- Your Public Lands
Umatilla National Forest (Walla Walla Ranger District), North Fork Umatilla Wilderness
- What To Do
The North Fork Umatilla River Trail (#3083) is 9.8 miles one-way and ends at Coyote Ridge Trailhead (upper trailhead). The lower trailhead is accessed via the day-use area across from the Umatilla Forks Campground . If starting at the lower trailhead, expect the first four miles to follow the North Fork of the Umatilla River with minimal elevation gain. This is the most ideal option for a young family or inexperienced hiker as the remainder of the trail gains 2,000 feet of elevation. Don’t discount the Coyote Ridge Trailhead as a starting point, though, as there is a spectacular viewing area with picnic table not far from the trailhead, and the switchbacks are quite manageable.
The North Fork Umatilla River supports sizeable runs of anadromous fish, which makes this area a popular spot for anglers. There are also several streams within the wilderness that contain native trout, and a few streams support spawning steelhead. The first four miles follow the river with minimal elevation gain. Fishing regulations are highly specific and based on location and species. Please always consult the latest information available from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife.
How To Get There
Please do not solely rely on Google Maps as their route might not always reflect what is maintained. Directions depend on if you want to start up top and hike down or start low and hike up. It is a longer trail so perhaps hike half one day and the other half another day. Or, take a page out of the kayaker’s book and leave a vehicle at one end and start at the other. To start at the lower end of the trail, take HWY 11 to Athena, Oregon and turn left on Pambrum Road. Continue five miles and turn left onto Spring Hollow Road and continue for roughly six miles. Make a left turn onto Bingham Road/County Road 900, cross the railroad tracks and follow for the remaining 15 miles. The road becomes gravel at the Bar M Ranch, which is about 3.5 miles before the trailhead. Turn left into 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.
To start at the upper end of the trail, take HWY 11 south passing through Milton-Freewater, OR and continue for five miles and turn left on Winn Road. Travel another two miles and then turn left onto HWY 204. Take HWY 204 east for approximately 18 miles, and then turn right onto Forest Service Road #3719. There is a sign on the left side of the highway, but it is almost too late to make the turn once you spot it. As a tip, there is a pull out for the C.J. Haney viewpoint just prior to the Forest Service road. Also, if you make it to the Alpine Outpost Tollgate Store, you have gone too far. You will meet a fork about ¾ of a mile in; keep left and then take your first right to keep on NF-3719. Continue another ½ mile to the next fork and keep left, then take the first right onto NF-3719-040. Follow for another ½ mile and keep left at the final fork which ends at the Coyote Ridge Trailhead.
When To Go
Enjoy this trail as soon as possible. Access to the upper trailhead depends on how well spring was able to melt at least a little snow. The lower trailhead opens up much sooner due to its lower elevation. Remember, access to the lower trailhead is located at the Umatilla Forks Day-Use Area. Starting at the Coyote Ridge Trailhead offers immediate, amazing vistas. While there are plenty of areas to rest under shade in the heat of summer, the upper section of this trail is quite exposed, so stay hydrated.
What To Expect
This trail showcases so many iconic features of the Blue Mountains. Enjoy the wildflowers, the views, a sunrise or sunset, look for insects and other wildlife, challenge yourself to hike the entire trail (and back), or just sit at the picnic table up top and relax. Expect to have a wonderful day outside.
Fishing licenses are available online via the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife or locally at Ranch & Home in Milton-Freewater, OR off HWY 11 on your way out of town. Remember, you have to purchase an Oregon fishing license in Oregon.
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 applicable to those within the , visit the Umatilla National Forest website.
Potable water, a vault toilet, and parking available at the Umatilla Forks Campground (lower trailhead). There are no services at Coyote Ridge Trailhead (upper trailhead)
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.