Until 1998, the fate of the old-growth forest surrounding Opal Creek was in jeopardy due to highly controversial Forest Service logging proposals for the area. Luckily for hikers, sun bathers and outdoor enthusiasts, the area is now protected as the Opal Creek Wilderness. The Opal Creek Hiking Trail is the ideal way to tour this diverse area.
Gold mining in the valley began as early as 1859, centered around Jawbone Flats, and continued as late as 1992. Remnants of the mining operations can be seen along the entire length of the hike, including abandoned mine shafts, old machinery, structures from Merten Mill, and by visiting the rejuvenated community of Jawbone Flats.
Beyond exploring the valley's history, the Opal Creek Hiking Trail will lead you to some of the state's best swimming holes...albeit with very cold and often shaded water. Jump in the pools below Sawmill Falls, shoot yourself through Slide Falls only three quarters of a mile down the trail, or take the roughly 30-foot plunge into Opal Pool. More, continue an additional 1.5 miles past Jawbone Flats and Opal Pool along Opal Creek to Cedar Flats where a grove of western red cedars up to 1,000 years old soar over the valley floor and remind us what a true old-growth forest feels like.
Note: Significant crowding, vandalism, and disruptive behavior have resulted in several new regulations. The implementation of these regulations follows an extensive public comment period. Effective May 26, 2017: