TRAILHEAD: Opal Creek TH. Take I-5 S from Portland Mobile to exit 253 in Salem, turn left for OR-22 E (Detroit Lake/Bend) to Mehama, turn left at the second flashing signal Mobile (milepost 23, before bridge over Santiam River) on easy-to-miss Little North Fork Road for 14% twisting mi (with 5 mi unpaved dusty section), Mobile then into gravel FR-2209 for 51/2 mi to the end Mobile (many potholes, 90 mi, 2 hours from Portland).
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ROUTE: Begin past the gate; the trail undulates along the wide, private road (Opal Creek Trail/old FR-2209) that ends in 31/2 mi at Jawbone Flats, a tiny “active” neighborhood with a mix of old and new. After the first 5 mi from the TH, cross the bridge high over the clear Gold Creek. At 1/2 mi in, take a detour to the right on the spur path 100 ft or so past what remains of the Merten Mill (what appears like an old, open wooden garage). Be careful with children as the best viewpoints of Sawmill Falls (30 ft high and twice as wide) is seen by steeply navigating tree roots then a narrow rocky fin down to the creek itself. Travel as far as you are comfortable and then indulge in a freezing swim below the falls if you wish.
Continue on the main trail 5 mi more to the return route on the right (Mike Kopetski Trail 4187) for a clockwise loop from Opal Pool. Stay straight instead on old FR-2209 a mile to Jawbone Flats; be respectful by staying between the buildings and down right briefly to cross Battle Ax Creek over a newer bridge. Move up a bit and through an open pasture, then down right on the narrowing trail back into the old trees to a juncture. Turn right down to the nearby creek with a deeper gorge below the footbridge and.
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