Hike of the Week: Opal Creek
Of all the reasons to visit Opal Creek—the immense, 1,000-year-old trees; the Ancient Forest Center; the waterfalls; the remains of the historic mining community, Jawbone Flats; the spotted owl; the wealth of backpacking opportunities—here’s the one thing you need to know about right now: a roughly 20-foot-long, naturally occurring rock water slide smack dab in the middle of a blessedly cold, gin-clear creek.
Picture yourself here:
Arriving at this Stone Age Slip ‘n Slide of sorts comes with a price, though—namely, a near 3-mile, steady climb up a dusty, bone-dry gravel road. But plentiful shade and numerous other side trails down to the creek and its swimmable pools make travel during hotpocalyptic times manageable. And your effort only serves to heighten your reward once you make your icy splashdown: a total recalibration of your body’s core temperature.
The path to reach the slide is straightforward. Simply follow the old road up from the main trailhead, and you’ll find the slide and its accompanying swimming hole on the right side of the trail, about a half-mile shy of the education center and Jawbone Flats.
Once there, prepare for your plunge by presoaking yourself in the aqua green pool below the rocks. Then, after you’ve built up some tolerance to the frosty water, scramble up the sun-warmed slabs of rock to the slide path. Now, simply plop your butt into the current and shove off. Next thing you know, you’ll be waist deep in a sauna-size pool of the coldest, clearest, most restorative water ever to nab your breath.
One word of advice—while the ride down the rock chute is unbelievably smooth (read: kind to your behind), it’s a tad narrow, so be sure to keep your elbows up. (Think double high fives on the way down, and you’ll be fine.)
Repeat as necessary.
Note: Even though you’ll be as giddy as an 8-year-old doublefisting a pair of snow cones when you hit the water, it’s probably best to keep any actual high-fiving to yourself.
Click here for trailhead directions; NW Forest Pass required.