too deep to pass. This area is home to a cluster of trails that start low and connect to upper trailheads near Tollgate, Oregon. Consider the drive along the Umatilla River part of your recreation experience--it is quite scenic. Make sure to keep an eye out for wildlife. Take advantage of the upper trailhead at Zig Zag Springs in the summer just to change it up. That way you can eat at the Alpine Outpost in Tollgate, Oregon on your way home.
What To Expect
The trail climbs steadily requiring some sidehilling of open slopes mixed with pockets of forest and welcome shade. As a reminder the trail starts just off the left side of the road a few hundred yards after the Corporation Trailhead. It is marked by a small, inconspicuous sign. The Blue Mountain Land Trust's Blues Crew has added this trail to their list to maintain in partnership with the Umatilla Forest Service. You could easily mistake the beginning of the trail for a game trail. Remember, you can start at the North Fork Umatilla River Trailhead (just down the road) and connect to the Lick Creek Trail via the Buck Tie Trail. This options offers parking and a vault toilet. Expect areas of climbing over or crawling under down trees and thick brush in places. Always do a tick check. This is a great trail to enjoy a few hours of hiking in the morning or connect into other trails that branch further into the forest.
None required to park at Corporation Trailhead, North Fork Umatilla Trailhead, or along the road at appropriate pullout spots.
Wilderness regulations apply in the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness. Such restrictions include no motorized equipment, bicycles, or hang gliders to name a few. Groups larger than twelve are prohibited as well as caching or leaving equipment or supplies for longer than 72 hours. Most applicable to hikers is the fact that shortcutting a switchback on any trail is also a violation of wilderness regulations. For a complete list of wilderness regulations visit the Umatilla National Forest website.
Pack in and pack out. There are no vault toilets in the area. The nearest vault toilet is at Umatilla Forks Campground and Umatilla Forks Day-Use Area not much further down the road.
We are all so fortunate to recreate in the Blue Mountains. So many opportunities exist to play outside whether in a national forest, wilderness area, on a Wild and Scenic River, and more! With these opportunities comes great responsibility to appreciate that we are mere visitors and should all take pride in being good stewards of the wild. Many animals call these protected places home, including moose, elk, bear, cougar, bobcat, and snakes to name a few. Take precautions to respect their home and understand the appropriate response should an encounter occur. Additionally, many plant species thrive in the Blue Mountains, so staying on trail is always good practice. Carry First Aid supplies to better respond to accidents or encounters, and always let others know where the day's adventure is taking you.
Navigation: Consider downloading the Avenza Map app. This app allows users to upload three maps (or unlimited with a subscription) to use offline. It can track your location offline and overlay GPS data from the phone onto the map. The vehicle use maps (for trails allowing motorized vehicles) are the easiest to use. Otherwise, Geo Tracker offers similar tracking capabilities and additional details about your adventure. If no service, Geo Tracker will at least show your location. The Blue Mountains and surrounding area offer a remote recreating experience, and knowing your location is paramount to staying safe. Always make sure to bring paper maps. Tell others where your adventure is taking you and when you expect to return.
Difficulty Level: Here is what we are thinking when we assign a difficulty level: Day Tripper--You don't have much experience in the area but want to get outside! Great for families of all ages. Adventurer--You know your way around the Blue Mountains and love a leisurely day outdoors. Mountaineer--You are ready for a challenge. Wild places excite you and sweat is the goal. Small children beware. Keep in mind some activities may apply to multiple difficulty levels based on usage.
Pets: In general, pets are allowed on a leash and under control throughout jurisdictions. The only restrictions we have encountered are around swimming areas. As a best practice, be mindful of riparian habitat in general. You never know where a precious spawning area might be located. Pack it in and pack it out applies to your furry friend as well.