The West Tiger Creek Trail checks off many appealing qualities of a leisurely few hours outdoors, such as proximity and accessibility. Follow Mill Creek Road east toward the watershed entrance and enjoy iconic views of the Blue Mountains kissed by rolling wheat fields. Our most successful wildlife outing was an impromptu drive up the canyon in hopes of achieving a much needed naptime for our littlest one, but it resulted in excited squeals at the site of a black bear cub, multiple bull elk, a few thousand deer (somewhat exaggerating) and a great-horned owl. This is well worth a sunset drive as fading light does wonders in this area.
The road is paved most of the way, leaving a little over two miles of well-maintained gravel road to the trailhead. This trail is a true candidate for year-round accessibility. We’ve even spent an afternoon in December checking out all the intricate patterns of frost on berries and leaves and discovered hibernating ladybugs–be honest, you didn’t realize ladybugs hibernate either! You can’t go wrong visiting this spot in summer as the trail follows the creek under a blanket of trees in the canyon bottom.
In case you were wondering how we are so fortunate to have such a well-maintained trail close to town, you can thank the Blues Crew! This group of tireless volunteers is affiliated with the Blue Mountain Land Trust. In partnership with folks at the US Forest Service (Umatilla National Forest), this group of community volunteers clears the trails and works to improve the quality and accessibility of local trails. This group works hard but has a great time doing the amazing work they do. They welcome volunteers of all ages; in fact, our son helped with the North Fork Umatilla River Trail. Tools, wilderness, and a royal blue hard hat–what more could a boy wish for?
The West Tiger Creek Trail is on its way to being a local treasure thanks to the Blues Crew. One of the most unique qualities of recreating in the Blue Mountains, in my humble opinion, is how quickly civilization turns to wild. That being said, it is important to mention being aware and prepared for wild experiences, such as encounters with wildlife. On one occasion, I found myself stepping in stride with relatively fresh bear tracks followed by stepping over even more fresh bear (well you know). Not to discourage your outdoor adventures, but rather advise all the typical precautions: make noise and carry bear spray, for example. We didn’t follow our own advice that day–the bear spray was in the truck where it was more useful of course. We had something more powerful that day, which was two small children making more noise than that area of the forest had likely heard in a long time.
If there is quite a bit on your tourist checklist or the to do list at home doesn’t afford a full day excursion, this is the trail for you! Breathe some fresh, mountain air and enjoy the sound of the creek as this trip doesn’t require a huge time commitment. The drive is incredibly scenic and happens to pass by a number of wineries as well, or if the family is in tow you might be lucky enough to accomplish a nap after all.