banner

Tucked deep into the forest on the edge of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, the Slick Ear Trail offers both a stunning view and, if desired, an incredible workout. This trail is a direct route, although rugged, to the Wenaha River, a Wild and Scenic River. The trail terminates at its junction with the Wenaha River Trail. Whether you are looking for a day hike, the start of a backpacking adventure, or just a stroll to a view, the Slick Ear Trail is an adventure for all.

  • Distance:

    1.5 - 2.5 Hours

  • Difficulty Level:

    Mountaineer

  • Seasons:

    Summer, Fall

  • Elevation:

    2,800 - 5,300 feet

  • Pets:

    Yes

  • Nearest Services:

    Dayton, Washington

  • Reservations:

    N/A

  • ADA:

    No

  • Multi-Use:

    No

  • Motorized Vehicles :

    No

  • Your Public Lands

    Umatilla National Forest (Pomeroy District), Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness

  • What To Do
    • Hiking

      The Slick Ear Trail (#3104) begins at the Slick Ear Trailhead on the border of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness and Umatilla National Forest. It is a shorter trail at just over five miles, but it is quite difficult due to a drastic 2,500 feet elevation gain on the return journey (if using as an out and back). The first mile and a half of this trail is acceptable for beginner hikers and offers expansive views of the wilderness. Take one last look at the horizon because it is into the forest and all downhill to the river. Know your limits and be prepared. Remember, five miles of decline means five miles of incline.

  • How To Get There

    Please do not solely rely on Google Maps as their route might not always reflect what is maintained. From Walla Walla, take HWY 12 east to Dayton. Travel through the town of Dayton, Washington (or stop and take advantage of a local bakery or two) and turn right onto S 4th Street/North Touchet Road toward Ski Bluewood. After roughly 23 miles, the road becomes gravel (NF-64) just past the Ski Bluewood entrance. Climb up NF-64 for three miles and turn left onto Kendall Skyline (NF-46). Continue for five miles then turn right onto NF-300. The road will split after five miles; stay right and continue another mile to the end of the road and arrive at the Slick Ear Trailhead.

  • When To Go

    Enjoy this trail from summer through late fall. Access is limited by snowfall, and this part of the forest is one of the last areas to thaw. As it does, the melting snow and various springs utilizing the trail to drain to the Wenaha River will make crossing Slick Ear Creek difficult. We made an entire bloopers video out of our creek crossings on this trip, so pack an extra pair of socks.

  • What To Expect

    The first mile and a half of this trail is a mild slope through the forest with perfect views of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. A rocky outcrop at the ridge's end signals the beginning of the decent. Hikers must make the decision between a leisurely stroll and strenuous adventure. The trail makes a very aggressive decent for the next half mile or so and then continues at a steep slope for the next three miles before leveling off as you near the Wenaha River. For those who continue on, expect to be immersed in the forest as you follow along Slick Ear Creek, which grows in force with each step down the canyon. There are several creek crossings to navigate, and depending on the time of year some are easier than others, so be prepared for your feet to get wet. The last mile of the trail as of 2020 was extremely overgrown with chest high brush and downed timber. We lost the trail a couple of times, but were able to pick it back up without too much difficulty. Once through the overgrowth, the Slick Ear Trail meets the Wenaha River Trail, which parallels the Wenaha River. Make camp for the night, continue your adventure along the Wenaha River Trail, or cool down in the frigid water before braving the accent.

  • Fees

    None

  • Permits

    None

  • Regulations

    Wilderness regulations apply in the Wenaha-Tucannon 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 forest, visit the Umatilla National Forest website.

  • Amenities

    None

  • Wildlife Awareness

    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.

  • Field Notes

    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.