- Your Public Lands
Umatilla National Forest (Walla Walla Ranger District)
- 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 lower trailhead is a great option for young families or inexperienced hikers as the remainder of the trail gains 2,000 feet of elevation. When you have a free weekend and want to explore a few trails, this campground is centrally located to the North Fork Umatilla River Trail (#3083), Lick Creek Trail (#3070), Nine Mile Ridge Trail (#3072), Buck Creek Trail (#3073), and Buck Mountain Trail (#3075).
There are 12 campsites. Six of those sites are tent and/or trailer sites, and six are tent only.
The North Fork and South Fork of the Umatilla River support coho salmon, Chinook salmon, steelhead, and trout to name a few. 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. From Walla Walla, follow HWY 11 20 miles to Athena, Oregon and turn left on Pambrun Road. Travel five miles then turn left onto Spring Hollow Road and follow for six miles. Turn left onto Bingham Road/ County Road 900, cross the railroad tracks, and follow Bingham Road/ County Road 900. This road becomes NF-32 at the forest boundary. Follow Bingham Road/ County Road 900 for approximately 9.5 miles to the campground, and the entrance is on your right.
When To Go
Like most activities in the mountains, the area really shines late spring to early fall. Of course, the wildflowers are always an attraction, and the river is always a welcome site. Late spring is likely my favorite time of year as the river is up, the wildflowers are out, and air is clear.
What To Expect
The Umatilla Forks campground is small and nestled between the river and the road. Given its proximity to the river, enjoy the riparian habitat. A few sites are more private and surrounded by vegetation while all sites take advantage of a mix of conifers and deciduous trees that shade the area. There is plenty of space between sites, and the sound of the river helps drown out any noise from your neighbor.
To camp the fee is $10 per night, and an additional $5 per extra vehicle exceeding the maximum two vehicle per site allowance.
Valid Oregon fishing license (if fishing)--Not available at the campground for purchase. Fishing licenses are available at Ranch and Home in Milton-Freewater, OR and online at the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife.
The North Fork Umatilla Wilderness is literally across the street. 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 forest, visit Umatilla National Forest website.
There are three picnic sites, three vault toilets, drinking water, parking, nearby hiking, river access, and fishing.
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.