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Nature Rx: Take a Hike 

In honor of National Take a Hike Day Nov. 17, three hikes to explore in Central Oregon

OK, so maybe National Take a Hike Day on Nov. 17 has lost a little oomph this year. I mean, what else have we been doing during the pandemic but hiking? Right, all those other "ings" such as fishing, camping, boating, biking, running, surfing, taking your kids to work (from the dining table to the couch) do count, too.

A hiker enjoys the changing season along the Lake Creek trail. - DAMIAN FAGAN
  • Damian Fagan
  • A hiker enjoys the changing season along the Lake Creek trail.

"We don't know who established National Take A Hike Day," said Wesley Trimble, American Hiking Society's communications and creativity director. "We have supported it since 2013, and we also started National Trails Day that takes place in June more than 25 years ago." AHS adopted the Nov. 17 celebration and encourages people to enjoy a prescriptive walk in nature for its health and wellness benefits.

Here are three of my favorite November hikes to take before winter settles in.

Lake Creek Trail

Lake Creek drains from Suttle Lake and flows to the Metolius River, weaving its way through forests of pine and fir. The Lake Creek Trail parallels a stretch of the creek's North Fork and connects Suttle Lake to Camp Sherman. The fairly level 4.3-mile trail offers a wonderful fall amble or bike ride and involves a bit of trickery. Starting at the trailhead in Camp Sherman, the trail weaves past towering ponderosa pines and golden Western larch. The trickery this time of year involves the wind combing through the larch, creating a cascade of deciduous needles to flutter to the ground like snowflakes.

Eventually, the trail passes through the north portion of the Deschutes Land Trust's Metolius Preserve. At the Preserve's kiosk (and restroom!) there is a spur trail that detours to a footbridge crossing of Lake Creek. Hikers could continue across the creek into the southern portion of the preserve, but another marked path steers hikers back to the Lake Creek Trail and on to Suttle Lake. The Lake Creek out-and-back trail is open to hikers, horse riders and cyclists.

La Pine State Park's Fall River Loop

La Pine State Park is one of those overlooked areas for hiking. Numerous trails loop through the park, and a surprising amount of wildlife, such as mule deer, elk, river otters, woodpeckers, and small mammals are found, too. Fairly level and crowd free, the trails offer great opportunities for walking, running, cycling and horseback riding. The Fall River Loop trail (4.7 miles) starts at the McGregor Memorial Viewpoint with a commanding view of Paulina Peak, Newberry Volcano and the Deschutes River. The trail courses along both the Deschutes and Fall rivers with a return trek to the McGregor View Point through stands of young lodgepole pines. Another loop, the Deschutes Loop Trail, intersects this trail and offers an additional 3 miles to the adventure. There are river access points along the way and a viewpoint of Fall River's falls. If time allows, add a side trip to Big Tree, one of the largest ponderosa pines in the world. Estimated to be over 500 years old, this well-named behemoth has a tape-busting circumference of 28.9 feet.

Wizard Falls Loop

The Metolius River's headwaters begin in the shadow of Black Butte near Camp Sherman. The river, which rises from an underground source, slips past streambanks lined with willow, alder, lupine and fishermen before reaching a confluence with the Deschutes River.

Wizard Falls along the Metolius River. - DAMIAN FAGAN
  • Damian Fagan
  • Wizard Falls along the Metolius River.

Access for the Wizard Falls Loop (roughly 6.0 miles) starts at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Wizard Falls Hatchery (the hatchery is currently closed due to COVID-19 but the trails are open). The trail from the hatchery skirts through coniferous forests and passes a Deschutes Land Trust parcel before crossing over Lower Bridge (AKA Bridge 99) to return to the hatchery along the east bank. This hike provides outstanding views of the river and glimpses of Green Ridge rising up to the east. This time of year, a lucky hiker may observe a river otter hauled out on the bank or a bald eagle swooping down to snatch a fish out of the river.

"National Take A Hike Day is a wonderful time to get out and enjoy Central Oregon's Public Lands and the crisp air and beautiful color the fall season brings," said Rika Ayotte, Discover Your Forest executive director. "Remember to practice Leave No Trace, avoid crowded areas and plan ahead to make sure you're safe and prepared." Yes, let Nature's peace be the cure for whatever ails you.

National Take a Hike Day
Nov., 17, 2020
Lake Creek Trail map: deschuteslandtrust.org/files/trail-maps/mp-lake-creek-trail
Fall River Loop: mobilemaplets.com/showplace/9259
Metolius River Trail: oregonhikers.org/field_guide/Wizard_Falls_Loop_Hike
American Hiking Society: americanhiking.org


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