The trail to Alder Springs begins along a ridgeline above the Whychus Creek canyon where it travels for about ¾ of a mile. The views of the narrow canyon, full of Ponderosa Pine and other vegetation not found in the surrounding environment, winding its way through the desert are pretty impressive. After the traverse of the ridge, the trail begins descending rapidly down a side canyon towards Alder Springs. The rock formations you encounter on the trail down to the creek, and in other places on the trail are truly magnificent. About halfway down this side canyon, you can take a short side trail to an ephemeral waterfall which has carved out a beautiful room for you to relax it. As you head down the canyon, you will also begin to notice that water is suddenly present, as it bubbles out of the ground and cascades toward Whychus Creek.
Once you reach Whychus, you will be left with a dilemma, turn around here and head back to your car for a 2.5 mile excursion, or ford the creek and continue another 1 ¾ miles downstream to the confluence with the Deschutes River. The ford of Whychus is usually straight forward, if somewhat on the cold side. There are times during the spring that the flows can be fairly high and an attempt to cross the stream could be dangerous. However, the crossing is generally not more than knee deep and fairly slow.
Once across the stream, the trail tightens up and becomes a little more technical. There are some narrow, off-chamber areas that drop 20 or 30 feet toward the creek. Also be aware that there can be rattlesnakes hiding in the tall grass, or sunning themselves on the trail. The trip down to the river allows for you to see many more beautiful sections of this canyon.
You will hear the Deschutes well before you officially arrive, but once you break free from the thick alders and vegetation near the mouth of Whychus, the scenery can take your breath away. Multicolored rock formations cover the rim walls and the Deschutes itself is a magical, turquoise blue as it crashes through the rocks. There are a few nice, overlook areas where you can chill for a few minutes and enjoy some lunch before heading back to the trailhead.
From Highway 97, north of Redmond and Terrebonne, turn left onto Lower Bridge Road towards Crooked River Ranch. After traveling a little over 10 miles on Lower Bridge Road, make a left onto Holmes Road. It will be another 1.7 miles before making a right onto Forest Road 6360. There is a gate on this road that is locked from December 1st through March 31st to help protect deer winter range.
Continue down forest road 6360 for five miles and then make a right onto service road 040 and continue for another mile before reaching the trailhead. Both forest service roads are extremely bumpy and rocky and a high clearance vehicle is recommended.
Passes: No passes required.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Open Season: Trail is open all year, but roaded is gated 3 miles from trailhead from December 1st through March 31st to protect deer winter range.
Hazards: Depending on the time of year and flow, the ford over Whychus Creek can be dangerous. Rattlesnakes are present between late spring and early fall and ticks may also be lurking during the spring and early summer.