The Scout Camp trail on the Middle Deschutes offers some spectacular canyon scenery on a relatively short, if steep hike. Here, the river has carved its ways through varying layers of basalt, tuff, and old river deposits. In addition, the trail also overlooks the confluence of Whychus Creek with the Deschutes River, granting views of two different canyons coming together.
The trail to Scout Camp begins in Crooked River Ranch. If you’ve managed to find your way through that maze of roads to the trailhead, the hard work is mostly behind you. Well, that’s not totally true, but it kind of feels like it. The trail begins on a nice, level plateau as you meander through the junipers on your way to the canyon. Soon, you will see a sign that says, “Steep, Primitive Trail.” They aren’t kidding.
As you start your way down the canyon, the trail becomes substantially rockier. You will pick your way down a side draw of the main canyon for another 500 feet or so until you come to a split in the trail. I chose to go right. I have no good reason for that. I just wanted to. From here, the views will really start to impress. The multi-colored and textured canyon walls jump out at you. The river crashes below you. And hopefully you are fairly sure footed and don’t have an overwhelming fear of heights, cause things can get a little sketchy.
The trail heads towards a cool rock formation right at a major bend in the river, where Whychus Creek joins with the Deschutes. From there, the trail will turn over the ridgeline and continue heading downstream. Things start getting pretty steep here, and the trail can be fairly loose as well. In addition, throughout much of this hike, there will be bands of cliffs below you, and steep hillsides leading to the cliffs. So, don’t fall off the trail. Plus, there are rattlesnakes. So as your rolling down the hillside, ready to fly off the cliff, they might bite you as you roll over them because they don’t like being touched much. They aren’t really huggers. But if you don’t fall and die, you’ll be down to the river in less than a mile from the trailhead.
Once down, you will pretty quickly encounter a rock wall that the trail disappears into. The trail keeps going, just on the other side of the rock outcrop. You just have to go over it. It’s not super difficult, but does require a little bit of rock scrambling. From this side, getting up is pretty easy, but it’s about 8 feet down to the trail on the other side. My seven-year-old daughter did it, but she ain’t scared of nothing.
Once over the rock, the trail continues along the canyon bottom, at the base of some beautiful cliffs, for another ½ mile. Then, you get to climb back out of the canyon. This side isn’t any less steep than the other as you march your way up the trail for the next ½ mile. Then you will complete the loop, just have that last 500 feet of trail to climb out of the draw, and your back on flat ground.
Getting to Scout Camp Trailhead is almost as much fun as the hike itself. From Highway 97 near Terrebonne, head west on Lower Bridge Road towards Crooked River Ranch. Travel 2.2 miles on Lower Bridge Road and then make a right onto 43rd St, where you will drive for another 1.8 miles. At this point, the road reaches a T junction and you will make a left onto Chinook Dr. Follow Chinook for 2.4 miles and then make a left onto Mustang Road. There will be a sign indicated that Mustang is approaching and it will also direct you to the fire station. You will stay on Mustang for 1.1 miles and then make a right again on Shad road, which you will travel for 1.4 miles. Then, if you’re not dizzy and still on your feet, make a right on Peninsula Drive, right before the fire station. Follow Peninsula for 3.2 more miles and then, right before it turns to gravel, make a left onto Meadow Rd. After 0.6 miles on Meadow Road, you will see SW Scout Camp Trail (the road is named trail. This isn’t the trail yet. Stay in your car antsy pants.) on your right. The trailhead in only 0.3 miles away, at the end of this road.
Passes: No passes required.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Open Season: Open year round.
Hazards: You will be hiking on a steep hillside over cliffs for much of this hike. For these reasons, it is best to avoid this trail if it is icy or snow covered. Also keep your eyes peeled for rattle snakes.