Myrtle Creek Trail, Malheur National Forest, Eastern Oregon

Trail Name:  Myrtle Creek Trail

Trail Number308


General Location:  Southern Blue Mountains

 Nearest city: 
 Burns, population 5000
 Nearest amenities: 
 Burn, full service community
 Managing agency: 
 US Forest Service
Type of  Environment: 
 Ponderosa pine forest
Area Map: 

Topo Maps: Myrtle Park MeadowsWest Myrtle Butte, Mosquito Flat
Planographic Maps:  Burns Ranger District Map, West Half, Southern Blue Mountains PNW Recreation Map
Information Links: 
  Myrtle Creek Trail #308














Access:   US Highway 395, Forest Road 31

 Type of road: 
 Road condition: 
  The last 6-7 miles are potholed.
 Permits required: 
Where can permits be obtained:  N/A
 ORV use is prohibited
Season of Use: 
  May through October depending on snow


 Trailhead Condition:  Good

[ X  ]  Room to turn/ park a trailer      [   ]  Restrooms
[ X  ]  Corrals/ tie rails        [ X ]  Picnic tables
[   ]  Stock water available     [ X  ]  Firewood available/ allowed
[   ]  Human water available     [   ]  Camp sites


Trail Condition:  Good

Trail mileage: 
 8 miles
Other Trails: 
Myrtle Creek Trail #308, FL Spring Trail #B-5065
 Loop Trails: 
 Good Camping Spots: 
 Distance to camping spots: 
 1 mile

   Yes, narrow and flimsy
   Type:   poles with slats
   Maintained:  Yes











[ !! ]  Windfalls      [ X  ]  Stream crossings
[ X ]  Dogs        [ X  ]  Poisonous Plants
[ X ]  Horses     [ X  ]  Rattlesnakes
[   ]  ATV's     [ X  ]  Other: Cows!


General Description:
This trail is in the forest and stays cool even in the hottest summer weather. It is scenic with a creek running through the canyon and nice views above.  Being in Harney County, part of eastern Oregon’s high desert, and a very rural area, there are rarely other people on the trail.

Located north of Burns this trailhead has easy access with paved roads all of the way. The parking area is located 13 miles down Forest Service Road 31, off of Highway 395 between Burns and John Day. The last 5 to 6 miles the pavement has deteriorated and requires slower driving. The short drop to the parking area is a narrow gravel lane.The parking area has enough room for two or three trailers with plenty of room to turn around. There is a picnic table under some trees in a corral but the site has no other amenities.  Llamas can be tethered there quite easily and one could camp there but there are much more pleasant areas off the trail within a mile of the trailhead or several miles down the creek.

There is a Forest Service Campground (Joaquin Miller) on Highway 395 about mile north of the junction with Forest Road 31. It is an equestrian campground with corrals, hitching rails, restrooms, water and nice campsites. It gets very little use. There are also a number of 'dispersed campsites' along road 31 where you can park and camp. Many of these are pleasant spots that get little used except during hunting season. None have any amenities. Crane Flat, several miles north of the trailhead is particularly charming with a large meadow bordered by tall pines.

Other Nearby Attractions: 
Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Area is about 55 miles north. Steens Mountain is about 75 miles south.


Reporter's Personal Take on This Trail:
Usage is light. You may encounter someone else, but not very often.The trail itself is easy to follow and maintained in the summer, between June and September. Prior to that there may be downed timber blocking the trail but one can usually get around it with llamas. There is a small bridge over the creek for humans. Expect your llamas to ford. The creek may be deep during snow melt, but is reduced to a rock hop later in the summer. After two miles, just prior to crossing West Myrtle Creek the Myrtle Creek Trail junctions with the West Myrtle Trail.This trail climbs steeply for nearly 600 feet before leveling off to follow slopes high above West Myrtle Creek for 1.8 miles before it reaches its trailhead. It is possible, if you are adventurous and a very good navigator, to travel cross country between Crane Flat and these two trails.

Elk trails are particularly well defined on the east side of the canyon where they both traverse the slopes and climb to the top where gentle ponderosa forest have been selectively harvested. These routes are not for the faint of heart. They can be steep, fraught with windfall and constrained by rimrock. They should not be attempted by less than Master level pack llamas, yet for those navigators and llamas with excellent skills they can provide opportunities to make loop routes and explore seldom visited country. There are several forest service roads crisscrossing the top of the ridge and providing access. It is a beautiful place to explore. 

The Myrtle Creek Trail continues downstream along the Myrtle Creek as it makes it way through the canyon. The junction with FL Spring Trail is at mile 6 or so. This one mile long trail climbs out of the canyon to past the water trough at FL spring, to a small picnic area with a picnic table and fire ring. (Road access to the trailhead is not signed.) Cows use this trail heavily and their trails are often more clearly defined than the official route.

The  Myrtle Creek canyon merges with an unroaded section of canyon through which the Silvies River flows. The Myrtle Creek trail ends at a section of private land near this confluence. With a little cross country effort, one can skirt around this property to reach the Silvies River. While there are no official trails along the river, cattle and elk have supplied fine versions of their own. It is easy to follow the river upstream to reach forest road 31 about 7 miles south of the Myrtle Creek trailhead. This can be parsed into a fascinating multi-day trip during which you are likely to see no one else, although cows are usually  present from July through August. 

One of the best or worst features of the area, depending on your outlook, is that there is no cell phone reception at the trailhead or in the canyon.  On top of the ridge there are a few spots where there is service. Poisonous plants, lupine, larkspur and death-camas, all bloom in the area.  Black bears are in the area and rattlesnakes are a possibility though I have never seen any up there. Being in the forest, there is always a risk of falling trees in high winds, and wildfire.

Submitted by:
Anne Sheeter

Burns, Oregon  March 2015

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